Patrick Iberi: Bodice of goddess- your most recent series of mixed media work, is inspired by the history and legends of River goddesses of the Hudson. Do you think these myths are sustained in anyway by your art?
Carla Goldberg: I see myself as a weaver of information because I am in actuality creating a new mythology. There isn’t much out there specifically on Hudson Goddesses, which saddened me greatly because the Hudson is a very important river in American History. In much the same way that my mixed media works are made up of multiple non-traditional elements, there is a rich tradition of river goddess stories across the globe which mix easily with local legends, history and river science to create these new goddess images and since all rivers are connected via the oceans, river goddesses are present in all cultures and so they fit seamlessly into our local river and are reflected in the short stories that fellow artist Cabot Parsons and I write to compliment the work. A good example of the combination of these elements can be seen in the painting “Goddess of the Devil heads”. The Chinese water chestnut is an invasive plant in the Hudson and is wreaking havoc on native plant species. From this plant grows this amazing and weird looking seed that really looks like a two headed devil. The “Goddess of the Devil heads” is an invasive goddess. She’s not from around these parts. Her hair is made of real devil head seeds. Now this goddess plays all summer long with Kipsie who is the Hudsons version of the Loch Ness monster whose sightings have been documented over the course of four centuries beginning with Henry Hudson’s voyage of the Hudson in 1609 under various names like river monster or mermaid and so on. So here is where I combine science with history and goddess lore. In my mind, Kipsey comes to explore and play with the Devil head goddess all summer long. But in the Winter as the goddess retreats just as most plants do for the winter, Kipsey in her sorrow and anger at the loss of her friend sweeps her great tail violently and creates the stormy and choppy waves that wash the Devil head seeds up on to the shore. So in answer to your question, yes I do think my work sustains these disparate elements but as a new lexicon which reinvents and resuscitates these legends.
P.I.: You exaggerate the image of water in your paintings by embedding different types of traditional and non-traditional materials against resin. Is this practice unique to your work and could this be subjected to any form of innovation?
C.G.: There are quite a few artists I’ve come across who use resin in their work, but we all seem to have our own process in working with this material. While I have an MFA in painting, I wasn't taught the techniques I use. My approach to image making comes more and more from an evolved technique I have developed over years of thinking out of the box as part of my own specific journey. It is a constantly changing and evolving language of materials I use as a result of playing and experimenting with materials I find interesting. Sometimes in describing my process, I compare it to a very good cook who knows the science and technique behind cooking but cannot follow a recipe because they cook on the spur of the moment with what is on hand and create something even better than the original recipe. So yes, my process of working and the materials I use are always up for innovation. The possibilities are certainly, in my mind, endless.
P.I.: Your schedule is crammed with quite a number of exhibitions but you have still found time to complete a mammoth piece of installation to mark the 75th anniversary of the Gaga Art centre. This makes me wonder how you manage your time as an artist, Is there a significant boundary between time spent in the studio and time spent promoting your work?
C.G.: Yes I find that I spend three-quarters of my time on the business end between researching and submitting to galleries, writing statements and supportive materials, packing, shipping or delivering work to galleries etc. Every show is at least 2 or 3 visits between dropping off work, the opening reception and then picking up work. It’s a lot of time away from the studio in order to support what you want to do in the studio. I live by a calendar these days and have to eek out time in the studio. It’s all worth it though. I am working in what I have had a passion for and knew I was going to do since I was 4 and never regret time spent in the studio.
P.I.: Even with its sometimes-stifling conditions, funding is the cornerstone of any art enterprise. Do you enjoy any kind of private or corporate sponsorship?
