In honor of Black History Month, Luxe goes beyond the canvas with three contemporary artists. Here, Carmen Neely opens up about the passions that spark her craft, as we explore pieces that play off her pastel palette. #luxecelebratesblackhistory #diversityindesign
Carmen Neely’s artwork is not just a purely aesthetic object. Personal experiences, including being female, Black and American, all inform her work. Behind every brushstroke and color choice is intention and intuition, which stem directly from those experiences. Emotions of heartbreak (the impetus for the work shown above), disappointment, optimism, anger and joy are all equally important tools she employs in her work, as are the oil paints and physical ephemera that adorn her canvases.
How long have you been creating art?
I have been manipulating objects, materials and using tactile processes as methods of processing information since childhood, but formally defining this approach as “art making” began around 2009.
Stroke Rug by Sabine Marcelis / Price upon request / cc-tapis.com
What medium(s) do you work within?
Oil paint is a seductive and important part of my current practice. However, at the risk of sounding ostentatious, I believe equally valuable materials include heartbreak, disappointment, optimism, adoration, anger, joy.
How would you describe what viewers see on canvas?
Everything about the work I make is meant to exist as a form of documentation. I see the brushstrokes as direct transformations of specific events, conversations or energies—an equivalency to audio recording or written notation.
Spinning Top Line Long Earrings in Amethyst / $4,900 / yaelsonia.com
Walk us through the process and intentionality of your artwork.
The works begin with the title. I write down phrases from conversations that stand out as things I feel I either should remember, or can’t seem to forget. Then what happens on the surface is a type of translation. The interactions between gestures, relationships between colors, the organization of marks, and strokes all seek to transcribe an experience connected directly with the phrase—just without written language.
Fresco Wallpaper in Mist / Price upon request / hollyhunt.com
What about your experience of being a Black artist has informed your work?
Something very particular about the experience of engaging with an understood lineage of abstract expressionists, is the feeling of connectedness to a history alongside a simultaneous sense of being “othered.” Typical narratives around the genre have portrayed white male figures as the originators and points of reference for related thoughts about gesture in abstraction. I believe there is something about this double-consciousness or dual-identity that accompanies American Blackness that is embedded in my process.
Axis Moda 3-Rod Linear Chandelier / $4,995 / studio.hammerton.com
Expand on how your family’s matriarchs impacted your work and love for collecting.
Familial influences include my maternal and paternal grandmothers. I was also fortunate to grow up knowing a great-grandmother who lived to age 97. I had a close bond with each of these three women. I was always aware, even as a child, of the significant historical weight objects and materials in their homes would hold forever beyond their body’s presence. Even though I didn’t always have words to articulate the understanding, I saw the things surrounding them as extensions of their being.
Embrace Cuddle Chair / Price upon request / nafurniture.com
Who are the artists or creatives who inspire you ?
Other artists I feel a distant kinship with and deep respect for include: Howardena Pindell, Shinque Smith, Cecily Brown, Janiva Ellis, and Mary Lovelace O’Neal.