An interview with Carol Coates.
A renowned artist, an embodiment of empathy, and an integral woman to know. Carol has resided in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the past fifteen years, and is known distinctly on the Denver art scene.
Denver, Colorado is more than a pit stop amongst Carol’s travels between the west coast, the desert, and Michigan. Several years ago Carol brought her family to ski and experience the incredible Rocky Mountains, as many others have done. Denver simply emanates the feeling of ‘home’ to her family, and as the years progressed her children became adults and relocated here. Carol is represented by Walker Fine Art Gallery in Denver and has been involved intermittently since 2006.
If you’re able to mosey through Walker Fine Arts, you will notice Carol’s MindsEye series (MindsEye XI serves as the cover art of this edition of Blank Canvas 38). The MindsEye series reverberates the attitudes and prejudices of society in a strikingly ocular way. Each piece creates a conversation about perception and choice in how we see others. Step back in time a few years, or decades, to being a child who hears the banter of parents, adults, and other authority. Many of us have witnessed others passing unfair judgments. It's hurtful, unkind, and insensitive. Carol based the MindsEye series specifically on the intolerances that she witnessed as a child and the feeling that arose from these unjust assumptions.
“Why does she look that way? What is he trying to hide? Why is his nose that way?”
Carol begins her process by having people sit for a photo session. These lucky contenders are people who Carol has met around town or through various associations, and who carry a ping of perplexity, which Carol is searching for. She captures their persona, mimics their features, and combines intricacies of others to develop a unique character. The spectacles are placed on the artwork, creating a vehicle into the art. The figures reach out to offer you a peer through the lens, asking, “What do you truly know about me?”
Carol views MindsEye III as a bit of a self-portrait. MindsEye III has a vulture on her head, nested in dreadlocks. The figure holds a determined smirk within her pursed lips. Symbolically speaking, the vulture is the figure’s thoughts on her own mortality. Her character chooses to foster an adamant attitude in the embrace of her will against dying. Some may give up on being vital and engaged, but not Carol Coates. The more we can do to challenge society and challenge the way we view one another, or ourselves, the more we can do together.
The MindsEye series is layered in emotive sentiments and reflects as such, down to each physical coating of her art processes. Carol starts painting the surface to create texture, relief, and variation. The image of the figure is then printed, followed by multiple sheets of glazes. She uses UV cured inks on her pieces, which protects against airborne and environmental factors. Carol takes extreme precaution in assuring the longevity of her artwork. She handles each brush stroke with immense precision, making it difficult to distinguish her paintings from photographs. Each set of glasses on the figures are handmade, photographed, painted, and punched on to the canvas.
Carol combines multiple mediums to intertwine a masterful work. Can she choose between just one medium as a favorite? Absolutely not. To Carol, art mediums blend much like peanut butter and jelly. “It’s like ingredients in the kitchen, and they all mix together to make whatever dish is served. I love sugar, I love cinnamon, I love jalapeños.” When you see artwork by Carol Coates, there is a clear understanding on the importance of all mediums involved. Carol has a firm grasp on the unique reaction that paint will dictate versus photo manipulation. She is also skilled in the handmade craft of welded goggles hugging semi surreal figure expressions. Carol takes risks in her artwork. She lives the way she wants to, and her power is felt. The combination of materials she uses, mixed with her heart, transcends viewers' barriers to travel within their own hearts, minds, and spirits to a place where they feel their own humanity.
In essence, Carol Coates showcases a side of humanity that we fear admitting. She grasps the insecurities we fear and morphs them into art, as she delicately exposes us to ourselves. Carol shows us how beautiful each of us is as we thrive in life’s different stages. We pop with vibrancy. We own our eclectic worlds. Carol is the source of a truly worldly view. Her tenderness to the Earth we live on is felt in her fine-art installation, Compendium. Compendium exhibits the Earth, as seen from a bird's-eye view, alongside the golden ratio, distinguishing a divine togetherness in ourselves and nature. Carol’s smaller-scale work shows a figure so animated, so raw. Carol seems to speak from a place of vulnerability, allowing us to embrace each other at our simplest form. There is a clear message to facilitate a kind understanding in one another and what we project out to the world. Carol’s artwork is a timeless memorandum to the soul; her work is not made to be ephemeral. She is a post-visualizer who uses ambiguity to lead her down a new road. Her advice to artists who are in a creative rut: "Just do something, just do something every day."
Words: Emily Scott
Issue 1, Year 2022/2023