C.G.: No I don’t have financial support for my own work at the moment but have received help to support large collegial and international projects I have created and directed. For my own work I pick up stipends and honorariums here and there but it’s not much. I do want to find sponsorship but the competition for funds is similar to the competition for gallery exhibitions and extremely time consuming. I already struggle with time management since I still have fairly young children in the mix and there is only room for so much and I am trying to have some semblance of balance in my life. I have managed to somehow come up with funds just when I really need them. The best is when it comes in the form of sold work. I do wish there was a streamlined way of getting grants and sponsorship. When the kids are more independent, then I’d love to get into a few Artist-in-Residence programs. The feedback from these types of programs is invaluable. There will come a time when I can pursue grants with the same drive and determination that I have for exhibiting. It’s just too much to handle in an already very busy schedule at the moment.
P.I.: What other art medium do you admire and why?
C.G.: Being a mixed media artist means that all mediums and styles grab my attention. Probably for me, paint in its purest forms handled by a master is something that really talks to me. If you have ever looked extremely closely at a Rothko or Turner painting, every mark and vibration and stoke is imbued with emotion. Their surfaces are incredibly moving to me. I think intaglio also rocks my world. It’s all about the quality of line for me. I could get lost in the details of every line, subtle or defined, light or dark and everything in between. Maybe the reason I love both of theses mediums is they were my most enjoyable classes in college so I know the ins and outs and difficulties of each of these mediums. I look at work overall but I mostly get lost in the details of art going over it inch by inch enjoying every luscious surface.
P.I.: You have curated works of artists in the past, notably the Freedom & Art project which brought together a diverse group of 74 international Artists from 27 countries together in support of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi. And at the moment, your work, alongside that of some other 100 artists is on display in the Garnerworld opening. Could more be said for this type of initiative other than offering a buffet of artworks to the public?
C.G.: I think shows like this can be a powerful tool in getting information out to the general public. You can go small but these things can become very large and powerful and spin into major events if you really think big. For instance, the Freedom & Art project became more than a simple exhibition. It started as a conversation between artists on the topic of Burma and a question “Is it better to work alone as an artist or in collaboration in groups?” The first step was creating a book called Freedom & Art which was accepted as a fundraising effort for Amnesty International on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi and is on sale in the online bookstore at www.amnestyinternationalusa.org which then sparked interest in a gallery taking on an international show based on the book. Then came the decision to do a panel discussion including five highly regarded experts on Burma including Suu Kyi’s former body guard and political prisoner Nay Tin Myint whose personal story of being tortured brought the dire situation in Burma (renamed by the ruling regime as Myanmar) to a gut wrenching, emotional realness to everyone present. The project sparked multiple news articles about what we were doing and about the situation in Burma. When you can get the BBC Radio Free Asia or the government-run news agencies of Romania to make our little art action their lead news story, you know you have reached many people who may have known little or nothing of the extreme repression ordinary citizens are living under in Burma. Now multiply that coverage to include all the 27 countries of 74 participating artists involved. That’s a powerful ripple effect.
As a side note, the present regime in power in Burma right now is so repressive that if anyone of the participating artists had attempted to do any of this collaboration from within Burma’s borders, they would have been convicted of treason and given sentences ranging from 7 to 25 years. I think art can move and art can carry an important message. It can open dialogue. I think we answered the question posed at the beginning of the project and that it is better to work as a group in that many voices are louder perhaps than one lonely voice.
I also found the artists’ statements very illuminating because it showed all of the different facets of how people perceive freedom and gave me a much wider viewpoint.
P.I.: Let me take you back to your bodice of goddess collection and your attempt at recreating a new mythology about goddesses of River Hudson through your paintings. How plausible is this given the incredible nature of legends and with the paucity of any literature on the subject?
