Stitches in Time

What joy-of hundreds, thousands of material objects I've looked at over the years, occasionally one particular work will still knock the wind out of me. I came upon such a piece two Saturdays ago while wading through [Carol Ann Carter's Mapping the Interior Landscape][1] at the Lawrence Arts Center. Right there on the wall, for everyone to see, is an old portrait of an old me. Sure, Carter doesn't know me (we've never met), has no idea what I look like, but when it comes to depicting my early-20s vulnerability and false bravado, she has nailed it. ![][2] "Chest List" (2005) is a small sculptural piece, exhausted and desperate to keep it's inner self a secret. Illegible notes and letters are stacked tightly, pierced with heavy twine, then wrapped in canvas. In an attempt to appear put-together, an antique purse clasp is attached to the top with ragged safety pins. It's an expressionistic use of found objects, and a telling portrait of the need to keep it all together, when in fact you only have the tools to make do.This particular Saturday I was making my second visit to her show. I love the small stitch work Carter scatters across her fiber art. Truth is, I'd seen "Chest List" the first time around, but on this specific bitter-cold morning, with my coffee and fatigue and solitude just as it was, I saw it again and felt the wallop. I know contemporary art can be difficult, and I know it takes work, but when it communicates to you, it's like suddenly being fluent in a language you couldn't comprehend the day before. That said, Carter's current exhibit is a quiet one. The neutral colors and soft shapes sit patiently on the white walls, not demanding attention but also not hiding from an intimate showing of itself. Like cartography-to which the artist alludes-this is tactile poetry, assigning small but sophisticated imagery to something essentially unmeasurable. It's left to the viewer to take the leap of faith.Carter calls Mapping the Interior Landscape a mini-retrospective. It's a small and diverse show, but themes of palette and process hold it together. The exhibit is on view through February 28.In her artist's statement, Carter says she is "compelled to layer things: stack, bundle, and bury them, journal, conceal, stitch, bag, reveal, overlay, and incorporate." The result of such physical handling of her materials is taught, detailed, and distressed forms that provide entry in various ways and lead the questioning eye from one clue to the next."X'd Bundle" (2000) is a small pillow form also rich in expressionist approach. The tiny red stitching of "Chest List" is instead a shout of deep red gouges. A rectangle juts from the center. It's as if one is standing on an existential edge, holding together her very self with what materials happen to be in the room at the time.Carter's bundles may remind the local art audience of Eric Lindveit's mattresses of the mid-1990s, which he slashed and painted to a perfect emotional pitch. Whereas Lindveit let it all hang out, however, Carter appears to want to hold back and keep secrets. Quick, nervous line defines "Stitched Marks" (2000-2001), a work of energy and texture. The process is exposed in areas, such as where the tape remains on the outside edge of the paper, and the time (or an appointment) is scrawled near the image. Carter, a KU art professor, is embracing technology these days. It's a turn one may not expect from such a tactile artist, but considering her sophistication, it's not surprising. Her two-dimensional images of her works, layered on the computer with notes and drawings, are intriguing, if not as provocative as her bundle and fiber work. Her interest in exploring medium, however, is in itself an asset.For such an unassuming show, Mapping the Interior Landscape is a firm step toward discovering a solid artistic presence in our community. Like the memory she traffics, Carter's work is rough around the edges, but the quiet is formidable. [1]: http://www.lawrence.com/events/ongoing/16385/ [2]: http://www.lawrenceartscenter.com/News/Exhibitions/i/CarterImage.jpg

Comments

Dave Loewenstein 12 years, 10 months ago

I really like what you said about comprehending a new language. Word by word then phrase by phrase, this still happens to me too, even after thinking that I'd seen it all. For me it's a reminder to go see new things and not just the ones who's descriptions might appeal. When I think back to how I used to disparage artists (at first sight) that I now admire, I know I ain't seen nothin' yet.

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