Artist Lets Heart Guide Color On Canvas
Carbondale artist Carrie Kaplan’s work is about people, in response to people, in love with people, out of love with people.
It’s at least one element — as broad as it is — that ties together her eclectic work.
“People influence me. Even if it’s somebody you meet for only five minutes, it goes into your being,” Kaplan said during an interview in her Carbondale studio.
The oil on canvas full of gray and brown hues stands out among the vibrant, colorful work that has been displayed in venues throughout Carbondale and the Valley. Yet, the people still are in there, figures she sees through her heart’s eye.
Like many of her pieces, she didn’t have a sketch or even a plan when she painted “Leaving My Chair in the City to Go Fly Fishing.” She simply woke up at eight in the morning, started painting and “it all came out,” she said.
Even as she energetically runs around the studio pulling out prints or actual paintings from her stacks, new figures and faces show up in the outlines and the blending of paint, ink and other media.
“I blob on color and I just look for the images,” she said, and later added, “It’s the little treasures that are exciting, the discovery.”
Although she likes to greet the blank canvas without a sketch, she has studied art. She has a fine arts degree from the University of Manitoba, has a background in video production and has designed furniture.
But the “textbook” method of creating is not for her.
“I paint what I am challenged to see rather than what conventionally have been programmed to see,” she states in her bio.
Kaplan’s method of painting — to let her heart and soul guide her hand and brush — along with her love of music and dance, is the way this brilliant artist has come to create.
“I’m constantly thinking in terms of motion and feel of the atmosphere,” she says. “Movements suggest tone, color, emotion, and story of choreography. This weighs heavily on my thoughts, and is being explored through painting at this moment, a choreographed piece of canvas and color.”
In describing her body of work, the self-proclaimed “idiot savant” artist says straight out: “It’s eclectic. I won’t paint your dog or a still life. It pretty much runs the gamut.”
Several of Kaplan’s paintings currently hanging at Ella restaurant in Carbondale are scenes of people enjoying food, drink, dance and the chatter of other human beings. Her work at Dos Gringos also reflects people sipping coffee and being a part of a social setting.
Other, more abstract paintings show wispy figures entwined and flowing into and out of each other, such as “I Know You Know.”
In a departure from her normal process, her “Voyage” series consists of four large paintings created a year ago when she had a “block.” It was the first times she used “sketches” in the form of collages to guide her work.
Filled with symbolism and rushing color, the collage-based paintings were actually “freeing” because, for the first time, she knew what she was going to paint, she said.
Yet not knowing what would come next has never scared her. Spiritual connections in Kaplan’s life seem to guide her toward the next step or reaffirm what she is doing.
She’ll find notes on scraps of paper that surface at just the right time, almost like a foreshadow, suggesting a path. She pointed to the back of an old receipt with a note “Aspen Youth Experience” given to her a year ago by an anonymous woman who asked if she wanted more information about the nonprofit. The girl didn’t know Kaplan or that she was an artist.
In February of this year, a representative of Aspen Youth Experience contacted Kaplan to see if she could donate some artwork for the annual celebrity silent auction. It was shortly after that meeting that the year-old note surfaced.
“The two incidents were not related,” Kaplan said.
“I try to be aware of the synchronicity and serendipity that happen to all of us daily. They’re like little signs that you’re on the right track.”
Some of her work also has hinted at events to come, but when asked if she might be psychic, she replied negatively.
“I think I have really good intuition … most of the time. I think people would say I’m psycho, not psychic.”
Either way, she has been enjoying more success as an artist lately. Aside from selling more and receiving inquiries about her work, she is planning a private art soiree this spring and has another secret (but huge) project in the works; she won’t talk about it for fear of jinxing it.
“It’s not like I had any intentions of doing any of this,” she said, adding that she is grateful for the turn in success. “It is paying off. It’s just really validating and rewarding.”
Kaplan’s paintings in Ella are for sale, and a portion of the sales will go to charity. View several pieces of her work at local restaurants Ella, Phat Thai and Dos Gringos, or visit www.myspace.com/carriekaplanstudio.