“ANYTHING WORTH DOING IS WORTH OVERDOING” - Carole Feuerman
Carole A. Feuerman is acknowledged as one of the three major American hyperrealist sculptors that started the movement in the 1970s. Easier for her to express her emotions through sculpture than through her words, she tells stories of strength, survival, and balance. Her artwork is in numerous collections that include that of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, William and Hillary Clinton, Malcolm Forbes, and spans four continents in four decades. Feuerman seeks to connect with her viewers on an intuitive level, evoking emotion and engagement. It is often the viewer’s participation, or the object/viewer relationship, that completes her work. Feuerman maintains two studios in New York and New Jersey. On an ongoing basis, Feuerman’s work can be seen in selected galleries and museums worldwide.
We’ve worked with Feuerman for a while and on over 30 projects together! We feel like we have a true collaboration with her between foundry and artist; sometimes having to come up with innovative solutions to ideas and designs. Though a “traditional” sculptor, Feuerman doesn’t shy away from using new technology such as 3d modelling and CNC milling machines to push her work in monumental directions.
One of the most challenging pieces we helped Carole with was Double Diver, which now permanently stands at NetApp’s campus in Sunnyvale California.
This sculpture was made from scanning and piecing together her single diver piece so that the figure sat on top of itself, creating an “S” curve. Carole then made the hand and feet transition, making sure we had enough room to fit our armature inside. Once completed, it was once again scanned in and stitched together making the piece digitally finished. We had to make slight adjustments to the angle of figures with the foresight of it needing to be as stacked to itself as possible to ensure sculptural security. Once adjusted and redesigned this was then enlarged and milled on our FROG mill CNC machine and sent to Carole to put in the details and make molds.
Carole’s original intent was to use her “painting with fire” technique which involves splashing different metals into an open face sand mold, creating an aggressive movement of a piece that feels very organic. However, due to the size of Double Diver (measuring 26 feet high), this would create several problems:
because this technique is a very organic method of creating work, it is unpredictable how much the final piece would weigh; also, pooling in certain areas and being thin in the high spots of the mold is possible, making the work unsafe even with structural engineering. Because of this, new and unique methodologies had to be invented to realize it.
Tom Bollinger had the idea to mimic the “painting with fire” method with wax instead of bronze, where it could be controlled enough to get our standard thickness consistent all around. Head wax artisan Ron Lyons spent some time to R&D different prototypes of the dripped wax method. The first couple attempts felt too stringy, and the artist wanted larger forms that fit like a puzzle. Ron pushed his skillset and was able to control the wax to create beautiful and carefully dripped large pools of wax. After Carole’s approval the wax department went to work and implemented Ron’s method to the Double Diver molds. The solution for dressing the seams was to create what Carole called “cookies”, making individual larger drips on a baking pan and then layering them on top of the piece.
Feuerman made several trips from New York City to work with our artisans.
“I loved working with Tom Bollinger and his team. They really did the impossible to help me create Double Diver!” –Carole Feuerman.
After final wax approvals, the piece went through the rest of the lost wax process. We poured 2 tons of bronze over several weeks of work.
Bollinger also designed and engineered the structure for Double Diver with the help of Caruso Turley Scott Structural Engineers. A key component was to use 17-4 Stainless Steel for the weakest parts of the piece (hand and feet connection, bronze to base connections). 17-4 stainless is ten times as strong as 304 or 316, but also much more expensive, which is why we had to design the armature to be as efficient with our materials as possible.
We also completely designed and fabricated the stainless steel base that Double Diversits on. This includes lighting, design, and access door for any maintenance work that may need to be done. The Double Diver slots into two sleeves that perfectly fit the posts coming out of the figure’s hands and are securely bolted from inside the base.
For the patina, Carole used an iridescent paint which allowed the beautiful lustre of the bronze to shine through; drawing inspiration from the natural patinas her “Painting with Fire” series contains.
It was test fit with its base a final time and prepped to ship to California. At the unveiling of this monumental piece on April 10th, its silhouette immediately took over the site. The details and hard work reflected the light and was revealed for all to enjoy for many years to come.
