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"Tactile comfort and material beauty are foiled with uncertainty and impermanence in this body of work. The reference to “home” always present in my work was challenged in new ways this year. Within isolation and confinement priorities come into sharp view. Much of 2020 felt like a vanitas painting played out in real time; a failed attempt to temper tragedy with alcohol, food, and pretty things.

My reflection on an inexplicable year has left me trying to understand our conflated relationship between material and materiality. Trying to sort through our distorted understanding of objects vs. experience. And trying to find value in a thing all the while understanding its futility.

Formally, this body of work expands on prior use of building and interior décor materials. New to these pieces is the addition of velvet upholstery fabric, and other textiles. The fabric serves as both a tool for abstraction as well as a domestic remnant. In some works it is stretched and pulled to create plush and concave compositions. This soft space is meant to hold the brittle abstractions painted within. In other works the velvet spills out of layers of sheetrock, wallpaper, and tile. Here, it is the underbelly, the exposed, a literal remnant of an inferred experience.

Each work combines notions of comfort and confusion. They are soft but ridged, broken but beautiful, stretched but strong. It is all an attempt to reconcile the experience of making and the inevitable outcome of objecthood. Inarguably, these works are a sum of beautiful and interesting material. But in spite of their sum of stuff reality they are also distilled actions and moments revealed."

Carrie Gillen is a St. Louis based painter, sculptor, scenic designer, and educator. She received her B.A. from Loyola University in New Orleans and her MFA from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Gillen is the recipient of the SIUE Jose Jimenez Public Art Award and the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis Artist Support Grant. She regularly exhibits locally and nationally. Gillen is currently a member of Intersect STL a non-profit studio, gallery, and classroom supporting the south side neighborhoods of St. Louis.

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