Carole Silverstein employs a range of approaches and mediums from painting and drawing to collage and printing to ideate and construct pattern-based compositions that are ritualistic, abstract and exotic. Upping the ante on elaborate decorative motifs to a kaleidoscopic and emotional level, Silverstein channels the eclectic and expressive architectural idioms of Eastern cultures into a powerful feminine prototype for redefining the relationship of space to the subconscious mind. An exhibition of her new work opens January 25 at Gallery 169 in Santa Monica.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
CAROLE SILVERSTEIN: I’m one of those people who always made and loved art as a young child. And it was nurtured. I took my first art class at age 8 at the Brentwood Art Center. As a teenager, my two loves were dance and art. But it became a conscious choice at 17 to go in the direction of visual art. The art making was what was meaningful and what helped uplift me. My parents were very encouraging also, putting my art up on the walls, and sending me to classes and summer programs.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
My work elevates the feminine and the mystical through a sensuous, extravagant beauty. In my paintings on translucent Mylar, I trace by hand, combine and alter ornamental patterns from many cultures and places (Islamic architecture, Japanese clouds, Spanish textiles, Celtic knot work, etc.) in an effort to understand and embody the sacred languages they symbolize. I weave a world of perceptual, spatial experiences made from the imaginal realm. I get my inspiration often from non-Western sources in patterns that hold protective energies, often acting as veils and screens to another consciousness. Yoga, Buddhism, feminism are longtime supports to my practice.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
It’s hard to imagine, other than doing other art forms like writing, dance, film and music. But I’d have to say some sort of healer. Again, that’s totally connected to being an artist.
Did you go to art school? Why? Why not?
I went to lots of art schools, including the School of The Art Institute of Chicago for my BFA and Queens College, CUNY for my MFA. I’ve always just sought out the most vibrant and alive places I could. It’s the teachers, the atmosphere, your peers, the art history, storytelling, perspectives in the language of art. There’s so much that gets transmitted in one’s education to help you find your way as an artist who trusts one’s own voice and path.
Why do you live and work in LA, and not elsewhere?
I am a second generation Los Angeleno — my father was born in 1925 in Boyle Heights. I grew up in L.A. too, and left at age 18 to go to Chicago, never having been in snow before. I lived in Chicago and New York for a total of 15 years and returned many years ago. L.A. is deeply in my bones and sense of history — the physical landscape, the Pacific Ocean, beach, plants and flowers, light. And also the variety of cultures and cuisines. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and living away and visiting regularly always threw into perspective the things I love and hate about it here.
When was your first show?
My first solo show was in West Hollywood at DiRT Gallery in 1999. It was rather magical. I walked in to meet with Rhonda Saboff with an appointment and some paintings to show, and she gave me a show on the spot. I remember her saying this never happens this way. I had my paintings in one gallery room and Tam Van Tran had his parallel solo show in another. I do think the shows were so complimentary and kickass strong. And Rhonda was a dream to work with.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
My solo show “in your thousand other forms” is opening this Saturday January 25, from 3-6 p.m., at Gallery 169 in Santa Monica at 169 Channel Road. I am showing paintings and prints with a colored sand floor installation. It will be up through March 28 with Gallery hours Saturdays 1-3 and by appointment. An Artist’s Talk will take place Saturday February 29th — Leap Year!
Last year I had a solo show “our mingling spirits” at Nancy Toomey Fine Art, Minnesota Street Projects, San Francisco. And I’m proud to say my work entered the permanent collection at LACMA.
What artist, living or dead, would you most like to show with?
In my wild imaginings I would create a big museum group show of my work with the work of Ruth Asawa, Petah Coyne, Barbara Takenaga, plus some anonymous tantric paintings, Basohli Indian miniatures, and 16th century Persian miniatures. That would be amazing.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I listen to dharma talks and podcasts like On Being, Insights at The Edge, BBC’s Desert Island Discs. Some music I might listen to, according to mood: The Staple Singers, Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill, The Shins, xx, Van Morrison, Ravi Shankar, and sacred chant music.
Website and social media handles, please!