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Painting by Carolyn Case in an interview in the The Asian Curator, "Artist Profile: Carolyn Case", by Anjali Singh

Carolyn Case sees the pandemic as a chance for the world to slow down and experience the portal that art provides to the broader human experience.


How do you describe yourself in the context of challenging people’s perspectives via your work and art?

My primary motivation is an inner longing to fuse my thoughts and feelings about my daily experiences with what happens intuitively in the studio. Usually, I take photos from my home and life experiences and slowly work out the ideas through an additive and subtractive process until there are some visual and spatial links in the paintings. Recently I have been doing a lot of pastel drawings as a way to work out ideas quickly.

How do you deal with the conceptual difficulty and uncertainty of creating new work?

I think dealing with difficulty in the studio is a constant journey. I have tried to befriend these discouraging experiences, the more I work. I remind myself that searching through murky failures for glimpses of an idea is part of my painting process. Finding quicker releases, such as the pastel drawings, has helped as well. I have also tried to strengthen my meditation practice so I can try to stay focused and calm during the uncertainty.

Tell us about the evolution of your practice over the years. What would you call your style?

Over the years, I have noticed a pattern of always searching for a particular experience in the painting. The references I use in my paintings evolve as my life changes. But I am still interested in an elusive magical sensation. Before I had children, my references often came from travel. I was in India for six weeks, and that had a huge visual impact. Since I have children, many of my references come from my home, and the house becomes a living symbol of the different stages of my life.

What were your biggest learning and hiccups along the way in your artistic journey? 

My most significant learning curve was how much you need to work to put yourself out there. The art world is a community, and you need to be a generous and active member. An important step, I wish I learned earlier was finding other artists you connect with, supporting them, and creating a web of positive active people to help you keep moving forward. I was out of grad school before the internet became such a massive resource for artists, and I didn’t realise how vital participating as much as possible could push your development forward. Finding artist-run spaces and supporting them as well as reaching out to artists whose work you admire and letting them know that.

What were you working on when the lockdown was announced?

My third solo show in NYC had been up for two weeks before the shutdown, so it’s still up, entombed there until the city re-opens.

How are you balancing life and work at home during this period? How has this affected your practice and plans?

Luckily, my studio is in my garage, so I still have access to it, and I can work. However, I have two children, and they need attention during the day, mainly with their online schooling. I am also teaching online at the Maryland Institute College of Art, so there has been a bit of learning curve there as well. When I was briefly getting into the studio at the beginning of the lockdown, I had trouble focusing because I was so concerned. I started doing graphite drawings, which I haven’t done in a long time, and I found limiting my materials helped my focus, and I was able to get back to painting.

What would elevate artists’ life during this period?

I am not sure what would elevate artists right now, but I hope people feel connected to the arts. The virus stopped everyone’s work, and now there’s a chance to create and slow down and see the portal that art provides to the broader human experience. I also think the more art was made accessible to the public (the internet is helping with that), the more artists could sustain themselves. I do believe the public has a hunger for art, but often has trouble accessing it.

What do you look for while viewing art? 

I look for any art that takes me on a journey. I love to feel inspired by other artists’ commitment to their specific voice. It gives me the courage to keep going.

What was your first sale? Do you handle the commercials yourself or is it outsourced to a gallery/agent?

My first sale was to my mom. She always took my pursuit seriously and overpaid for a lot of paintings! Now I work with a couple of galleries, and I appreciate their commitment to helping me show and sell my work. I feel lucky to be supported by them.

Tell us about your studio, what kind of place is it? Could you describe your usual work-day in the studio?

My studio is my garage at my house. It has heat, lights, and drywall. Overall it is very comfortable, but I do miss being in a studio building with a community of artists. I used to be in one, but since my children were born, it became too challenging to leave the house to work.

Are you more of a studio artist or naturally collaborative by nature? How do you feel about commissions? 

I am mostly a studio artist, but last year I participated in an exhibition at the Lux Art Institute where my studio was in the middle of my exhibition, and I worked during the show. That experience helped me push my work forward, so I am always interested in new experiences.


Image: Carolyn Case, "Morning Dishes", 2020, Oil on panel, 24" x 28". Photo by Etienne Frossard.