“As challenging as this project was, it was exciting to solve and engineer the Diver from beginning to end and once again proves the astute craftsmanship that our team does on a day to day basis.” – Tom Bollinger
Carole also established the Carole A. Feuerman Sculpture Foundation in 2011, in order to generate excitement, interest and passion for the arts and to inspire and award deserving artists with exhibition opportunities, internships for college credit and education/research grants.
And to see more of the work we have made for her visit our portfolio page: https://bollingeratelier.com/portfolio-carole-a-feuerman/
Carole A. Feuerman is recognized as a pioneering figure in the world of hyper realistic sculpture. Together with Duane Hanson and John De Andrea, Feuerman is one of the three artists that started the Hyperrealistic movement in the seventies by making sculptures portraying their models in a life-like manner. Dubbed ‘the reigning doyenne of super-realism’ by art historian John T. Spike, Feuerman has solidified her place in art history.
Feuerman’s prolific career spans over four decades and four continents. Through her sculptures, she creates visual manifestations of the stories she decides to tell: of strength, survival, balance. She seeks to connect with her viewers on an intuitive level, evoking emotion and engagement. It is often the viewer’s participation, or the object/viewer relationship, that completes her stories. She has produced a rich body of work in the studio and the public realm. By combining conventional sculptural materials of steel, bronze, and resin, with more unconventional media like water, sound, and video, she creates hybrid works of intricate energy and psychology.
She has taught, lectured, and given workshops at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, Columbia University, and Grounds for Sculpture. In 2011, she founded the Carole A. Feuerman Sculpture Foundation.
Feuerman exhibits in private and public collections, sculpture parks, galleries, and museums worldwide. Her works are often integrated with architecture and landscaping in the creation or renovation of buildings and sites. An example is her monumental ‘Double Diver’, spiraling 36 feet in the air, is owned by the City of Sunnyvale, California. ‘Survival of Serena’ was chosen by New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to be exhibited in Petrosino Square, Soho, New York and in Central Park for their celebration of ‘50 Years of Public Art in NYC Parks'. It has been included in two Venice Biennales. ‘Monumental Quan’ first exhibited in the Frederik Meijer Sculpture Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 2005 it was placed in front of the Lotte Palace, across the street from Rockefeller Center. In 2018 it was included in her solo show called Sculpture Link on the beach in Knokke, Belgium. One of Feuerman’s most recognizable pieces, ‘The Golden Mean’, is owned by the City of Peekskill, NY, and can be seen in the Riverfront Green Park overlooking the Hudson River.
Feuerman has had nine solo museum retrospectives, the El Paso Museum and at the The Artist Book Foundation at Mass MOCA in North Adams, Massachusetts to name a few. She is included in the permanent collections of 19 museums. In 2004 she exhibited in An American Odyssey 1945 - 1980, an exhibition that started in Madrid and traveled to Salamanca, Coruna, and ended at QCC Art Gallery, CUNY in NY. In 2009 she exhibited in Palazzo Strozzi in Florence in a show called in Art of Illusions, Masterpieces of Tromp L’Oeil from Antiquity to the Present, in Piazza della Repubblica, in the Smithsonian Institution’s Portrait Gallery, in Hong Kong, at the National Museum of China during the 2008 Beijing Biennale. She has also exhibited at the Clayarch Gimhae Museum, the Daejeon Museum Daejeon Museum and Suwon Museum in Korea. In Germany, she has exhibited at the Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden the Contemporary Art Museum in Aachen, and in Art & Furniture in Kassel during Documenta 14 (2017). In , she exhibited in a traveling exhibition called Hyper-Realism Sculpture 1973 - 2016 to the Present. The show has traveled to Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Spain: June 7, 2016 – September 26, 2016; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Mexico: October 15, 2016 – January 8, 2017; ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, Denmark: February 4, 2017 – August 6, 2017; National Gallery of Australia, Australia: October 20, 2017 – February 18, 2018; Kunsthal Rotterdam, The Netherlands: March 10, 2018 – July 1, 2018 Kunsthalle Tübingen, Germany: July 21, 2018 – October 21, 2018; and is currently at the Heydar Aliyev Center, Azerbaijan, November 29, 2018 – March 10, 2019
There are four full-color monographs written about her work: Carole Feuerman Sculpture, published by Hudson Hills Press; La Scultura incontra la Realtà, available in multiple languages; and Swimmers, published by The Artist Book Foundation. Her first swimmer, ‘Catalina,’ in included in A History of Western Art, published by Harry N. Abrams, and written by Anthony Mason and John T. Spike.
