©2021 Mary E. Carter No images or text may be used for any reason without the express written permission of the artist/writer site design: gary w. priester
Surrealist painter Mary E. Carter offers her lifetime of work on this site. From her early award-winning graphic paintings of the 1980’s through to her complex atmospheric and metaphorical works of 2007, Carter has created a vocabulary of images and a stylistic signature for her contemporary surrealism. Flying, falling and floating through Carter’s work are goose girls and chicken ladies, cigarette-smoking women, intertwined couples and inadequately winged creatures. Artist Statement My work is contemporary figurative surrealism. I say “contemporary” because I want to put distance between my painting and the manifestos of the Surrealist painters of the first part of the 20th Century. Yet as to that state of mind, that ineffable dream, that flow of metaphor and symbol, that unlocking of the subconscious, I identify with those sources of visualization. Process: Solitary Search for the Exquisite Corpse The historic Surrealists experimented with a drawing technique called Exquisite Corpse. The idea was to create a montage of a figure by having several artists take turns working on a part of the figure without being able to see what the other artists had already drawn on the paper. But, most importantly, the exercise was done as an aid to unlocking the subconscious minds of the artists. The resulting figure was the Exquisite Corpse. These exquisite drawings revealed sometimes hilarious, sometimes eerie things about the human condition and provided a door to images from the collective unconscious. The drawings rearranged expected patterns and in wonderfully bizarre forms, tweaked preconceived notions of what was “right” or “correct” in art. Similarly, I start with the human figure in my work. But I work alone. My paintings grow as much out of my interaction with the human form as from pure intellectual processes or rationales, growing as much from my hands working as from my brain thinking. My aim is to open the doors of my own perception in order to access my own subconscious and preconscious material and to challenge my own notions of artistic correctness I start by drawing a naturalistic human form on paper. Then I cut it apart, reassembling limbs and organs, adding or subtracting elements until new patterns of human possibility emerge. I prepare the canvas separately, splashing, sloshing, or dripping paint on the raw surface. Despite allowing paint its way at this stage, there is nothing expressionistic about my backgrounds. Gradually I reign in my surfaces, meticulously re-working them, inch by inch, to create an atmospheric depth into which my figures will fly, float, or fall, communicating their ineffable ambiguous stories. Finally, I place the drawing over the canvas ground and use elements of the ground to further shape and influence the drawing of the figure as I paint it into its atmosphere. By shifting anatomical elements I create an exquisite corpse. Yet, far from dead, this vision is alive in its unfamiliarity. Emotionally compelling, my figures reveal sub and preconscious states of humanness. My work acts as a Rorschach test. Sometimes people see different things in it from my intentions. But even when viewers do not see what I may have had in mind when I worked on a painting, there is a certain logic to their perceptions. And who knows? Maybe those Rorschach reactions are, indeed, what my work more inclusively intends.