Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Untitled I by Carolyn Cole

  • Title: Untitled I
  • Artist: Carolyn Cole
  • Medium: Mixed media
  • Size: 48"h x 36"w
  • Added to collection: 2004
  • Donor: Purchased by Portland Community College, Rock Creek Campus
  • Campus: Rock Creek
  • Location: B9/1 Hallway gallery

The shimmering blues and irregular chunky forms in this painting create feelings of both lightness and weight. There is an ethereal, floating quality in the subtly related blues but these cluster into a strangely weighted central mass suspended in space floating both above and below the seeming horizon at top. The small infusions of warm red orange and graphic, hook-like forms punctuate these blues with sharp notes. Beneath the colors is a complex collage of overlapping planes formed by unfolded recycled envelopes and remnants of old printed material arranged in a grid pattern. The balance between the soft colors and the gridded, sharply collaged envelope edges (with scratches and incised lines) create a nice counterpoint, and a certain cavalier destruction, but nothing dire is at stake: this is a calm field of affinities with decorative charm – the sturdy flag of an alluring world. Stand close to this painting and it will pleasantly almost fill your vision.

"I begin (by) painting on collaged recycled envelopes, continuing until a rich texture emerges. I use acrylic paints, pencil, and charcoal. I paint over areas and scrape the surface with a palette knife to reveal the layers underneath. Each (painting) is inspired by its collaged elements and the layers from my past and present." Much is obscured, scraped, scratched, and ultimately erased in the making of this painting; Cole does not directly address her choice of unfolded envelopes (which once contained messages but no longer do) or the idea of erasure as content, the blotting out of all those names and addresses. Her process is not conceptual but formal: the joys of seeking the equilibrium of shapes, texture and color. Cole's work is a reminder of a central truth of all painting – that the last layer is all one really sees and the rest is just a trail of crumbs where the artist has been.

Cole's chunky dynamism of paint patches against one another owe a debt to the work of the French/Russian painter Nicholas deStaël and to the color field paintings of Helen Frankenthaler.