Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fall Featured Artist: Carly Drew

Three times per year The Kiernan Gallery presents a solo exhibition of a non-photographic artist in conjunction with a photographic group show. Our Fall Featured Artist is Carly Drew. Inherited Land is her first post-graduate solo exhibition.

Carly Drew at the opening reception

What was the evolution of this style of layered painting and line work? How did you begin your artistic career?

I've always loved drawing and especially the deconstruction that comes from studying forms through line. My biggest breakthrough was in my second year of college when I had a drawing professor that showed us the potential of watercolor and a variety of mixed media, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities that I've been exploring ever since.

My artistic career began when I was little with my Dad teaching me some basics of drawing, from there I would spend anytime stuck inside drawing pretty much anything and everything. My grandfather also owned a printing press and he would send us bound sketchbooks made from leftover reams of paper, I would literally go through a big box of paper in a few months. From there I just kept practicing until high school when I was able to attend the local Technical Colleges art program since my school had none, then I did a stint at Temple in Philadelphia but quickly realized that the city really stifled my creativity. I went back to Greenville Tech and after finishing that program I completed a four-year degree with a BFA and a BA in art history. The past two years I was pursuing my MFA at Clemson, where my work really started to come together conceptually and also grew drastically in size.  

Queen Anne's Lace 
watercolor, graphite, acrylic, rice paper
15" x 22"

Tell us a bit about the history of these pieces; are these particular places that you are referencing? What is your connection to the land as subject?

Currently all of my work references the area in western Pennsylvania where my family in from, specifically my grandparents farm. The inspiration for a lot of the work actually came from a rather dark place - after my grandmother passed away there was pretty much a giant family dissolution over the land and mineral rights. For a while I was emotionally numb, it was something unexpected and uprooted a lot of relationships, but ultimately it opened up my perspective about a place I always considered a home. It quickly went from a family farm to the epicenter of a lot of current issues in land and resource use, so my connection really evolved out of something deep and incredibly personal.

Well Pond
watercolor, graphite, acrylic, pastel
55" x 55" 

Who are your artistic influences? Are there any particular artists working in watercolor or any other medium that have influenced this work?

Some of my artistic influences are Andrew Wyeth, the Hudson River School of painters and more contemporary artists like Mary Iverson and Walton Ford. I admire Wyeth's resilience in going against the grain and making work about where he was from and the places lived, he also did a phenomenal job at capturing some of the emotion of being tied to the land. I also realize that through making work about the American landscape I immediately reference the Hudson River School, there's really no way around them if you make work in this vein. For me the HRS are particularly interesting because of the identity and morality they instilled into the wilderness, in a way they really made it monumental through the use of its sublime aspects. Mary Iverson's use of shipping data overlaid onto the landscape is really inspiring in that she's bringing together different languages of the land to create a dialogue about the effects of the HRS's grand American vision and contemporary capitalism. Walton Ford has always been a personal icon, he knows how to structure visual narratives like nobody's business and effectively uses gouache and watercolor so that it gives a real punch.

Contested Grounds
watercolor, graphite, pastel
55" x 55"

Do you preliminary sketches define your artwork or does the natural fluidity of the medium dictate how the painting develops?

I always do a lot of sketches! For me sketching is really a way to get to know your subject's characteristics and ultimately gives me a little more freedom when to take liberty with how the form is situated in space. I also do a lot of color and media tests, color is something I struggle with so the more I can play with it the more confident I feel when working on a piece.

How do you keep yourself interested or fresh in a series of paintings that take months to complete?

I work on anywhere from 5-10 pieces at once, that way I always have pieces in different states of finish with different problems to solve.  

Old Tom Turkey
watercolor, graphite, acrylic, prismacolor
36" x 36"

Where do you see your work fitting into contemporary art world?

I see my work fitting into the art world in that it’s about the state of the contemporary land politics, wildlife management and resource use in rural America. Most people have a skewed or detached perspective of rural life and don't get to experience the harsh realities of nature on a daily basis through things like farming, hunting or just making a living. I feel like this lack of understanding is the starting place for my work and gives a voice to somewhere that often has none in contemporary art and culture. My ultimate hope is that it will raise awareness about some of these issues being faced in these areas.

If you could choose to paint only one subject for the rest of your life, what would you paint and why?

For me it'd simply be the place I live. There's something about building knowledge of a place through experiencing it on a daily basis and creating a history that's really fascinating to me.  

Manifest Destiny & Christmas Tree Farms
watercolor, graphite, acrylic, prismacolor
30" x 30" (each panel)

Inherited Land closes October 26, 2013. To view the exhibition online visit

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