Carol Brown Goldberg

Chevy Chase, MD | by December 4, 2011

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.

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