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Parsing Views: New Paintings by Cole Carothers


Following are text panels from the exhibition Parsing Views: New Paintings by Cole Carothers, on view at the University of Kentucky Art Museum through August 18, 2002:

The painter confronts a panel on his wall (easel). Not knowing where to begin, he paints and scrapes. Ideas are in flux. Anxious and moving in the studio between his palette and the wall, the space is alive. Look to the palette for color, paint, and a tool -- brush, knife, roller, or rag. Paint walls, a floor, and objects so that the space evolves. (right: Cole Carothers (b. 1948), What are my chances?, 2001, oil on wood, 43 1/2 x 48 inches, Courtesy of the artist)

Questions abound. Change directions and wrestle with the image to find its place in the mind's eye. The wall-easel, made of wood, has a panel on it. The table-palette nudges this panel like a springboard or quay. His painting is the timetable into this illusion.

Does he paint himself or select a model? Standing before the wall and his imagined world, he's dead-on, dead center, and the question confronts him.

He paints a solitary easel, as if it is himself. The wood is worn, paint-crusted.... By its slight diagonal, it joins his studio with a view.

Now you have it, the play and the painter. The illusion is flat, disjointed, and mercurial. Step back and forth, up and down, left or right. It is finished yet incomplete, transparent and opaque, stable and shifting. Parse the issues: what's real (?) or an illusion, measure the objects by their color, light, and shadow. Everything is in its place and in its own time.

Mundane objects speak of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So go back in time ... go forward. Relax, let go, it is only a picture. Feel happy you are here because the mind is your meter and it's running.

Artist's Statement

I guess you need something said about the paintings.

The inevitable direction for any artist is learning to trust oneself. What kind of trust? Trust in seeing! Selection? Skill? Influences? An audience? My trust as a painter comes from a belief in all of these, particularly at my age.

I've followed my instincts and over the years changes have occurred, but they have been slow growing, like bark on a tree. An artist, like tree rings, assumes a point in time and begins to grow, year by year. No ring or cycle is identical -- some years the rings may be smooth, almost symmetrical, others erratic, jagged, oblique -- and the truth is found in the sum of these rings. The oldest ring is closest to the surface but it has weathered the years. For a tree, an artist, or any living thing, growth starts within and eventually surfaces.

With every year, my core trust is part of a larger context, growing stronger and more developed. Where once my seeing was influenced most by my teachers, now I look beyond them. I look at things around me and ask: Can I paint them? Do I have the skill? Is there a reason? Will it strike a chord with others?

I am one artist among many, one person among billions. My voice is my work and I paint the things around me. They can be playful, serious, reasonable and confounding. They are my history as well as my journal. They are about painting and drawing, color and light, art and imagination, finished and incomplete. They reveal my preference for the mundane and common, but they also respect absolutes. The idea is to remain open, to allow free association or interpretation; to delight in paint, brushstrokes, pencil, and tools; to characterize movement, time, and freedom; and, finally, to trust in my creativity and weather this life.

Cole Carothers

May 2002


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