A Return to Painting

By Caroline Rust

Editor's note: 2015 Alumna Affiliate Artist Caroline Rust creates paintings and installations charged with color, layered surfaces, and themes which expose a woman's sense of self. She recently sent the words below to her supporters via email, and granted us permission to share it here, with minor edits, with you.

Painting is my greatest passion. Thus it is fitting that for my latest body of work I have returned to the medium which perhaps I most identify. Let it be known, these expressionistic paintings include a fresh twist on the concepts of “canvas” and “surface,” adding depth to my creative process and the works’ content and intent.

The call to return to painting was revealed to me during my first days at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation. The inspiring physical nature of the facilities and its vibrations filled my core with the desire to paint. Moreover, [two] of the initial questions presented to me while in residency [were]: “What do you fear most about your work at the moment? What processes linked to this fear could you experiment with while here?” My awareness immediately transported me back to the week prior when I declared my fear of forgetting how to paint to my husband. Now, getting back to those successes at McColl Center, in the right place at the right time, my intuition married these two thoughts and the two series of work I was creating merged in my mind. The core ingredients: dressing tables, gender roles, adornment, sexuality, women’s effects, garments, fashion, self-image, self, and paint.

Caroline Rust, From the Living Room (working title, 2016), oil on garments on wood, 36"x48" inches (Courtesy of the artist)

Through encouraging audience engagement experiences with varying age groups, gender, cultural, and racial demographics, it seemed that my work’s aim [was] on target: To heighten the viewers’ awareness on the paths of women, by way of the display of my work juxtaposed to the hemline timeline about the interconnectedness of women’s fashion with her evolving societal role. While dashing into the studio following her wide-eyed daughter, maybe 6 [years old], scurrying towards the hot pink dressing table in United Utensils, one mother expressed, “she sees the color and it attracts her; she does not yet realize the depth of what she is looking at. But she will one day.” Numerous women, girls, and males devoured the messages communicated. Females and males shared intimate stories of their mothers, families, [and] views on gender.
Through amazing classroom engagement experiences, also with varying demographics, lively yet meaningful explorations of self ensued and then were translated into visuals in the workshop participants’ projects. I communicated perceptions on the concept of portrait, mixed media, and the distinction of self while sharing art and design processes. We exchanged thoughts on the value of self-expression. In the studio and the classroom, doors were opened and a place created for dialogue to occur; dialogue of a personal, educational, and historical nature. I could not have asked for a more rewarding thing to happen and for this I am grateful to McColl Center, the audience, and participants.

The new work is still to come.