Artist Profile: Carol Bennett
Artist Profile: Carol Bennett
Peace—a feeling that is ever present when you’re submerged underwater, floating in quiet stillness looking up at an ethereal world covered by ripples and waves waiting for you to re-emerge as the need to breathe slowly reminds you that you’re human—a familiar sensation Carol Bennett’s fine artwork series evokes as she depicts women in water.
“I belonged to the Los Angeles Athletic Club and would go there to swim everyday. I’m no athlete,” laughs the classically trained artist, “but I’ve always been on a swim team since I was a kid.” The club, which had an underwater observation window, became a catalyst for Bennett’s series as she began to use the underwater observation room as a makeshift studio, drawing the swimmers underwater. “I taught figure drawing at Otis Art Institute and ArtCenter College of Design, so the figure comes very naturally to me. And I swim like a fish, so painting women underwater is like going to my own backyard for inspiration.”
“Elizabeth Eisenhauer glommed onto me about 20 years ago,” Bennett recalls of Eisenhauer Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard. “It was fantastic when she connected with me because I’ve always wanted to be more ‘East Coast,’” smiles the California girl. “She was adamant about wanting to show my work in her gallery, and I wondered, ‘Where is Martha’s Vineyard?’” Bennett laughs. “During my very first show at her gallery I stayed on the Vineyard and swam in the ocean everyday,” she reminisces. “It kept me with my continuum, but also shook it up.” Bennett’s first show at Eisenhauer Gallery was titled Summer Whites, which she explains was inspired by seasonal fashion rules, which Hawaii doesn’t have, Bennett explains, as she planted roots and leased a warehouse studio on the “Garden Island” (Kauai).
A lover of mixed media, she shares that a typical painting of hers includes shellac, oil paint, watercolor and acrylic ink. As she previously taught a college course named “The Nature of Materials,” Bennett jokes, “I know more than you would ever want to know about materials.” A love of texture is also reflected in her artwork. In her piece MV Spring, Bennett’s nieces and nephews gathered flowers from the Vineyard, dried and pressed them for their aunt to utilize in her piece on wood grained paper. MV Spring, and the majority of her work, is created on alternatives to canvas. “I never paint on canvas,” the artist states. “I just had a museum show, and all of my paintings had very complex grounds. Ground is an abstract passage made before you start your painting, and I use huge brushes and handmade tools to create really energetic textured grounds.”
In addition to working on paper and wood, in a recent series, Bennett explores cardboard as a ground. “When my paintbrush skips over some places and hits others, it contributes to the overall textural interest of the piece and adds an abstract layer to my representational image—it trips me out. Sometimes it looks like a computer screen; sometimes it looks like you’re looking through a screen door; sometimes it looks like rain. It generates a moment of pause and nods to working on recycled surfaces.”
Forty hours a week, Bennett is alone in her warehouse submerged in her work. She reflects, “Any daily practice—yoga, swimming, surfing—doesn’t get boring because it changes. At the end of everyday, I go straight down to my beach to swim, and I look around, and I continue to see the poetry in it all.”