There’s a complicated relationship between an artist, their piece, the context the piece was created in and the context of the viewers seeing that work. That relationship is the rich tapestry of meaning that an art object is made of, and it is always changing as the elements that make it up change. The materials age, the political reality shifts, events that were central to a public’s consciousness in one decade are forgotten. Even further, when we experience an object any part of that tapestry of meaning can be hidden from us.
So you come into a room where you see two life-like sculptures of female figures. One is from Carole, and one is from John De Andrea who was another hyperrealist artist in the 1970s. Isn’t it important, even if the sculptures are superficially similar, that De Andrea is representing the female figure as an outsider to her gendered experience and Carole is depicting that figure as an insider?
The comparison isn’t meant to be a value judgement between those two sculptures. From an archaeological perspective, they both can say important things about the culture they’re created within. It’s just important that the stories they tell about that culture might be different from one another.
At the same time as she attended the conference, Carole’s piece Chrysalis was part of a group exhibition at Pen + Brush in New York called King Woman. Its curator, Mashonda Tifrere, put together a show of women-identified artists whose works demonstrate that women “are capable of being the pinnacle of power and strength.” With her participation, Carole was asserting that she sees and experiences the norms of womanhood that society imposes upon her and her work. However, that acknowledgement empowers her to subvert that imposition and define her practice on her own terms.
Carole is building a full calendar of resistance now. After King Woman ended in December, she sent DurgaMa Buddha to Los Angeles for INTO ACTION. INTO ACTION is a week long “social justice festival” where in a combination of installations, performances, and workshops artists are trying to “illuminate [their] resistance” and “take back [their] hope.”
That combination of resistance and hope is what’s more important now than ever. This Monday was Martin Luther King Day, fifty years now since his assassination. This week is the one year anniversary of the Global Women’s March and of Donald Trump’s inauguration. The air is electric, and it feels like there’s no time to waste. What stories do we need to hear right now?
To read the full text of Carole's speech to the 2017 IWF World Leadership Conference, click here.