"In The Studio With:..." is a weekly feature that takes us into the private creative spaces of emerging artists to discuss their work and career.
Carol Diamond is a New York artist and faculty member at Pratt Institute, where she teaches design. Her paintings frequently incorporate trash found in the streets into her work, giving them an almost fossil-like effect. There is also a kind of fractal division of the picture surface in her compositions that both subdivide and reinforce the balance of her paintings.
The conceptual basis for much of her work stems from asking questions about her existence through the examination of broader, more universal subjects. She incorporates design concepts from Celtic, Christian, and contemporary secular sources to create a personalized abstract language that facilitates this discussion.
Anthony Philip Fine Art: Your work has a sort of archaeological feel to it, with its incorporation of street debris and plaster. How did you arrive at this approach to making your work?
Carol Diamond: The urban experience has been my inspiration for quite some time. I feel a strong parallel between the making of a painting and the building of a wall, or a structure, an edifice. Each involves construction and deconstruction, and provides refuge, a haven. In the case of my interest in religious architecture, there is the element of sanctuary and sacred geometry.
For years I painted directly from street scenes, bridges and boats. Through abstraction I found my way back to city sources, incorporating found debris and ready-mixed concrete collaged onto wood panels.
In terms of the archaeological aspect of my work, again there is a parallel or metaphor between the era of one’s life and the duration of a painting. Writer and artist Joel Silverstein wrote this about my work:
“Archaic art, an archaic viewpoint equals the language of one’s own past. Archeology equals memory and the inscribed line is the demarcation of the present moment.” Scratching through layers of paint “unearths” previous textures and spaces. Embedding street debris into cement or plaster on wood calls up time past.
APFA: You also have a unique way of dividing up the compositions that feels almost like mosaic or stained glass. When you begin a new work, how do you work out the composition, or do you allow it to develop organically as you proceed?
CD: In the canvases I address the entire picture plane immediately, so large movements, such as arcs, diagonals, and verticals, work best to divide up the space. After that, the organic development happens. A mark or shape suggests a response, negative and positive areas vie for attention, and the dynamic takes its course until something of substance is generated. I use strong value contrasts and line divisions, and the stained glass feeling might come from that. The collages have a specific mosaic reference, with bits of broken glass and metal embedded in cement, latex, or plaster. I was looking at Medieval inlaid objects when I first began these.
APFA: Do you find yourself working in series until you have exhausted a train of thought, or do you see the body of your work as a natural progression over time of a set of basic ideas and ideals maturing?
CD:The latter. I develop a few threads in parallel motion; they interweave naturally and contain my dominant interests of structure and space, texture and rhythm, while utilizing quite different modalities. For instance, I make abstract paintings, relief collage pieces using metal and glass pressed into concrete on wood, photo collage works on paper, and plein air drawings of architectural sights, concurrently! In these recent years, a synthesis of layered meanings and connections is occurring.
APFA: Who are some of the artists that have influenced you or that you look to for inspiration?
CD:I identify closely with early 20th century painting, in particular Malevich and Lissitzky, who were both instrumental in my early abstract period, especially as I turned to a tonal palette. MOMA’s 2013 exhibition Inventing Abstraction had a huge impact on me. I’ve loved Anselm Keifer’s work forever in terms of turning emotion into the rough materiality and depth he’s known for. These days I draw off architectural and sculptural forms: stone, bronze, steel and wood - almost anything built, carved, inlaid and cast, from Medieval geometric objects and archways to the I-beams used in construction sites. In my formative years, Giacometti, Rembrandt and Van Gogh taught me in the deepest sense about plastic space, form and color, and about humanity.
APFA: What do you hope viewers take away from your work?
CD: An experience, a journey. Perhaps this sounds broad- that’s always been a hard question for me. I’ve felt closer to some inspirational paintings from art history than I’ve felt to many people in my life! Would it be impossible to imagine that someone could experience such intimacy with a painting of mine? Might the viewer get to know it more deeply through time, find enjoyment, companionship, in its presence? A combined sense of surprise and familiarity are the hallmarks of a good work of art.
If you'd like to find out more about Carol and her art, please visit: caroldiamond.com