INTERVIEW WITH CAROLE FEUERMAN
“No matter how many times you get rejected, you must believe in yourself and do what you love, if you are lucky enough to know what that is.”
By Amanda Quinn Olivar
West Coast Editor
With a prolific career spanning four decades, Carole A. Feuerman is considered one of the world’s most prominent hyperrealist sculptors. She sculpts and paints miniature, life-size, monumental and public works in bronze, resin and marble. Carole has distinguished her skill in each by defining and recreating the human condition. Meticulously rendered, her resin sculptures employ her signature and realistic style to give the viewer the impression of a living, breathing human being.
Along with six museum retrospectives, Feuerman’s work has been showcased in numerous exhibitions and is in the permanent collections of over fifteen museums, such as Art-st-Urban, the Bass Museum of Art, the El Paso Museum of Art, the Tampa Museum of Art, the Lowe Art Museum, and Grounds for Sculpture. Carole has taught, lectured and given workshops at many institutions, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, and Columbia University. In 2011, she founded the Carole A. Feuerman Sculpture Foundation.
Amanda Quinn Olivar: It was interesting to discover that before becoming a sculptor, you drew album art for music acts such as Alice Cooper and The Rolling Stones. Can you tell us about that period in your career?
Carole Feuerman: As a child growing up in Hollis Hills, Queens, I made a commitment to pursue art as a career. At the age of five, I helped my grandfather design our home by spray-painting an outline of each room on our lawn. My fifth grade teacher affirmed my skills by asking me to give weekly drawing lessons to my class. While in high school, I sold my first painting to appreciative neighbors. I felt that this made me a professional. Later I studied at Hofstra University, Temple University, and the School of Visual Arts. I worked as an illustrator to pay for my education at SVA, and ultimately earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1967.
I continued as an illustrator for the next ten years, and received four Merit awards from the Art Directors Club and six Citations of Merit from the Society of Illustrators. These included the highest international award for an illustrator, the Award for Excellence in 1971 for a painting I made for the Rolling Stones. They used it as the centerfold poster in their World Tour Book. After that, I was hired to make a painting for Alice Cooper’s World Tour Book. It won a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators. It was later shown at the NY Historical Society.
In 1974, I began the transition from illustrator to fine artist. I decided that it was time for me to create work that came from my feelings, instead of making work to illustrate someone else’s ideas. I started my fine art career with the topic of “Erotic Art”. For the next three years, I devoted myself to creating a body of works.
AQO: You define your work as hyper-realistic. What does that mean to you, and what drew you to that movement?
CF: I am recognized as a pioneering figure in the world of hyperrealist sculpture. Together with Hanson and De Andrea, I was one of the three leaders that started the movement in the late seventies, by making life sculptures that portrayed their models precisely.
Underlying the realistic daily activities depicted in my sculptures are common threads of experience that connect us to one another. The realism in my art stems from a desire to demonstrate real emotions and physical states of being, from peaceful serenity to energy, equilibrium, and vigor. My realistic style allows me to present a universal moment to which every viewer can relate. I explore emotional dimensions where the sculpture depicts not just one frozen second, but an infinite and universal state of being.
AQO: What important lesson did you learn as a young artist?
CF: No matter how many times you get rejected, you must believe in yourself and do what you love, if you are lucky enough to know what that is.
AQO: How did your upbringing influence your path?
CF: My upbringing influenced my path because my parents didn’t want me to be an artist and didn’t encourage me. I had to pay for my own education, and make my career into what it is today.
AQO: Can you describe your work and give us insight into how you go about constructing a sculpture?
CF: I sculpt the human figure in plaster, and then I make a resin from the plaster, and paint the resin to look real. It is the resin casting that is chased and detailed to finally become the work of art. I paint the surface with over a hundred coats of paint adding veins, sun spots, freckles, and individually rooted hairs. The bronze sculptures are made in metal foundries with a process called lost wax.
AQO: You have been exploring installations which incorporate video projection and water. How do these mediums alter the perception, narrative and interpretation of your sculptures?
CF: I am the first artist to combine hyper-realistic sculptures in this manner. Through the use of video, the total piece of art has a more edgy effect. It brings another dimension to the work that is very exciting. In one of my pieces, Brooke’s Play, I put the piece on an interactive pool of water. When the viewer puts their hand over the water, the heat activation of their hand sends a ripple through the water. This also happens when you walk on the water.
After 56 years of creating swimmers, I continue to be fascinated with the figure in the water, with water patterns on [it]. I love the mechanics of water and its presence as an enduring symbol for life. The symbolism of water is far-reaching and profoundly deep. Water cleanses and purifies. Water touches all people, animals and things. Water connects one land to another. Water moistens and revives. In another installation I did, I projected an interactive waterfall that changes colors and spills onto the floor. This is intriguing to the viewer. The video and the sculpture combine together to create irresistible interactive experiences.
AQO: In 2011 you founded the Carole A. Feuerman Sculpture Foundation. Can you tell us about your initial concept for the foundation, and how it has developed and grown over the past several years?
CF: I started this foundation because when I was in college I was always, you know… I was on scholarship and they graduated me early and I always got the A+ on everything I could do. But when I went out into the world to try to get into a gallery, the galleries wouldn’t take my work. They said that’s not what they show. It was my first real rejection with my artwork. And, um… I had a lot of confidence in myself and I really wanted to be in a gallery. So, I kept trying and trying and you know, it made me think that regardless of whether people like your work or they don’t like your work, or you get to show it or not… there are a lot of great artists out there.
So I started this foundation to exhibit artists that are under-exhibited, that I felt are really good artists. Because it’s really hard to get your career going. It’s not limited to sculptors… I have painters, mixed media, video. This foundation had its first show last year, and I had work from like fifteen different countries. A lot of artists through the years have said to me Can you help me get a New York gallery? I’m on the board of the International Sculpture Center and I show in all different countries, and I meet fabulous artists who have never shown in New York. It’s very hard to get a New York gallery. That’s why I gave them this show. I had four curators to judge their work. I made a little catalogue for everyone and we gave out four grants, um… monetary grants. My foundation gave a grant of $1,000. It was matched by two other foundations. Another foundation gave us the space to do the show and put in lighting and everything… That was MANA Contemporary. My grant was matched by the Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation. So I was able to give out three grants... three that the curators thought were best in the show. We didn’t do 1st, 2nd, 3rd; we did all equal. And then I had a people’s choice where everybody who went to the foundation show would select what they like the best. And then on the foundation website I did pictures of all the different artists and their work. So it gives them a lot of exposure, and there’s a videotape of the show too. It’s really helpful to give their careers a boost they needed.