C.G.: It’s very plausible if you consider that all legends and ancient tales were once newly created. What I am processing visually is the archaeology of that myth. In a way, it is like creating new cloth from old. Artists have always taken pieces of history or myth or movements, transforming those bits into a very personal journey presented in their own style of work. My approach to this process is to take slices of history and add the beautiful lines from the science of bathymetry that plots the topography of the bottom of the river and add local flora and fauna weaving these bits into a visual story. I use the physical body form of the goddess to explain the inner workings of the storms and currents and all elements that create every aspect of what the human eye takes in when viewing our riverscapes in the form of myth storytelling. The piecemeal approach is my way to create a new mythology given the lack of a cohesive lexicon of literature to draw from. It is quite sad that what should have been a rich legacy of millennia of stories by the various people that once inhabited the Hudson region were wiped out leaving little or no oral or written history. I am hoping to spark interest in the river’s known history, legends, ecology, plight and recovery. I’m not trying to step on any other cultures’ rich histories. It’s more akin to a song being added to a genre. I hope to create a visually stimulating and thought provoking way to ease the viewer into thinking about the river as living history and an important entity rather than just a body of water.
P.I.: You are a council member of Mirca art group, an international coalition of artists, what is the spread and vision behind this organisation?
C.G.: The Mirca Art Group’s first basic purpose was really about having great breakfasts with good friends, painting, doing photography and excellent exhibitions and was founded in Poland around an actual breakfast table. With an increasing number of members we find that we are able to make a difference on matters of our common interest. We are an internet-based group of approximately 500 artist members at the moment joined by the passion for art and the common belief that artists can set an example of respect and cooperation for all people. There are a few things that make our group unique in the way we function. The first is that we treat each other with respect in all our conversations and collaborations. The idea is that everyone should feel comfortable contributing to a conversation or a project. It makes our group a pleasant place to collaborate. We mostly communicate in English and for many artists this is not their first language. Mirca Art Group is non-political, non-religious and non-profit. Equally important is that any project created under the Mirca name must be on a voluntary basis and no member may profit monetarily from our projects. 100% of profits must go to the charity or organization designated for each new project or it must be a non-commercial project or exhibition, many of which highlight some injustice in the world. Any member of our group can bring an idea to the council and run a project if it follows these guidelines and looks to be a well thought out proposal. It is up to that artist to create the open call for works or help and artists interested in the project join but it is never mandatory for all members to join a project. Projects have focused on protecting the environment as a human right for all, a campaign against vanity galleries (which prey on naïve artists), setting up student artist’s exhibitions in unique locations like the island of Malta, Australia and Germany and putting together travelling art shows which move from country to country.
Our second book will be released early next year called Planet Earth Planet Art. We love to have each project directed by a different artist. It’s wonderful to see each project marked by an individual artist’s hand and it empowers a single artist to speak with the power of many voices and bring their vision to reality and spread their message across the world.
P.I.: Your earlier analogy of a good cook who disregards recipes and your process of collating materials mixed with the actual graft in the studio is worth revisiting. As a mixed media artist, do you find it imperative for your paintings to have a signature style, i.e. that defining element which stands it apart from any other work?
C.G.: You should have a style to your work but you shouldn’t be so married to it that you cannot allow for growth or the natural evolution of your work. I try to work a series of at least twenty works and usually more before going on to the next series. I also try to have a connection between one series and the next, but sometimes growth means letting something go and welcoming something new. Since my earliest days in college, I have always had a thing about layering. I don’t think it is a conscious decision but rather a language ingrained in me and is a natural part of my process of image making. Resin is also one of those materials I have been using for a very long time and perhaps it is my signature. It’s good to have a signature but I never want to find myself stagnant. If that happens - I think my love of painting might disappear too.
P.I.: It’s been a long time since your MFA days under Babe Shapiro & Salvatore Scarpitta. Any comment on your growth as an artist since then?
C.G.: I felt like I was a baby back then painting to please Babe or Sal. The problem was if I painted something Babe liked, Sal hated it and vice versa. It was enlightening to have grown enough in school to realize that the best gift Babe and Sal were giving me was to learn to paint for myself. It’s a lesson I have never forgotten and perhaps mixed media is something I am drawn to because I have to trust my own instincts as a result of the materials I use. I hope I never stop learning or growing as an artist. Some of the biggest growth for me has been in the ability to find artists for friendship and collaboration online. Being able to research galleries and artist bios is something that was nonexistent when I was at MICA. It’s these relationships, and conversations with other artists and collaborating that makes you grow in leaps and bounds as an artist.
