MICA VCCA Fellow Carolyn Case's Ornate Abstractions

With a ravishing palette and compendium of different painting techniques, Carolyn Case creates ornate abstract works that are complex discourses on painting. Distinctly nonobjective, Carolyn’s work nevertheless evokes landscapes. Adding to this quality is her use of some kind of aperture that opens up to a completely different formal approach suggesting deeper space. There is something about her compositional arrangements and the dense energy she creates that reminds me, funnily enough, of Hieronymus Bosch though the two artists remain worlds apart.

Carolyn’s approach involves a lot of addition and subtraction. “Sometimes I‘ll have an idea that I will try and it will either work or lead to another idea.” If it doesn’t work, she simply sands it off and begins again.

Right now Carolyn is working with the idea of her paintings existing beyond the boundaries of the panel. What you’re seeing is just a fragment of a larger (imaginary) whole. “The paintings are happening out there and I’m only getting a bit of them,” she says.

This past year Carolyn travelled to Iran, her husband’s homeland. “It was not as beautiful when we went this time; it was in the middle of summer and everything was covered in dust. I was trying to think of a way to frame my mind so I wouldn’t be negative about the visuals and I began thinking of the dust as a unifier. Passing a tree, a storefront, a house, everything was covered so it allowed me to make compositions in my mind connecting things that I wouldn’t ordinarily connect because the dust carried through and so I was really thinking about this when I started this series.”

One of the most distinctive features of Carolyn’s paintings is her use of dots. These were inspired by the pulsating quality of the color in Andean weavings. “At first, I couldn’t figure out how to get that effect in paint and then I thought of the thread going up and down and up and down and that’s how I came up with the idea of the dots.” Carolyn combines this intricate motif with other passages that are more painterly with washes of color, or more impasto brush strokes. She also achieves a collage effect; painted areas look distinctly torn and layered. While she dazzles with color and dynamic shape she produces work that is very much about manipulating the illusion of space.

Carolyn’s residency is a joint venture between VCCA and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). The program, available to MICA faculty, provides residencies funded by L.E.A.W. Family Foundation. Board member and VCCA Fellow Linda Wachtmeister established the partnership between the MICA community and VCCA because: "Both of these organizations are important in my life,” she says. "I have experienced wonderful things because of being a MICA artist and a VCCA fellow. I wanted to share that with other people."

This is Carolyn’s first residency at VCCA and first residency in 15 years. “I’ve got two kids,” she explains. Carolyn’s husband has been her mainstay and, with four snow days in the three weeks she’s been gone, has been put through his paces. For Carolyn, her residency has been incredibly inspiring:“I’ve never been around so many writers and composers before.” It’s also been a lifesaver: her first New York show opens at the Asya Geisberg Gallery in Chelsea in March and, “I would never have gotten the work done without this residency.”



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