Carol Cornelison - Biography
• Florida National Bank
Meditation on Art:
I have made a meditation of walking at Matheson Hammock 3-4 times a week since 1994. I park my car at the entrance parking lot and either take the bike path or the road down to the sea, circling the wading pool several times and then heading back. I have never grown bored or tired of this solitary experience. Nature, when one is paying attention, assures that this is not a possibility. The light and intensity of color change quite a bit from 6:45am-7:45am, as the sun makes its ascent from the horizon upwards, or, sometimes in the summer, the storm clouds come rolling in, darkening the sky, and cooling the temperature with gusts of wind and rain, soaking the unprepared hiker in the process. When the tide is at its highest, it makes a river of the road, and I have to wade through. Waiting for it to ebb is not a possibility.
There is always something to engage all the senses, and nature in her magnificence calls for my attention, sometimes noisily, sometimes by her stillness. There is the everpresent permeating smell of salt air, and either the wind is gusting through the trees, rustling their leaves, clanging the metal stays against the flag pole, or she makes herself known by her absence. Sometimes the gulls call to each other or spar over crumbs and crabs scurry in and out of their holes. I am enthralled as I discover yet another beautifully worn branch, etched by the elements, and decide there is nothing more beautiful than this object, or the awareness of being alive that this experience brings me at this moment.
My sculptures are actually assemblages of materials, parts, of these experiences- fragments which are then constructed into different installations and environments. Each of these fragments is regarded by me as a vestige of personal experience, a moment in time, a snatch of memory. These parts which are assembled intuitively, I believe, carry with them the energy of these events, uniting the material and the spiritual.
Carol Cornelison's sculptural assemblages in bronze fuse the experieces of her life with materals and fragments from her immediate environment. Visually, portions of the female anatomy and forms from nature become the compositional elements of her complex installations. Since they are constructed of disparate motifs they can be assembled in a variety of ways, inviting multiple references to memory and imagination, reality and surreality. Charged with tension and expression the work of this artist presents her ultimate message, as she phrases it "the union of the spiritual and the material."
There is still another level on which Cornelison's narrative evolves. Her work expresses the geneses, such as fertility and reproduction, that surround the lives of women. Responses to the work should not necessarily become a social critique of a woman's predicament nor a translation of how such allegorical icons might symbolize the challenges that are shared by all women. Instead, the works offered to us the opposite interpretation: solid purpose, rational thought, a balanced intuition, and the hope that comes from being provided with endless possibilities. One of her finest works, Tera, from the series, A Return to Nature, reveals her ability to sustain and expand the relationships between dissimilar subjects and objects. In Tera, these uncanny connections are only possible through a compressed sign: the bronze blue rabbit-woman is a metaphor for reproduction, life experience, or spiritual energy. Finally, the material itself -bronze- which casts and welds together, becomes the very foundation on which her story is built. For her, bronze and its alchemical qualities are a metaphor for transformation. Bronze is strong and durable: two qualities necessary to effect and accept change.
Using the strategy of serialization, The Three Graces and A Return to Nature display the ironic multiplication of mass-produced images which underscore our mass-media culture. This serialization is distinctive from those of Pop Art as the meaning of Cornelison's works is not readily apparent. Here, her approach produces the effect of a prolonged image that unfolds throughout the life of installation, adding feeling and rhythym. In both works, this repetition forces the viewer to focus on the overall arrangement. Afterall, the fragments become a harmonious and compelling scenario. There is also the matter of the pedestals. The ones used in these installations revive the long standing sculptural issue of how to present the work. Making them out of found objects, scraps of wood and other earthly or industrial materials, the artist reinforces the idea of transformation. This presentation of her work furthers an important association to Surrealist artists: it both attracts and repels.
Cornelison's sculptures have their origins in the absurdist and associative art of Surrealism. This association goes beyond the physical appearance of the pieces because they provoke unconscious connections in the mind of the beholder. They have a zest and hallucinatory clarity which increases the sense of dislocation between the ideas and their representation. For example, in Grace III, there is an opening in the womb area that indicates great upheaval. As in many Surrealist sculptures, this "inventive" reality is both impassioned and provocative. Although its anatomical form is different from Giacometti's work, this piece brings to mind his Woman with Her Thraoat Cut. This engagement with strange forms is a metaphor, it operates to wed the sculpture to another discourse. For her, the opening suggests a door and the possiblities that exist in life. As she says, each time that discomfort appears to emerge from a particular aspect of the reality of life, comfort also exists in the belief that transformation plays an important role in the endless cycle.
Cornelison's work deals wth mental and spiritual awareness. In her hands, these concerns are highly personalized. The combination of Surrealism and realism, her repetition of forms and the incorporation of found objects endow her work and subject matters with palpable strangeness and beauty.