Wednesday, September 3, 2014

INSPIRE ME! Carole P. Kunstadt, A&O Artist of Month for September 2014

Esther, Old Testament Series*, 4.25 x 4.25 x 0.75 in., gampi tissue, pearl beads, linen thread, paper, 2012. 
The Jewish holydays of Rosh Hashanah are September 25-26, and we decided to honor that time with an artist who is brand new to us at A&O: Carole P. Kunstadt of New York. According to Wikipedia, "Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: ראש השנה‎, literally "head [of] the year") is the Jewish New Year," and her work feels like a new year for seeing religious art. It is unlike anything we've featured before as "Artist of the Month" and reflects a trend we are witnessing in seeing "books as objects of art" with reading as optional. In Carole's instance, however, we recommend a bit of prayerful reading and viewing, as you experience this INSPIRE ME! Artist of the Month.
Carole Kunstadt working in her studio
1. What is your faith tradition, and how does it impact your art? Having been brought up Jewish, and having married into a family that fled Europe in 1938, I am most sensitive to the importance of memory and history. My work is a vehicle for the expression of gratitude, the exploration of life’s vulnerabilities and as a platform for sanctity and contemplation.
Sacred Poem LXXXIX, 6.5 x 5 x 2.5 in., gold leaf, paper, 2014, Collection of the artist. 
2. Describe your artwork. What style or genre is it? My works reference the material of books, deconstructing paper and text, and using it in metaphorical ways. My devotion to books is inspired by the ability of the written word to take  the reader to other places through stories, poems, and prayers. Through the exploration and manipulation of the materials the process reveals how language can become visual through re-interpretation.
Five Books of Moses/Old Testament Series, 8.5 x 11 x 4 in., gampi tissue, gold leaf, paper, 2009. Collection of the artist.
3. Have you ever had to defend exploring religious ideas? A long held thought that influences my works on/of paper is: Evidence in the tactile provides contrast of the ethereal.  How do I as an artist present the spiritual and unutterable concepts while in this physical plane.
Sacred Poem XVIII, gampi tissue, thread, 5.825 x 5.825 x 1.5 in., 2011, Collection of the artist.
4. Who collects your work, and why? My work is intimate in scale and sentiment, requiring the viewer to be sensitive and contemplative.  I like the notion of one having to slow down in order to fully appreciate the work.
Covenant/Old Testament Series, 3 x 3.5 x 2.125 in., gampi tissue, linen thread, paper, 2009, Collection of the artist
5. What "risks" have you taken in creating your work? Perhaps the most widely known book worldwide is the Bible. Especially in the West where it was the first mass-printed book, its influence in history and literature has been major. Despite our basic familiarity and the positive or negative response one may have had previously to it or to aspects of it, my work utilizing and transforming the Bible as well as the Psalms alters one’s experience of these classic texts.  Reinventing the books, completely free of theological or political filters, I am not only exploring their physical integrity but also creating new hybrid forms which reflect memory, history and sanctity.
Lenore Tawney, Round and Square, collage, 1966, photo courtesy Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. 
6. Which artists have influenced your style or direction? Lenore Tawney, Zarina Hashmi for their dedication to materials, process, exploration and a commitment to their aesthetic journeys.
Kings/Old Testament Series, 4 x 4 x 1.75 in., gold leaf, thread, paper, 2012, Collection of the artist.
7. How can A&O readers collect/experience Carole's work? For further information visit:

Carole has a number of upcoming shows in the Hartford, CT area that she wants everyone to know about. These include "Somewhere Between Creation and Destruction Joseloff Gallery" at Hartford Art School, University of Hartford; and "Between The Lines: Works by Carole P. Kunstadt" at Charter Oak Cultural Center. For more, we recommend visiting her website calendar.