Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

West Neighborhoods: short takes

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
West Neighborhoods: Short takes
Oct. 21, 2007.

Susan Clinard has been in her Gilbert Street studio in West Haven since January. The sculptor and teacher had a "comfortable career" in Chicago but moved here when her husband got a job at Yale.

"When you move into a new place, your world gets flipped upside down. You have to find your comfort," said Clinard. She said she is now incorporating more mixed media in her work. Her pieces are becoming more stylized, less indebted to the classical figure. She pointed to one abstract work hanging on the wall, a mother and child represented by elongated, tapered wood forms.

Her sculptures were displayed throughout her studio. There were many examples of figurative work, some in bronze, others in resin and a number that combined clay with found pieces of wood.

I found one of these particularly engaging. "Finding Her Balance #1" is a piece that Clinard crafted in Chicago last year. Composed of wood and terra cotta, its centerpiece—the torso for the figure—is a marvelously expressive piece of driftwood.

"Being a mother and finding a balance between being an artist and a mother, I feel like I'm teetering a lot, like we all do," she said, while deftly parrying her young son's demands for attention.

Clinard added two other branches as arms and sculpted her clay for the face, hands and feet. After the clay was fired, she adhered it to the form with epoxy and then painted it.

"I'm experimenting with materials and having a blast," said Clinard.

Rachel Vaters-Carr took a trip to Death Valley two or three years ago in connection with a Connecticut State university system research grant (Vaters-Carr teaches at Southern Connecticut State University). She took over 900 photos, a dozen or so prints of which were tacked to her studio wall. Pointing to one of the prints, she noted that she came upon a crater there that catalyzed "an obsession with volcanoes and craters in my current work."

"In all my work, it all starts out with initial responses to geologic structures," said Vaters-Carr. Her landscape work is a metaphor for the way internal emotional forces and external physical forces shape the human experience.

"With volcanoes, you have an inward terrain that's creating the structure," Vaters-Carr explained.

She creates her landscapes with Hydrocal, a slightly more dense plaster modeling cement. She told me that she works intuitively.

"I look at the images and digest the information. I then reconsider and reinvent the landscapes for my own needs and sensibilities, she said.

The sculpted landscapes are left unpainted, white.

"One of the things about leaving them white is that it leaves them open to interpretation," said Vaters-Carr as we looked over a work entitled "Rift." "What I've loved about City-Wide Open Studios is the number of people who have had different interpretations." Some visitors have told her it looks like a canyon. Others commented on the meditative aspects of the form. I told her that it brought to mind a glacier that might be cracking open under the influence of global warming. It was a reading, she said, that could be spurred by the white coloration. The work emerged, she said, from her experience going through canyons and canyon passages and observing how the effect of water often created crevices wider at the bottom than the top.

"The work is escapist, it's cathartic, it's all that stuff," said Vaters-Carr. "There's something decadent about creating your own little world, a little chunk of land to escape to."


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