A Local Look at Global Art
by Sara Lee Burd
Afounding leader of the hyperrealist movement in sculpture, Carole A. Feuerman is an iconic master of the style. Her sculptures strike a balance between visual perfection and narrative intrigue. She uses sculptural materials such as steel, bronze, and resin and is the only woman who has perfected a way of painting her outdoor work to resist weather. Her interior works are coveted for their meticulous details such as her signature water droplets. Read on for her insight into her craft, culture, and motivations.
SLB: How long has it taken you to learn how to make work that you consider your mature style?
CF: Well, it’s taken a lifetime. Nobody taught me how to do this. I didn’t study sculpture. It’s trial and error, and the journey is fabulous. I’m always learning.
SLB: What kind of changes have you seen for women in art since you began working in the 1970s?
CF: It has changed a little. In those days I remember how hard it was to get into galleries in New York. They never took you seriously as an artist. They thought that women belonged in the house to raise a family. Recently, I gave a lecture to 2,000 women world leaders on how art influences people’s opinions in the world. What I researched is that only 7 percent of all women artists have had solo shows and have their work in permanent collections of important museums and collectors. Only two women have ever had a solo show in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One was Louise Bourgeois, and the other was Louise Nevelson. They were both over 90.
There is still a glass ceiling because when I looked for women artists, I had a hard time finding very many that influence people’s opinions. There are so many male artists. In fact, there were many women artists all through the ages, but writers, other magazines, or curators never wrote about them so we never found out about them.
SLB: It would be nice to go back and uncover those stories and add them to art history.
CF: It’s true. I was just at the show at the Met on the figurative art. It was predominately male artists. I counted only a few female artists: Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith; I think there was one other. This is now, and no one contacted me. They had Duane Hanson, John DeAndrea, Ron Mueck, and all the hyperrealists were male. There is still room to grow and include more women. We are not there yet.
SLB: It must be interesting to see what appeals to people in a global market.
CF: It is. A work of mine just sold at an art fair, Art New York. An Israeli man bought a sculpture of a girl in a bathing suit that has a lot of straps. Someone else had bought it about a year ago in America, but then they didn’t want it because they said the straps reminded them of S&M. I was shocked because I never thought of anything like that. I’ve seen it over and over again that Americans get crazy ideas because they are very conservative. I had a show in Turkey a few years ago. My dealer showed a female nude, and I was very worried about showing that in a Muslim country. He bought a white scarf and he wrapped the nude in it. During the show the scarf fell off and everybody liked it better. You just never know.
SLB: The sizes of your sculptures vary. What do you enjoy about each?
CF: I think it’s interesting when you make something large. It’s more powerful. If the pyramids were small, I don’t know if everyone would go to Egypt. Sometimes when I do something in life-size it frightens people. I like the tabletop size because people can fit them in their apartments. It brings more possibilities for people to purchase.
SLB: How do you conceive of a work?
CF: I always have a vision and a concept. Mostly all of my sculptures are about balance, survival, perseverance, trust … pretty much all of them. I come up with the content, then I look for a model who can pose so that you can clearly see the content. I may use several models to make one sculpture.
SLB: A YouTube video shows your meticulous, labor-intensive process. It’s amazing to see how much craft it takes to make your work.
CF: It’s very time-consuming because hyperrealism has to be perfect, whereas other art doesn’t have to be so. It’s much harder to make the beautiful people that I do because no one is perfect. The body position, a gesture, a finger in the air, can all make quite a difference.
For more about the artist, visit www.carolefeuerman.com.