A Curatorial Vision

by Michael A. Tomor, Ph.D., Executive Director, El Paso Museum of Art

Topographies: Three Decades of Realistic Sculpture by Carole A. Feuerman highlights three dimensional works in resin by this New York City artist. A trompe l’oeil sculptor who has devoted her career to visualizing the human condition in super-realism, Feuerman’s contemporary approach forges historical links with the past while revealing her compelling vision for the future.

Feuerman’s sculptural tradition can be traced to the second Century bronze and chiseled marble busts of Roman aristocrats, religious leaders, and politicians. The evolution of objective figurative portrayals in three dimensional sculptures was later revived during the European Baroque period by sculptors like Gianlorenzo Bernini. The tradition was continued by Jean-Antoine Houdon, the great sculptor of the 18th century Enlightenment, as well as by the 19th century Neo-Classical sculpture of Antonio Canova. The immediacy of expression of the Impressionists led sculptors such as Auguste Rodin to reevaluate sculpture in terms of personal vision, setting the stage for new approaches to three dimensional work in the 20th century and for the emergence of the United States as an international center for innovative experiments in sculpture.

With the advent of expressionism in late 19th century, end 20th century abstraction that continued through the 1960s, naturalism in the rendering of the human form was temporarily overshadowed. However, during the 1960s Pop artists, including Andy Warhol, Jim Rosenquist, Jim Dine, and Claes Oldenburg, redefined naturalism in terms of consumerism. Pop Art images were usually direct, literal renderings of commonplace objects, such as soup cans and Brillo boxes, arid this new realism encouraged other artists to pursue their naturalistic inclinations in art.

It was during the 1970s that Pop Art made Realism legitimate again, and it was during that time that three American sculptors were inspired to revisit the traditions of the past. Working independently of one another and with unique vocabularies and contemporary mediums, Duane Hanson, John De Andrea, and Carole A. Feuerman returned to the three dimensional world of figurative sculpture. Each was inspired to create life size and lifelike sculptures of the human form embellished with accessories, such as hair, clothes, and a variety of props. Their work at this time was not only visually exciting but an effective commentary on contemporary life. Each artist rendered the genre through an objective rather than an expressionistic approach. Commentary on the social condition, including the tangible realities of war and the abstract ideologies of emotions like passion and pain, inspired each to visualize the world in terms of personal experience.

Feuerman’s interest in Realism and objectivity, fidelity of form, and truth of expression and depiction is indicative of the artist’s formative desire to recreate the human body. Through her sculpture Feuerman has created portraits of ordinary people in everyday situations that possess a universal appeal. Whether it is a woman in an inner tube at the beach, a singer in front of a microphone, or a child playing baseball, Feuerman’s realistic depictions make her work both accessible and familiar. Best known for her ability to recreate the illusion of water droplets and perspiration, Feuerman has traditionally been known for images of bathers and athletes.

Although she labors over preparatory sketches and life drawing, Feuerman uses direct casting to replace three-dimensional maquetts, and she spends most of her time duplicating the essence of her models in paint. Clothing, teeth, pores, wrinkles, and skin color are meticulously rendered by the artist to give the viewer the impression of a living, breathing human being. Renowned as the originator of realistic life-cast figurative sculpture, and as an innovator in the technique of creating three-dimensional water drop imaging, her works are not merely casts of real human bodies. Feuerman’s resin sculptures are stereotypes and generic, each expressing an aspect of her life. The coloring, poses and environments of each sculpture constitute the artists individual comments on the human condition. Her interest in realism will always bring Feuerman positive critical review and continued success.