Earth Water Air Fire: The Work of Carole Feuerman

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

The exhibition, Earth Water Air Fire, derives its name from what many worldviews since antiquity have considered the four basic elements, the essential components of all matter and/or phenomena. These elements may also be considered the primary elements of Carole Feuerman’s sculptural work regarding process and theme.

In terms of process, Feuerman works with materials such as bronze, marble, and resin as they change states transitioning from solid to liquid and liquid to solid. The success of each sculpture is therefore dependent on the artist’s thorough understanding of the various materials’ specific characteristics and the ability to control them in the studio. In terms of theme, the basic elements fundamentally inspire the artist. Whether casting bronze spheres of the earth, or pouring liquid bronze forms of the Greek god of fire, Hephaestus, portraying figures floating on air or swimmers surfacing from the water, Feuerman’s most frequent theme is water and the human figures’ experience in, with, and of water. Divided thematically according to the basic elements to clearly demonstrate the diverse array of ideas and approaches used, each sculpture also explores realism, sexuality, and reality in its own way.

This exhibition includes fifty-one sculptural works in oil painted resin, cast marble, and bronze from the 1980s, the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st Century. The majority of the works are hyper-realistic figures and fragments of figures, depicting in meticulous detail the human body. Others are abstract, or almost abstract, and result from the expressionistic pouring of molten bronze and other metals into sand molds.

Since the 1980s, Feuerman has created hyper-realist, figurative sculpture, predominantly of women, and is deserving of much acclaim. Feuerman uses hyper-realism to address personal, rather than social topics and in doing so, portrays women as confident, healthy and introspective. Feuerman’s work also represents a broadening of the centuries-long, male-dominated art market and the voice of a female artist in an era of identity politics. Many of Feuerman’s figures have a fragmented quality that may recall classical sculpture, the work of the 19th Century French sculptor Auguste Rodin, and the aesthetics of Surrealism. The artist’s most recent work represented by Balance, (2008), Summer, Tree and Monumental Shower (all 2009), indicate an ongoing effort to best integrate process and theme to speak to the senses and intellect about human physicality.

Carole Feuerman is acknowledged by many as one of the leading hyper-real sculptors working today. The artist has been included in many group exhibitions at prestigious institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy, among many others, and in solo exhibitions in Italy, Switzerland and the United States. Feuerman has also received many honors for her work, such as the Betty Parsons Award in Sculpture, the Lorenzo de Medici Prize at the 2001 Biennale di Firenze, and First Prize at the 2008 Beijing Biennale. Her work is also in significant private collections such as: His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, the Absolut Art Collection, and Forbes Magazine, and in public collections such as, The Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, The Bass Museum in Miami Beach, The Tampa Art Museum, The Boca Raton Museum of Art, The Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami, Brandeis University, and Grounds for Sculpture.