On a rainy Thursday morning, TSV’s Director Isabel Manalo and I drove out to the studio of Carol Brown Goldberg who is a long time Washington D.C. based artist whose work is exhibited internationally. Living and working in Chevy Chase, MD Carol talks about how she identifies herself as a DC metropolitan artist. Her dedication to the Washington art scene is true and unwavering. With a career that has evolved along with other Washington School favorites, Carol is not only an established artist, she is a collector, critic, teacher, and most importantly a curious mind. Our conversation ranged from Facebook, astrology, her son Andy Chase and his successful bands called Brookville and Ivy, to her recent exhibits in Spain and New Jersey, and conversations with Donald Kuspit. It was quite an amazing morning.
We were immediately greeted by bright track lighting and color– a stark contrast to the dark and grey of the day. It was color that first took my attention to the paint on the floors, the stools, and then to the walls. The space was alive with creativity. I was amazed by the amount of work– ranging from drawings on the tables, to paintings stacked against the wall, to sculptures inhabiting the nooks and crannies of the main room, kitchen area, backroom, and closets. Everywhere I looked, there was something to satiate my curiosity.
The main room of the studio has three large worktables, all active with various projects and perfectly lit. On her first worktable were vibrant linear drawings on hand made paper that had been cut out from a sketchbook Carol had purchased from an artist in Martha’s Vineyard. The drawings were loose, colorful, and embodied an aura of inspired moments. The mark moved freely on the page— each moment responding to another part of the drawing. I then looked to my left finding drawings framed and hung on the wall. Noticing the date on the bottom stated 1970, I asked how they related to the recent drawings on the table. Carol described how she had drawn them during this past summer and regarded them as a part of her mobile studio practice. They are strikingly similar to the ones on the wall from over thirty years ago, and I was in awe of the consistency of her mark over the decades. Her approach to these drawings clearly is as unwavering as her love of DC.
After thirty or so minutes of chatting over coffee, we visited her more recent paintings. Again struck by the consistency and energy of the mark, I was engaged by the individual stories of each piece. One piece revealed a border of disguised written word and the next was over seven feet tall. After Carol shared with us that she painted this piece on the floor, I was again impressed and my interest peaked. The paintings are process paintings, similar to her drawings, cohesive in completion but clearly executed with an additive step-by-step approach; all marks, color and materials, flawlessly interwoven to create a visually stimulating experience for the viewer.
Finally, we were introduced to her sculptures. I say introduced as intentionally as she described each step of her process. As we entered the back room of her studio, we were literally greeted by a collection of found object characters, each standing as an individual but composed as if a part of a choir or group picture. The small intimate objects are frozen in space, but contain a feeling of potential energy as if with the snap of a finger they would start moving, talking and interacting in the space.
Again driven by process and response, Carol builds each individual piece from a collection of found objects. These objects range from kitchen supplies, to old phones, to children’s toys and wooden building blocks. She assembles them with hot glue and considers them maquettes, only satisfied once they are cast in bronze which she has done at a foundry in Virginia. Inserting my own bias, thinking these maquettes could stand alone as individual works and do not necessarily beg to be cast in bronze (each weighing in around 10 pounds), I asked Carol why she only considers them finished once they are solidified by the bronzing process. She recognized that this was a difference of opinion reflecting the generations that separated us as artists. For her they were simply not precious enough and to stop the process at the maquette stage would not be satisfying. She did acknowledge many other found object sculptures completed in non-precious materials that she can appreciate, but her pieces are completed once they are cast in bronze. I was struck by this thought and still find myself ruminating on the decisions artists make and how we each determine when a piece is considered complete.
Carol continued to discuss her sculptures, talking about their relationship to old and new family photos in regards to their composition as well as their obvious personal content. She showed one in particular of her father as a young school boy taken in 1911 depicted in a book about Baltimore’s history and affirmed that memory is a large part of these anthropomorphic figures. She is clearly inspired by this new body of work and other people seem to be as well. This work will be on exhibit at Addison Ripley Fine Art in Washington, D.C opening on December 9.
As we started to gather our things to leave, one of us mentioned the word ‘established.’ Carol, with her contagious personality, smiled and laughed a bit, as she reminisced on the fact that she doesn’t feel ‘established.’ When she is in her studio, she constantly feels emerging– continuing to explore, investigate, and discover new creative pursuits and pathways. I, as a young artist, was truly inspired by this notion, and hope that thirty years into my studio practice I embody the same energy and curiosities as Carol Brown Goldberg.