"I think inspiration comes from a lot of places-from where I am emotionally as well as from nature."
Sculptor Carol Gold wrings strong emotions from her sleek bronze figures
EVERY JANUARY, California sculptor Carol Gold settles into her studio to begin the year anew with fresh ideas for her bronze pieces and a chunk of soft, hot wax with which to give them shape. Her ideas about the forms that will occupy her heart and hands over the next 12 months have percolated in her thoughts to some degree, but arise mostly from the unconscious, Gold says.
She squeezes, manipulates, and molds the wax, roughing in shapes as figures emerge-some large, some small, some flat, some rounded. Most of her forms represent the human figure, with the exception of a horse or two. "I think inspiration comes from a lot of places-from where I am emotionally as well as from nature," Gold explains from her airy, 770-square-foot studio perched on a hillside in Northern California. "My work is also informed by what`s going on in the world and what I read."
Last year, for instance, Gold says her work was directly affected by the turmoil in the world, including the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the events leading up to it. "I had this feeling all last year that what I needed to do was create tranquil pieces," she says. "Some artists may respond to what`s going on in the world with anger, but I just can`t do that. I needed my sculptures to be an antidote to the chaos."
TRANQUILITY and EMBRACE, both created in 2003, are two of her most peaceful pieces-ones that Gold describes as "calm and loving." In TRANQUILITY, a relaxed figure sits staring into space as if looking out a window on a beautiful day. In EMBRACE, two people wrap their arms around each other in a display of tender affection. The latter bronze also is an example of how Gold is influenced by what she reads. After finishing the book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning [2003 ANCHOR] by Chris Hedges, the sculptor was deeply moved by one of the points the author kept stressing. Hedges, a veteran war correspondent for The New York Times, explains in the book that while covering many wars and trying to survive in various war zones-including being ambushed in Central America and imprisoned in the Sudan-the only place he ever felt safe was in the home of a loving couple or family. "EMBRACE came out of that sense of a safe place in the midst of war," Gold says.
Of the many themes woven through Gold`s work, perhaps the most common is communication. Her sculptures often include two figures as in EVENING WALK, ARTTALK, and FIESTA. The moods the sculptor evokes in these twosomes are amazingly varied-from the contemplative, restful depiction of a couple strolling in EVENING WALK to the joyous dance captured in FIESTA. Gold manages to squeeze living, breathing emotion out of cold, hard bronze, whether it`s tenderness of spirit as in EMBRACE or the arrogant poses of two figures in ART TALK.
THERE ARE FEW CLUES in Gold`s sophisticated pieces to reveal her personal roots. Her sleek, contemporary figures are a far artistic cry from growing up on a dairy farm in western Massachusetts. About the only trace of her childhood that a viewer glimpses is through the horses that emerge in her work every now and then. As a girl, Gold spent countless hours riding through the countryside, enjoying the calm and solitude. "I would get on my horse, and all of my anxieties would melt away," she recalls. Today her bronze equines are remnants of those bygone days. Now, as then, the horses represent freedom to the artist. "They were my only mode of escape as a child," she explains.
In addition to a fondness for roaming the countryside on her horse, Gold`s other main interests in her youth were drawing and poring over her parents` book on the history of painting. "At one point my mom gave me art lessons, but I was always more interested in animals," she recalls.
When she headed to Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, Gold was bent on studying veterinary medicine. But her entire world spun in a different direction one day when she signed up for an art history class. After a few hours in class, she was sure that all she ever wanted to pursue was art. Gold quickly changed her major to art and architecture but encountered some rocky patches in subsequent classes. She wanted to learn more about technique, but it was fashionable in the art department then to focus on self-expression. Married at the time, Gold and her husband moved to Boston, MA, after three years at Cornell. She transferred to Boston University, where her artistic desires were met with a more welcome attitude in the fine-arts department. "It was a breath of fresh air," Gold says. "I just wanted to learn the basics like stretching canvas and printmaking first, just the tools I needed in the beginning."
In 1968 Gold moved to California, where she has remained ever since. When her four children were young, she worked at their elementary school as an assistant to a sculpting teacher. By 1972 she was sculpting full time, working first with clay. Three-dimensional forms have always held more allure for Gold, moving her in a way that painting and other two-dimensional artworks have failed to do. Likewise, figures in art have usually had an emotional impact on her, while nonobjective art rarely engages her with quite the same intensity.
Gold`s work has evolved over the past two decades as she moved from clay to wax about 10 years ago. "Clay was too earthbound," she says. "Wax gives me a chance to be more expressive in my forms." While experimenting with wax she has developed a technique for incorporating pieces of burlap, which allows her to fully realize one of what she calls her "two basic sculpting vocabularies"-flat, nude figures and draped figures. Because wax is easier to manipulate than clay, the material goes a long way in helping Gold convey emotions and mood. And using wax enables her to "sketch in" figures rapidly when her ideas are taking shape at the beginning of the year. The sculptor creates about 30 such shapes, but by the end of the year only six or seven will survive and be cast in bronze. "They need to really strike me as far as the mood I am trying to convey, or I will throw them away," she says.
Another signature Gold element is the stunningly rich patinas on her bronze pieces, in colors that range from earthy gold and copper tones to various shades of turquoise that often evoke a southwestern flavor. As this story went to press, the sculptor was preparing works for the prestigious Sculpture in the Park show, held every August in Loveland, CO [see page 74]. Her piece FIESTA is also scheduled for installation in Loveland`s Benson Sculpture Park this summer.
Gold isn`t fond of speculating about what ideas she will explore in the future, except to say that communication is always a reoccurring theme. For now, she`s content to read, share opinions, pay attention to the world at large, and have faith that when a hunk of wax is set before her, her unconscious will light the way.
Gold is represented by Bronze Coast Gallery, Cannon Beach, OR; Savage Stephens Contemporary Art Works, Carmel, CA; Coda Gallery, Palm Desert, CA, and New York, NY; and Columbine Gallery and the National Sculptors' Guild, Loveland, CO, and Santa Fe, NM.
EMBRACE, BRONZE, 14 × 7 × 3 ½.
FIESTA, BRONZE, 29 ½ × 36 × 9.
ART TALK, BRONZE, 17 × 15 × 8.
CELEBRATION, BRONZE, 19 ½ × 12 × 6.
KOBILA, BRONZE, 23 × 25 × 9.
AUTHOR AFFILIATION: Bonnie Gangelhoff is the senior editor of Southwest Art. COPYRIGHT: Copyright Sabot Publishing, Inc. Jul 2004.