In 2017, the European Cultural Centre organized a solo show of 10 outdoor sculptures in Giardini Marinaressa entitled Personal Structures – Open Borders one of many exhibitions in collateral Palazzo’s during the Venice Biennale.
2018 started with her sculpture, ‘Monumental DurgaMa’ being featured at INTO ACTION in Los Angeles. Feuerman's newest monumental sculpture "Strength" is on exhibit outside of the National Hotel in Miami, Florida. Feuerman had a 12-piece outdoor exhibition in a show called Sculpture Link Sculpture Link in Knokke-Heist, Belgium.
March 28th through May 18th, 2019 Feuerman had a solo show called ‘Between the Drops’, at Art of the World Gallery in Houston, Texas. A hardcover book accompanies the exhibition. Feuerman will also have another show in this spring in Giardini Marinaressa, Venice, Italy from May 10th to November 22, 2019. She will exhibit her newest works in conjunction with the 58th Venice Biennale. The show, Personal Structures, Open Borders, is organized by the GAA Foundation and Bel Air Fine Art and hosted by the European Cultural Center.
Her selected collectors include the Emperor of Japan, President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Norman Brahman, the Caldic Collection, Mark Parker of NIKE, and Malcolm Forbes.
Feuerman is married with 3 children and 6 grandchildren. She lives in New York City
In the late seventies and early eighties, Carole and her family lived in a house in Key West in Florida. She would see Cuban asylum seekers floating to shore on rafts they had strapped together out of inner tubes and driftwood. She was greatly affected.
Since 1966, seven years after the Cuban revolution put Fidel Castro in power and in the context of the Cold War, the US had viewed Cubans as political refugees eligible for US citizenship if they could just make it to the country. However, because of travel restrictions and limited resources, those desperate to leave the country scavenged raft materials and inner tubes to become balseros, attempting to float across the Caribbean waters to the Keys.
When balseros made it to Florida they were destroyed by the journey: dehydrated, sun-sick, hypothermic, starving. However, they also become an integral part of the Florida and US community: in total more than a million would eventually call the state home.
Seeing these refugees, Carole was moved to produce Innertube Variant II, the torso and arms of a woman resting her head on an innertube. It has been made and re-made since the 1980s in many forms, coming to be known as Survival of Serena.
In one of the first blog posts I wrote after I started working at the studio, I talked about the “Miniature Serena” I had been learning to lay-up with resin to make a piece in the edition:
Yesterday a senior fabricator, Natasha Rodriguez, started teaching me how to do the lay-up of one of Carole’s sculptures, a Mini Serena. Serena is resting on an inner tube, her head on her arm. She looks tired and self-satisfied. Talking with one of the artists here, Heath Wang, he said he saw in it the story of a woman who has escaped abuse and created a new life for herself, and is resting in that moment of security she has created… I'm attracted to Serena's floating, mobile self-security.
Learning more about the history of Survival of Serena in the time since, I’ve come to appreciate it as one of Carole’s most important works. This sculpture can be more specifically discussed in a political context as an immigrant narrative and a refugee problem. The floating figure is a direct reference to the experience of crossing the water that Carole watched the balseros take again and again.
That self-security is something Survival of Serenahas won on the back of her journey as an immigrant, and that is part of why the sculpture has remained one of Carole’s most popular pieces. It has a resonance through different refugee crises that the US and the world have encountered since. Those who view Survival of Serena can connect it to the Cuban balseros, but it can also be linked to the Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran families that have been escaping Central American violence since the 1990s.
That violence has roots in the United States. Many Central American criminal organizations can be traced back to Los Angeles, the weapons they use to control and terrorize are primarily a US export, and the market that they sell narcotics to is the US. Many of the migrants who flee this violence are children and women who choose not to cooperate with these gangs and are faced with death. They have an aspiration to become Survival of Serena, to have built their own self security.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration is actively seeking to destroy that possibility for migrants from Central America and from around the world.
