A Mythology for our Time:
Carole A. Feuerman’s Resurrection of Venus
Lisa Paul Streitfeld
In every new epoch, there comes along an artist who lives the mythology of the time. We are, at this time, collectively experiencing the passage between the ages. Carole A. Feuerman, a New York artist, is evoking this evolution in her life as well as her art.
The key to the personal mythology is in the name. Feuerman means fireman. As a twenty-first century alchemist, she has risked self-destruction to give birth to the new archetypal forms that reinvent beauty as an aesthetic of transformation through burning. Even as she gained her international reputation as an artist who “paints with fire,” Feuerman nearly had her home destroyed by flames, not once but three times!
Grounding her journey in painted human figures so lifelike you would swear they are real, Feuerman went underground in 1994 to explore a new material. Transforming solid metal into molten liquid, she set out to remake the archetypes ruling human behavior.
Like the alchemists of old, Feuerman set up her Great Work by the cosmology, utilizing her expert knowledge of astrology to set up the timing to create her works. Her creation performances are reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s gestural painting, yet they bring the fourth dimension of time into the three dimensional forms. To establish this intersection of time and space which is so rare in art, Feuerman moves around a mold in a fireproof suit while ladling molten metal into a multi-layered lattice work in which positive and negative space coexist in a sacred marriage of opposites. These icons enter the world with a cosmology reflecting the heavens at the time of their creation. They are then buried in sand and excavated in a ritual summoning the 20th century unearthing of pre-patriarchal forms molded in terra cotta from ancient Mesopotamia. This union of spirit and matter is a reflection of a pre-patriarchal Venus, the Sumerian love goddess, Inanna, self-declared Queen of Heaven & Earth.
The journey began in the 1970’s with erotic fragments of human figures that invited the viewer’s imagination to complete the picture of physical forms meeting the sensual human touch. Feuerman then embarked on a process of decomposing and reconstructing Greek goddesses, arriving at Psyche, the mortal who married Eros, the son of Aphrodite. Yet in remaking the myth of the archetypal love affair between heaven and earth, Feuerman’s Psyche is not carried up to Olympus (representing the collective unconscious) but proudly bears the wounds of the millennial journey of the female passing into the underworld in order to rediscover beauty. Feuerman has given life to this elixir through her blow torch; in providing visual form to the transformed kundalini power, she liberates the authentic face of the feminine from underground where it had been banished for thousands of years.
Having completed the passage through the Goddesses of the Four Elements ruling the alchemical process of transformation, Feuerman is currently embarked on the passage to the quintessential element, the Conjunctio, both in her experiments with metal and through monumental works of figurative sculpture. In 2006-2007, both channels of her work meet main stream to celebrate the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage of opposites, as the icon of the 21st century. This merging of abstraction/realism, conscious/unconscious, masculine/feminine and positive/negative space was foretold in an earlier series of unpainted sensual companion sculptures which embody both hyperrealism and the abstraction of sexual identities merging into a unified oneness.
In our time of uncertainty, we are ripe from a new definition that Feuerman provides with her life and her art. She is living a contemporary myth of the resurrection of Venus, in which the love goddess is no longer a creation of the patriarchy formed from the male body, but a union of heaven and earth. Feuerman has pursued this personal mythology of transformation by giving shape to the universal flame of Prometheus, who brought fire to humankind. Indeed, this transformer delivers this gift through the supreme development of a highly personal art form infused with universal spirit.