Studio Visit Profile of Artist Caroline Wells Chandler

by: Miska Draskoczy

Caroline Wells Chandler is the latest studio visit of the series I’ve been doing leading up to the CURRENT: Gowanus show which opens tomorrow evening. I took a tour of Caroline’s studio and learned more about his work and techniques.

Caroline uses vernacular materials such as polymer clay, crochet, resin, and foam along with decorative holiday and toy objects from craft stores. Caroline says he likes to work with materials that are more immediate and comfortable to him and this shows through in the work as a delightful explosion of material play. As a transgender artist, Caroline cites the influence of ‘a lot of drag in my work, how the materials are being used, a lot of things dressing up as something else’ and so we get wonderful effects like a peace sign made out of dollops of brown resin that evokes something between tanning bronzer and feces. In another series, Caroline channels the primal senses of taste and hunger with painted disks of spray foam that look like sugar frosting and candy, saying ‘one of my first experiences painting was icing cookies.’

A large wall installation of crocheted cats and foam pizza is described to me as a ‘contemporary cave painting’ and this idea captures the underlying spirit guiding the work. Caroline glues, casts and weaves an alchemic blend of modern elemental materials into totemic objects that refract back to us icons from our surrounding culture. Some of my favorite pieces are the large kitsch encrusted frames surrounding wilderness scenes printed on fabric and inset with various symbols. Caroline says he ‘thinks about painting and art as a devotional object’ and indeed these works are altar-like, opening up portals that transcend their commodity origins to access spiritual realms of personal mythology beyond.

Come see Caroline’s piece ‘Gathering’ in the CURRENT: Gowanus show this week and check out more of his work at carolinewellschandler.com. Thank you Caroline for the interesting chat. This is the last of the studio visit series for now as we head into the show, hope you’ve enjoyed them!