The public debate on migration in this country is centered on the intense coverage of family separations occurring this summer on the US-Mexico border. It’s reported that more than 2000 children have been separated from their parents while those parents are being detained and tried criminally for illegal entry into the country, even if they have a legitimate claim to asylum. Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has released recommendations for strict limitations on what an asylum claim looks like, by rejecting the threat of gang or domestic violence as valid grounds for a claim.
Additionally, Trump has successfully pursued a ban on travel and immigration of those from five Muslim-majority countries (along with North Korea and officials of the Venezuelan government), a ban which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court in Trump v. Hawaii. Two of the countries, Syria and Yemen, are currently undergoing civil wars that the US fights in and supports, creating a massive refugee crisis that the Middle East and Europe have largely borne the weight of. However, those Yemenis and Syrians who have family in the US and even with US citizen children are now unable to come to the US by any means, continuing the administration’s policy of family separation.
Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions aspire to destroy the meaning and hope of Survival of Serena’s meaning and to destroy that aspiration to a safe and peaceful life for those who are threatened by violence that is often a US export in the first place.
Ultimately I just want to say this: more than half of the people who work in Carole’s studio right now were born outside the US, myself included. Carole herself is born of immigrant grandparents escaping Hitler, and being allowed to have asylum in the USA. Our lives have been profoundly affected by the vagaries of policy around migration and immigration in this country and abroad. Making sculptures themselves is not an effective way to fight immoral policy, but producing symbols that have cultural resonance is tool that can be used to suggest moral, aspirational alternatives if the conversation around those symbols happens.
Carole says that Survival of Serena is a universal sculpture. She points to the fact that even for those who weren’t born outside of the US, migration have been a part of most families’ experience. There have been so many different migrations: those who are refugees from war or famine or flood, those who survived the Trail of Tears and colonial terror, those who were enslaved, those who fled north during the Great Migration, those who moved to the suburbs, those who came to cities because rural economies were corporatized, those who escape their families, those who send money back to their families because there are no jobs at home. I don’t know if Survival of Serena can speak to all of these histories, and exist in dialogue with them, then her mobile self-security is probably the best that all of us who are at the mercy of history can hope for.
On May 17th Carole and Ariela Wertheimer opened a show at The Farkash Gallery on 14th Street. The show was called When Women Support Each Other, Magical Things Happen. Wertheimer is an Israeli artist who met Carole at Art Basel in Miami, although she wrote that she had been encountering Carole’s sculptures across Europe for some time before they met in person.
In the space, several of Carole’s Swimmers were surrounded by Wertheimer’s hanging light boxes from her Lightbox Portraits series. The light boxes each present two images: photographs that Wertheimer captured in Jaffa, a port neighborhood of Tel Aviv, along with transparent painted portraits and other illustrations that are overlapped with the photos.
From one perspective, Swimmers and Lightbox Portraits are linked in a liminality, a between-ness. Carole’s Swimmers, captured recently emerged from the water and still dripping wet, seem frozen between different moments, while the port architecture and bodies that Wertheimer shows seem caught between different worlds.
However, I think the most important connection between the works is in the intimacy of each specific piece. Maybe that intimacy is rooted in liminality: theorists of religion like Victor Turner have offered that the liminal space that exists inside of a ritual is a sacred place to encounter a substance of our self temporarily released from social structures. Maybe in the between-ness of Carole and Wertheimer’s portraits we find the unbridled self of their subjects: the private aggression of Wertheimer’s The Neighbor in the Neighborhood, the self-assured curiosity of Carole’s The Message.
Talking with Carole and reading Wertheimer’s writing on the show, they seemed pleased and enthusiastic about the feeling of being led to one another’s work, about the confluence of fate and hard work that produced the shows “magic”. The opening was definitely a magical night with a crowded room and many tasty drinks and snacks circling around!
If you’re in New York in the next month, you can stop by The Farkash Gallery from 11 to 8 daily to catch the show. Have a look before it comes down June 7th!
I’ve been making sculptures for almost five decades. My pieces have been seen around the world since the 1970s. When people see my work, they’re taken aback: children ask their parents if the figures are real people, they don’t know how to react to them, they’ve never seen anything like them.
