Carole Feuerman’s Female Pride
by David S. Rubin
Coming of age as an artist during the early years of the Feminist movement, Carole Feuerman was keenly aware that it was time to put an end to the familiar cliché that women were “the weaker sex.” Although many women her age took the political road to challenging outmoded notions of femininity, Feuerman opted for the path she had been on since childhood, that of an artist. In 1969, Feuerman made one of her first significant artistic statements, paying homage to the pioneering Feminist Gloria Steinem in a psychedelic-styled portrait that she painted in acrylic and adorned with a neon pen, a signifier of Steinem’s role as a writer.
By the 1970s, Feuerman shifted her focus from celebrating a specific individual to embracing a more universal approach, one that could have meaning and impact apart from the place or time the work was created. For more than thirty years, Feuerman’s Feminist modus operandi has been to honor all women, generically, by portraying them as strong, healthy, happy, and sensuous. In the mid-1970s, during the height of the sexual revolution, Feuerman exhibited a series of eroticized sculptural female fragments, clearly affirming the cultural awakening that was taking place, when women took charge of their sexual desires and claimed a territory that had traditionally been reserved for men. Since the 1980s, much of the artist’s oeuvre has been devoted to athletic subjects like the swimmer or the ballerina. As females, these figures personify heroic archetypes, women who are proud of their bodies and triumphant in their achievements. As metaphors, they are expressive of hope and determination, and of the faith that accompanies the drive to push forward on life’s journey, regardless of the challenges or obstacles that threaten to deter us.
Over the years, Feuerman has worked in a number of sculptural mediums. Although best known for her hyperrealist sculptures, which are fashioned from resin and then painted in oils, the artist has also carved in marble and cast in bronze. In the oil and resin works, Feuerman deftly reveals the fortitude of a woman’s physical or spiritual being by meticulously rendering such details as the tautness of veins visible through skin, or by the evocation of serenity through a contemplative facial expression. In her more recent depictions of swimmers, she has graced each body with the subtle touch of delicate water droplets, which function not only as references to the physical feat of the swim, but also as metaphors for the feminine connection to nature. The marble works, by contrast, are characterized by pristine milky surfaces, yielding a heroic sense of the sensuous. The recent bronze figures possess rugged exteriors that appear tarnished and aged. These latter figures are the proven champions of endurance. Though their exteriors reveal the withered effects of life’s many trials, their robust and classically posed bodies are a testament to the inner strength and accumulated wisdom of their days.
David S. Rubin is The Brown Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art at the San Antonio Museum of Art.