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At the Lux Art Institute, Carolyn Case, MICA Alumna & Faculty Member, Seeing What Sticks


July 11, 2019


When artist Carolyn Case starts a painting, she’s never sure how it will end up.

Her vibrantly colored abstract oils are multilayered, multitextured studies that seem take on a life of their own.

“I try to give over to them 100 percent,” said Case, who is currently working on a few paintings during a residency at the Lux Art Institute in Encinitas.

During her four-week stay, which ends July 13, she is creating a series of three or four paintings based on a large, overgrown prickly pear cactus on the Lux property.

“The center looks like death. It becomes an enigmatic space,” Case said of the gnarled old plant whose interior has died off but continues to grow outward with fresh pads.

Each morning, she goes out and makes fresh sketches of the cactus and then uses those as inspirations for quick pastel drawings that study color values and shading. The pastels are then translated into the oil paintings.

The paintings start with a wood panel. The bottom layer is loose depiction of the cactus in a thin oil base. Case then adds layers and texture with oils in different thicknesses and a variety of techniques from broad brush strokes to small dots or even drips. Often sections are sanded down and reworked.

“It’s starting to morph,” Case said of the fledgling pieces, which she works on simultaneously.

The residency allows Case to spend full days on her work, but it also condenses the time frame to get the paintings done.

“Normally, I really dabble when I work and see where it takes me. There’s a lot of experimentation,” she said. “I have to alter how I normally work and take a single focus. It’s really eye opening to focus this much. It’s a really productive time frame.”

Case is a faculty member at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, where she lives with her husband and two teenage sons. She earned her bachelor of fine arts degree from California State University-Long Beach and a master of fine arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Mount Royal School of Art.