Like every artist, my work is part of a historical lineage. The art movement I’m associated with is called hyperrealism. The term was first used in 1973 as hyperréalisme by the Belgian art dealer Isy Brachot. The show he put together focused on the American photorealists working at the time, men who made paintings that focused in specific and intimate detail on their subjects to reveal a truth that transcends what a camera can capture.
The term became popular in the following years. Artists like me that were building and painting life-like fiberglass or bronze sculptures came into its fold. The term even reached back into time, and so the canon of Pop sculptures that artists like Claes Oldenburg and Duane Hanson were producing in the 60s and early 70s became part of the lineage too.
For as long as there has been a thing called “hyperrealist sculpture” I’ve been someone who has shaped and defined the width and breadth of that movement. However, in the production of the history of hyperrealism and even more broadly of life-like sculpture, I have seen my work passed over and reduced while my contemporaries have been elevated.
Institutions like the Met and MoMA have been central players in separating which practitioners become the canon of a movement. Hyperrealism is featured prominently in a show on at Met Breuer right now called Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300-Now). I respect and value the 120 art objects that are included in the show, and in principal I don’t mind that my work doesn’t appear. However, when I went to visit this show recently, it got me thinking about what differentiates my work from those of my contemporaries from the 1970s and 1980s.
So here we go: I think we should talk frankly about the operation of patriarchy in the art world.
Here’s the thesis:
Men’s voices have dominated the industry of art criticism. See Clement Greenberg, see the Royal Academy of Art, etc.
Even when it comes to female subjects, the art that is valued is that which depicts the gaze of male artists. See the ratio of nude women subjects to women artists in the Met’s Modern Art Sections that the Guerrilla Girls made famous: 85% of the nudes are women, while only 5% of the artists are.
Art which elevates the way a woman looks at anything, and maybe especially women, is written out of history. See Romance novels, see Lifetime movies, see the silo-ing of feminist art.
This isn’t shocking to anybody, but I think that it’s worth repeating and considering, and I want to speak to what is lost by dismissing my perspective on female identity.
My sculptures of women are portraits of strength and power and balance. They aren’t an allegory for these things, which of course has been a long staple of the use of women’s bodies in men’s art. Instead, each figure is at a point in her personal journey that has allowed her to recognize these things in herself.
There is a wide functional gap between that depiction and those of my contemporaries John de Andrea and Duane Hanson. Hanson’s figures play with a tradition of satire: they are unhealthy, they have a problematic relation to consumption, they are parodies of the American domestic image that was airbrushed into every magazine of the 1960s. De Andrea’s sculptures have more to do with mine, in that the politics of his figures are less explicit; however he has acknowledged within his own oeuvre the particularity of his perspective, and the centrality of a heteronormative sexuality in his work.
Left: One of Duane Hanson's Supermarket Shoppers. Right: John De Andrea's Allegory, After Coutbet.
This is particularly on display in sculptures like de Andrea’s 1988 piece Allegory, after Courbet. In this work, a female nude figure stands behind and gazes at a clothed male figure, who’s regarding an unfinished sculpture of a woman in his hands. These works are wonderful I think, in that they openly talk about the gendered subjectivity present in all production and consumption of artworks. However, that is a beginning of that conversation, not the end. De Andrea participates in that tradition: male artist, female subject, male gaze, male power.
My art subverts it.
The figures of women I create are not constructed for the male viewer to regard as a symbolic other, but for the human viewer to connect with as the vehicles of their individual lives. Each of them is in a moment that holds their inner strength, their power, and the wisdom that they’ve gained from the challenges they’ve overcome in their lives. I think that’s at the heart of their success in the art market. I also think that if hyperrealism is a tool, then my practice of representing women is an expansion of what that tool can be used for that’s worth noting.
My pieces don’t confront you with their personhood. They mostly don’t stare out at you and demand a response. That’s because they don’t need your gaze, their dialogue is internal, and that internal reality is something that has been left out of representations of women again and again. I don’t want people to look back at this era of art making and say that the internal reality of women was missing from the practice, but when work like mine and from art makers like me is left out of the canon that is exactly how it will look, and the women artists after me will have to start from scratch again.
