Victoria Carlson’s new paintings are the product of a singular sensibility. They picture muscle-bound toddlers, some in ball gowns or wedding dresses, in settings that suggest overwhelming power – standing in front of a tidal wave, for example, or before a giant microwave transmission tower. These large scale works on paper are the subject of “Victoria Carlson: Five Paintings,” on view March 12 through April 7 at Parks Gallery in Taos.
“We think of babies and brides as things of beauty, fragile and vulnerable,” Carlson says, “but there’s also something indomitable about them, and I like the disparity. Bodybuilders look intimidating but they’re really quite fragile. So I’m using these figures as a vocabulary, putting them in an arena in which I mash up images just to see what happens.”
In the process, Carlson consciously seeks to tweak the preconceptions of the contemporary art establishment. Though her skills at rendering are immaculate, her materials are humble—paper, watercolor, flocking—and her aim is to illicit a full-throated laugh. “The debasement of humor, narrative and representation in contemporary art interest me,” she says. “Irreverent, low, comic and specific representation fall far outside of ‘Academic Good Art Practices.’ But what is officially suppressed and degraded is often more vital and unpredictable than what is sanctioned. The friction between my primitive desire to describe, my foolish laughter, and my formal art training became interesting and unsettling as I began to work with the random and the funny. I repeatedly found myself thinking about authority and misbehavior.”
“If I have an agenda,” she concludes, “it’s this—I feel like the world is divided into two camps, those with and those without power. I’m saying, don’t fall for appearances. The world is more complicated than it looks.”
Carlson’s art has been acquired by curators for such prestigious institutions as the De Young Museum in San Francisco, the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, and The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos. A principal patron has been Sanford Besser of Santa Fe, whose drawing collection is among the finest in the country.
(Images: Victoria Carlson, What is within is so great, watercolor, gouache, rayon flock on paper, 60" x 42"; Mary's Bar , watercolor on paper, 60 x 41 inches; Winter Dance,watercolor, acrylic and flocking on paper, 60 x 41 inches; Courtesy of the Artist and Parks Gallery)