If you ever find yourself looking at one of Kari Cholnoky's paintings, it's her hope that you feel the painting is returning your gaze.

"To me, contemporary painting has become tremendously passive, and I want to be a painter who makes entirely active pieces," Cholnoky said. "I want the paintings to be hybrid animal/body/machine objects, as something to be dealt with in three-dimensional space, instead of dealt with in terms of intellectual or optical space. I wanted the painting to make you feel like you were sharing the space with the painting."

From Sept. 3 through Oct. 20, the 26-year-old artist's work will be displayed in the Lower Level Art Gallery of the Darien Library.

Unlike landscapes or portraits that are painted onto flat, stretched canvas, Cholnoky's work is unique. The paintings are three-dimensional and non-traditional. She uses materials that may not often times be considered when creating art that is hung on a wall. The last time Cholnoky painted on a standard canvas, she was 19.

However, it wasn't until she was in college that she truly understood the relationship she had with her art.

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"Instead of `choosing' art as the path I would follow moving forward, it was more of a process of acceptance or of allowing art to fully enter my life," Cholnoky said via email. "There was no process of `choosing' a path, just accepting what was already inside of me."

Cholnoky's mother, Amy, has been involved with the Darien Library for several years and suggested that the library feature her daughter's work "because of the library's robust programming in fine arts," Cholnoky said.

Cholnoky said she chose the pieces she felt had a "sense of humor."

"My work can be really disturbing to be around, so I wanted to select pieces that would activate that bottom hallway in a positive way, and would jolt people out of a potentially routine frame of mind," Cholnoky said.

Parting from the pieces as they hang in the library allows Cholnoky to get figurative space from the art.

"Every time you install the painting in a new space, it changes in a way, and you learn more about it," the Stamford-native said. "To see a grouping of paintings thus allows you to understand them in a new way in context with one another. It gives me some room, a removal, and some clarity."

Cholnoky, a recent graduate of the Cranbrook Academy of Art MFA program, located outside of Detroit, hopes people can open their minds when looking at her work.

Her work explores areas her personal conceptual interests in psychology, philosophy and politics, she said and then "more visual and auditory interests in native and indigenous art, outsider art, the cosmos, music and sound in general, and wild or remote geographic locations."

"It's too bad that art today has taught people that they simply cannot engage unless they're first instructed on how they should feel or what they should think about when seeing a piece of art," Cholnoky said.

People should, she said, feel free to experience her work at "face value" in terms of form, color and tactility.

The New York City-based artist has had work exhibited in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Detroit and Singapore. She's been awarded residencies in Singapore and Berlin, Germany. In May 2014, Cholnoky was awarded the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services 2014 Emerging Artist Award, which provided her with a studio loft at the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien -- an art and cultural center in Berlin, Germany -- this summer.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews