April 8 through May 13, 2017
Carol Koutnik: Fantastic Garden
Carol Koutnik returns to the Main Gallery with her one-person show, Fantastic Garden. Carol was our 2005 Poster Artist and serves on the Art Center Board. She has been painting for over 50 years.
David Hill, Adjunct Instructor of Art, Texas A&M University
Carol Koutniks show Fantastic Garden presents us with drawings, paintings, and constructions revolving around the cabbage. Foundational in the cuisine of her Polish and Czech heritage, cabbage is a food and a form Koutnik has known from childhood. As an adult, living internationally, she discovered the familiar ingredient of her home cooking appearing in new dishes. Koutnik respectfully uses the humble vegetable as a meditation on artistic exploration and creative growth.
Drawing is a basic skill to Koutnik just as the cabbage is a basic ingredient. Koutnik studies the contours of the cabbage form in her patch of nine drawings. Varying the pressure of the graphite to mingle full dark lines with delicate light traces, she describes both the dense weight of the vegetable and lacy frill of the leaves. All of Koutniks work is undeniably feminine, but it is not a self-conscious,overstated femininity. It is confident, secure, unaware of itself and inextricable from her work. Koutnik has stated her fascination with the packed center of the head, and the structure of the armor-like exterior leaves. The center ball is where the greatest concentration of growth occurs. Instinctively, Koutnik likens this to the mysterious heart of the creative process, where the magic happens, later to be revealed as the plant matures and opens. This delicate vitality is vulnerable, however, without the sturdy protection of the outer armor-like leaves. Creativity requires some defense as a complement to the generative.
If the drawings study structure,the six oil paintings reveal Koutniks raw fascination with the cabbage as a form. Koutnik manipulates the color in her source photographs making it clear these are not literal images. The paintings are not paintings of cabbages and much less symbols. As living things that remind her of nurturing, mystery, maturity,and fecundity the cabbage image is as much about the creative process as theact of painting them. Koutnik neatly merges subject and process. Interlocking color shapes, spread like jam, scraped like butter, along with tracts of wet on wet drags build the paintings. Her deft touch and enhanced colors combine into more than a picture of cabbages.
Artistic growth requires risks that can prey on an artists insecurities about success, competence, and acceptance. A patch of twelve fortune tellers are risks in themselves. They address the desire for certainty that creative risks will be worthwhile. Borrowing from a remembered childhood game to predict the future, Koutnik folded large sheets of paper according to instructions she found online. Covering the surfaces with motifs inspired by cabbage leaves, she draws a parallel. The interior of the fortune teller becomes fictional access to a future waiting to be revealed,like the heart of the cabbages vital center; like the unknown conclusion of a freshly started painting.