LaMonte grew up in Manhattan, New York. In 1990, she graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with a Bachelor in Fine Arts with honors. Immediately after college, she was awarded a fellowship at the Creative Glass Center of America, in Millville, New Jersey. Following that, she moved to Brooklyn, New York, and worked at UrbanGlass, a not-for-profit public access glass studio. During this period, she pursued artwork in blown and cast glass, which were exhibited at fine art galleries.
In 1995, LaMonte met Steven Polaner, whom she later married. In 1998, they moved to the Czech Republic, where LaMonte was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to pursue the use of large-scale cast glass in her artwork.
Her art deals largely with the central themes of beauty and loss, exploring the fragility of the human condition through a sartorial lens.
Her work has been critically acclaimed and written about by art critics such as Arthur Danto. In his 2005 essay “The Poetry of Meaning and Loss: The Glass Dresses of Karen LaMonte”, Danto wrote about Vestige:
The dress belonged to a moment when the wearer was, to use an expression of Proust’s, en fleur. The dress belonged to a certain moment of history, which it preserves—it shows how women dressed for certain occasions at a certain moment. The wearer will have aged. She looked like that then, but, if she is still alive, it is certain she will not look that way now. There is a double melancholy—the melancholy of fashion, and the melancholy of bodily change, from nubility to decrepitude. The breasts have fallen, the waist thickened, the skin has lost it transparency and luminescence. The poignancy of LaMonte’s dresses is a product of two modes of change in which we participate as human beings, composed, as we are, of flesh and meaning. Their poetry is the poetry of beauty and loss.
LaMonte’s newest body of work draws inspiration from Japan, exploring the same themes through a different cultural lens.