That’s the function of the glass ceiling right? My career has been to make this tool for talking about the experience and reality of women, and I want the artists who come after me to have that tool. If I can’t break through into the canon, then they won’t have it, they’ll have to spend their careers inventing it for themselves and then never get to the point where humanity really moves forward, when we’re asking: alright, so what’s next?
Here we are, one year into the Trump presidency. This past Saturday I attended a workshop event connecting different activist groups around the city, and one of the questions that came up in that room of organizers, educators, social workers, and students was this: how can people outside of those professions have a political voice and resist oppression? I think Carole has been answering that question by taking steps to make the political context of her work explicit.
The size and shape of global culture is always changing, but certain reference points become the markers that define an era. For many, the election of Donald Trump is the dashboard warning signal telling us the truth about our moment in time and culture. It’s deceptive: Trump did not birth the world we live in. However, his ascendancy has made it very difficult to deny that there are deep problems with our social system.
This recognition of the shortcomings of the global political reality has been one of the biggest shifts in American culture in a long time. Groups like Black Lives Matter that had been attacked in centrist media despite whatever evidence they have presented in support of their cause are now seen as part of the vanguard of the current movement. The phrase “me, too” that activist Tarana Burke started using to talk about sexual assault in 2006 finally gained viral popularity in 2017, just months after Trump was elected despite the allegations of sexual harassment made against him.
Many powerful individuals have been called to take action. As a successful woman in a male-dominated industry, Carole has been conscious of the political context of her pieces throughout her career; however, with this newest era she has been especially ignited.
This past October in Houston, Carole spoke at the International Women’s Forum’s annual World Leadership Conference. As part of the Ideas Remaking the World segment of the program she called on the women leaders in attendance to become explicitly engaged in the political world through their work.
In her presentation (full speech available here), Carole highlighted Ai Weiwei, Jenny Holzer, and the Guerilla Girls as artists who have successfully “used their art to bring about change.” She used that as a starting point to talk about a series of her own pieces and how they have been in dialogue with the political reality that she has been confronted with in her life. This includes works that specifically responded to the news of the time, like Survival of Serena which was created the year after the Mariel boatlift, as well as others that speak more broadly to the position of women in a misogynistic world that has refused again and again to see or hear them.
Carole told me that getting the chance to speak about the context of her work at the forum was an unusual pleasure for her as an artist that speaks primarily through the pieces themselves. I can understand that frustration; when you present an art object in a public space, as many of Carole’s pieces are, you know that many people will have the chance to see and think about your work but you’ll never find out what most of those people think, and they certainly won’t engage in your piece in the same way that you did. Speaking to that crowd of leaders gave Carole a chance to frame her pieces for that audience the way she sees them herself.
There’s a complicated relationship between an artist, their piece, the context the piece was created in and the context of the viewers seeing that work. That relationship is the rich tapestry of meaning that an art object is made of, and it is always changing as the elements that make it up change. The materials age, the political reality shifts, events that were central to a public’s consciousness in one decade are forgotten. Even further, when we experience an object any part of that tapestry of meaning can be hidden from us.
So you come into a room where you see two life-like sculptures of female figures. One is from Carole, and one is from John De Andrea who was another hyperrealist artist in the 1970s. Isn’t it important, even if the sculptures are superficially similar, that De Andrea is representing the female figure as an outsider to her gendered experience and Carole is depicting that figure as an insider?
The comparison isn’t meant to be a value judgement between those two sculptures. From an archaeological perspective, they both can say important things about the culture they’re created within. It’s just important that the stories they tell about that culture might be different from one another.
At the same time as she attended the conference, Carole’s piece Chrysalis was part of a group exhibition at Pen + Brush in New York called King Woman. Its curator, Mashonda Tifrere, put together a show of women-identified artists whose works demonstrate that women “are capable of being the pinnacle of power and strength.” With her participation, Carole was asserting that she sees and experiences the norms of womanhood that society imposes upon her and her work. However, that acknowledgement empowers her to subvert that imposition and define her practice on her own terms.