P.I.: Could you kindly share with MTLS what you think is the most important aspect of the job of a curator?
C.G.: You must have patience when curating a show. Remaining calm and treating the artists with respect is to me of paramount importance. You are dealing with a lot of different personalities and egos. You juggle divas and artists who can’t fully read instructions and email you over and over again. You have micro-managing artists and technologically challenged artists that need guidance in every step of the way. You have artists too afraid to tell you they don’t like something, but you know they are not happy and you have to become a mind reader and pseudo therapist. Thankfully, you also have the super helpful angels of mercy artists who have their ducks in a row and just shine. I love them and make sure they know how much their help is appreciated. You also have to struggle with a little thing called time and deadlines. There is “real time” the rest of the world lives by and then there is “Artists Time” which is of course never on time. I have wanted to pull out my hair feeling like a show will never get off the ground, but the show does go up and there is an end to a project and, believe it or not, it’s a wonderful overall experience. The bonus is I usually find a few artists that I will maintain a long lasting friendship with. Having been on both sides of curating and being curated, I believe treating the artists with respect leads to great relationships and great shows and new projects down the road with new friends.
P.I.: What are your plans for future projects?
C.G.: I am always working multiple projects and on two levels. One is in collaboration in large groups - the other is my own personal voice and vision.
Next September, I will be included in a wonderful collaboration of installation art, performance art and exhibitions in Wetter, Germany and Cologne, Germany, which will be the culture capitol of the world for 2010. The project is run by fellow Mirca council member Heinz (HEGO) Goevert from Germany and will include Council members Stefan Tunedal from Sweden (who founded the group), Martin Bonnici from Australia, and Krisztina Asztalos from Hungary and a number of invited guest artists. We are still in the process of creation and refining so I can’t give more details than that just yet. Large projects like this one take many months to plan down to the last detail and change constantly.
As for my own projects, I have recently become enamoured with Installation art and want to explore spaces and projects that can accommodate this new multi-dimensional approach to my work. It’s not easy finding spaces that I can hang a sixteen feet long (approximately five meters) installation. I don’t see myself stopping painting, but rather exploring it in yet another dimension.
P.I.: Thanks Carla, all the best with your art.
C.G.: It has been a pleasure Patrick; I have thoroughly enjoyed replying to your questions. Thank you so much.
You can view any of the pieces of artwork in this gallery by clicking on the thumbnails below:
Carla Goldberg is originally from Southern California where she graduated with honors from the University of Redlands and earned her MFA from Mount Royal Graduate School of Art in Baltimore at MICA. She has lived in the picturesque antique town of Cold Spring, New York since 1990. Carla is a member of bau Gallery (Beacon Artists Union) and a contributing member of the Beacon Art Salon and a Council Member of the international coalition of artists known as Mirca Art Group. She recently set up Insight Gallery in Cold Spring, New York, focusing on artists of the Hudson Region. Additionally she has curated large group shows including the Centennial Celebration for the University of Redlands showcasing the work of 50 artists spanning 80 years and the Freedom & Art project which brought together a diverse group of 74 International Artists from 27 countries together as a fundraising format for Amnesty International in support of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma who remains under house -arrest. The project received coverage by the BBC Radio Free Asia. Her own artwork has been featured in solo and group shows across the US, Europe and Africa and her paintings can be found in galleries, universities, museums, public spaces and corporate collections. Her work has also been publicly juried numerous times into the top 50 artists on “Saatchi Showdown” which regularly receives over 40 million hits per day. More of her work is at www.carlagoldberg.mosaicglobe.com
Patrick Iberi has a background in philosophy. He is greatly interested in existentialism and works as a freelance writer, with attention (in varying degrees) on essays on the arts, literary criticism and poetry. His writings have appeared in both print and online publications. A forth-coming collection of poems tentatively titled “Echoes of a desolate voice “is in the works