Davie is best known for her idiosyncratic twist on the modernist 'stripe' and looping hyperbolic abstractions. Her contemporary practice has been viewed in context with ideas of painting-as-performance from 1950s Abstract Expressionism and the optical endeavors of 1960s Op Art, yet Davie's art departs from these strict formalist and largely masculine painting traditions, rejecting the notion of a pure abstraction for a more referential and representational approach. Her work extends the legacy of high modernism to capture the dynamics of contemporary life.
Davie graduated with a BFA from Queen’s University, Ontario, in 1987, and got her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1989. After school, Davie moved to New York, where she began showing her work. At his time, she was exploring movement and gesture in painting with works such as her In Out In Out series and her Odalisque series. Davie's work highlights the performance aspect of painting. Her emphasis on seemingly long unbroken brushstrokes mimics her processes evoking a dynamic study of the body, stamina, and memory.
In addition to becoming a Guggenheim fellow in 2015, Karin has been the recipient of the American Academy of Arts & Letters Award (1999) and was awarded an Elizabeth Foundation Grant (1998). She has also been awarded a Pollock-Krasner grant in 1999 and 1991 and received a Canadian Council Art Grant in 1992 and 1995. More recently she was nominated for “Anonymous is a Woman” award in 2014 and received a Gottlieb Foundation award.
Works by David are held in the public collection of museums around the world, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada; the Albright Knox Art Gallery, New York; the Seattle Art Museum, Washington; Orlando Museum of Art, Florida; the Weatherspoon Art Museum, North Carolina; Kunstverein, Hamburg, Germany; Maramotti Collection, Reggio Emilia, Italy; and the Museum Art Center Buenos Aires, Argentina.