Carole is building a full calendar of resistance now. After King Woman ended in December, she sent DurgaMa Buddha to Los Angeles for INTO ACTION. INTO ACTION is a week long “social justice festival” where in a combination of installations, performances, and workshops artists are trying to “illuminate [their] resistance” and “take back [their] hope.”
That combination of resistance and hope is what’s more important now than ever. This Monday was Martin Luther King Day, fifty years now since his assassination. This week is the one year anniversary of the Global Women’s March and of Donald Trump’s inauguration. The air is electric, and it feels like there’s no time to waste. What stories do we need to hear right now?
To read the full text of Carole's speech to the 2017 IWF World Leadership Conference, click here.
After three weeks of work in the studio, intern Craig writes about some of Carole’s pieces and the jobs he’s been working on.
Three weeks now! It hasn’t been so many days, with Christmas and the new year, but I’ve gotten more comfortable working in this studio and going between my head and my hands in the different tasks I’m doing around here.
We packed a giant woman into four crates on Tuesday. She’s called DurgaMa, and she sits cross legged with her shoulders back on top of a flower. Each petal had to be wrapped individually with Tyvek and foam, so that’s what I spent most of the day doing. DurgaMa ignored me the whole time, half in a box and locked into her contemplation. We’re sending her across the country to Los Angeles, to a show called INTO ACTION!
According to it’s organizers, INTO ACTION! “is a celebration of community power + cultural resistance, bringing together hundreds of the nation's top visual artists, activists and influencers for creative installations, powerful panels, and music performances,” and is starting already this Friday the 13th. In this weather, I was thinking about crawling into the crates with her.
A couple millennia ago, after Alexander’s empire fell apart, it was succeeded by a bunch of different Greek speaking kingdoms. In the far east of the Hellenistic world were the Bactrian Kingdom and the Indo-Greek kingdom, and life in these kingdoms combined the conquering Hellenic culture with local traditions and practices. The first anthropomorphic depictions of the Buddha come from this era. These religious sculptures would be covered in schist so that they could be detailed down to the fingernails.
DurgaMa is syncretic, like the Hellenistic Buddhas. On one hand, she is named after an aspect of Devi from the Shakti tradition of Hinduism, the warrior and creator goddess Durga. On the other hand, this woman wears a one piece bathing suit linking her to the rest of Carole’s Swimmers series. The curator Simeran Maxwell writes that the “graceful upturned faces” of Carole’s sculptures “present proud and confident women who revel in personal triumph and erotic liberation and in the sensual quality of water.” Durga defeated the invincible buffalo demon Mahishasura after a ten day battle. Maybe the contemplating woman depicted in DurgaMa is quietly sitting in the triumph of restoring balance after her own ten day battle with demonic forces.
Maybe she was dealing with frozen pipes. As I’m sitting here in the studio writing about DurgaMa, I can see a blizzard that’s being called a “bomb cyclone” come down through the window. I’m wrapped up in my biggest sweater and two pairs of pants. It’s dissonant to look at and think about Carole’s swimsuit clad figures in the thick of a New York winter, the dissonance that comes from having your visual understanding of a situation contradicted by information that you get in other ways.
Even without a blizzard, that dissonance is always present in Carole’s work. It defies expectations to see drops of water that will never slide or dry, to see people that will always be relieved at their escapes but never get emotional distance from the moment.
Yesterday a senior fabricator, Natasha, started teaching me how to do the lay-up of one of Carole’s sculptures, a Mini Serena. Serena is resting on an inner tube, her head on her arm. She looks tired and self-satisfied. One of the artists here, Heath, said he saw in it the story of a woman who has escaped abuse and created a new life for herself, and is resting in that moment of security she has created.
I thought about that story as I was applying layers of resin and fiberglass to her mold, building up her substance from the outside of her skin in. Is there a metaphor there? I think so but I guess it's not about Serena's journey.
Serena self-realizes, and it's impossible for me as another person in dialogue with her to replicate her self-realization. Instead I have to begin at the level of her skin to work down to the things that give her strength and solidity. If viewers can take that time to explore the narrative of an art object they interact with, exploring that object's material and spiritual reality, then they can learn what techniques they need to use inside themselves to replicate what they find appealing in that object. I'm attracted to Serena's floating, mobile self-security; maybe in understanding her production I can find that security for myself.