Carolyn_0212-1200About My Work

My work has taken its twists and turns over the years from the figurative to the abstract, from observation to imagination, from flat to three dimensional and back again. Originally from Los Angeles, I went to study art at UC Santa Cruz in 1974 where the Bay Area Painters and the Abstract Expressionists were a big influence. I learned about the language of paint and how to stay with a painting: layering, scraping and watching it evolve.
 
 
I went on to the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Fine Arts in 1979 where I studied with Neil Welliver, John Button and a host of other Painterly Realists from New York and Philadelphia. I moved back and forth between abstract painting and more observational figurative work. Eventually, I started inventing figurative compositions that I could manipulate and rework as I did in my abstract work.
 
After competing my MFA I returned to Los Angeles, the ocean, the steep mountains and drenching sunlight. I lived in LA for 5 years and was active in the art scene, painting and showing my work. In the mid-1980’s, my husband and I moved to Ojai where I became immersed in painting this valley with its lush gardens, oak trees and ring of arid mountains.
 
My collage paintings are a melding of different stylistic approaches from American, European and East Indian painting. In each piece, shape, color and pattern lead the viewer into a world that emanates its own particular light and space. Instead of using linear perspective I often use a more narrative and abstract approach that incorporates multiple points of view. The scenes are at once familiar and exotic. combining grounding architectural elements with stylized plants and trees and figures.
 
I begin the paintings with a loose painterly approach with water-based paints that flow freely to create the overall structure and color balance. I then cut shapes of fabric, and paper to over-lay and under-lay with the paint. Crisp cut edges juxtapose the painterly strokes and add to the unique sensibility. The eclectic array of vintage fabrics from the 1940’s to the present flavor the pieces with references to our recent past culture.
 
In this new series of work that I call Roller Paintings, I am experimenting with a new process that allows for luxuriously wide, flowing lines of color, creating large satisfying curves and compositions that would not occur to me with a pencil or paint brush in hand. The paint-filled roller has opened my work up in a new and surprising way. My palette varies but there is always interplay of cool and warm with intense and muted color. The paintings have an elemental feel of rock, water, sand and sky. The work reflects my fascination with the contrast between movement and rest, the inherent tension of balance.

 

PreparationsIntroduction from Carolyn’s book: A Selection of Collage Paintings

To give these collage paintings some context let me begin back in the 1960’s. It all started in Los Angeles, upstairs in my room, drawing, painting, playing dress up and making clothes for my stuffed animals and troll dolls. I had a miniature antique sewing machine on which I would painstakingly sew tiny clothes. I later learned how to sew my own clothes on a big machine and loved going to the fabric store to pick out velvet, patterned cotton, tweeds, lace etc. Oddly, I chose seersucker for one of my first dresses (bits of which appear in several paintings). That started my fabric collection, which I have been toting around from house to house ever since.

I eventually lost my patience for sewing but kept adding to my collection, knowing that it had some purpose. By high school I was very interested in art, mentored along by my inspired painting teacher, Selma Moskowitz. I was lucky to go to Oakwood, an artsy hippie school. In the 1970’s the student body looked like it was clothed by a combination of the Army Surplus store and the Renaissance Fair. Heavily patched and embroidered jeans, antique velvet dresses, granny gowns, hats, mini skirts, and ribbons were all part of the rich aesthetic. During this time I went to see Woman House, the ground-breaking Feminist art installation created by Miriam Schapiro, Judy Chicago and a score of other artists and students. They had transformed an abandoned Hollywood mansion slated for demolition into a giant art space. From the grand dollhouse room to the bathroom of tampons it was an overwhelming experience that has stayed with me.

I went on to study art at UC Santa Cruz. from 1974 through 1978. One of my favorite teachers, Patrick Aherne, taught a process “all-over” abstract painting—a type of action painting. We worked on one “practice painting” for an entire semester globbing, scraping, scumbling and watched them evolve. We were all heavily influenced by the work of the Abstract Expressionists and contemporary painters like Phillip Guston and Milton Resnick. This new way of working and reworking a painting fascinated me. It was all about the “language of paint”; conceptual work was not encouraged. During this time I was also painting from the model and doing a lot of figure sculpture in wax, bronze and plaster. My teacher Don Weygandt was a great mentor. He was a colleague of Richard Deibenkorn and connected to the Bay Area Figurative Movement. In 1976, I did an independent study in Art while in Europe. Traveling from Crete through Italy, France, Spain and Holland, I soaked up all the art I could—drawing and writing my observations.

I went on to graduate school in 1979 at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Fine Arts where I studied with Neil Welliver, John Button and a host of other “Painterly Realists” from New York and Philadelphia. I was torn between abstract painting and more observational figurative work. I finally took the leap and started inventing figurative compositions that I could manipulate and rework as I did in my abstract work. I also met my husband to be and I enticed him to the west Coast—my return to LA. In the mid 1980s we moved to Ojai where I became immersed in painting the surrounding mountains and gardens.

The ocean, rivers and lakes were never too far away and often part of my subject. The sun, orange-blossom-scented air and tranquil lifestyle suited me perfectly. We had our two children and I kept painting. In the 1990’s I began making large mixed media portraits in relief. They were sculpted with a plaster putty on panel, painted and then collaged with fabric, beads, paper, wigs etc.. The subject matter moved into figures in landscape and eventually I dropped the sculptural aspect and began working flat on paper, canvas and panel. In my 3D portraits I used the dress fabric to clothe and enhance the figures.

Later, I began to use the textured papers and patterned cloth as part of my new lexicon of shape and color. Embossed wallpaper became tree bark, gold lamé a glowing leaf, a floral silk scarf as a bush. My piles of fabric and paper became a natural extension of my painting palette. These paintings span from about 2001 to 2012. I begin my compositions with a loose painterly approach using water based paints that flow freely to create the overall structure and color balance. I then cut shapes out of fabric and various papers to overlay and underlay with the paint. Vintage scarves, clothing and wallpaper are all part of my repertoire. The shapes are carefully adhered and integrated into the surface of the painting on paper, canvas or panel. The crisply cut edges juxtaposed with the painterly strokes add to its unique sensibility.

The eclectic array of vintage and contemporary fabrics flavor the pieces with references to my own life and our recent past culture. This work is a melding of different stylistic approaches from American, European and East Indian painting that all celebrate the beauty and importance of nature, our surroundings and everyday life. In each piece, shape, color and pattern lead the viewer into a world that emanates its own particular light and space.

Instead of using linear perspective I often use a more narrative and abstract approach that incorporates multiple points of view. The scenes are at once familiar and exotic, combining grounding architectural elements with stylized plants and trees and figures. My aim is to evoke all the senses, transport the viewer and bring a feeling of optimistic expectation.