Our favorite oddball gallery Studio & has added a fifth member to their co-owner ranks. Self-taught visual artist Rosie Carter lives in Cortez and makes sculptures, home goods, screen prints, and dimensional pieces she dubs “shadow boxes.” In these thickly-framed dioramas, butterflies burst out of cocoons shaped from wire, and birds and lone houses are sketched silhouetted against the sky. Carter draws inspiration from the immense connection between our southwestern landscape and the people who live here; from Native Americans and their homelands to farmers and ranchers with their fields. “I like the thought of the great terrestrial sweep laying beyond our control, of the solidity of a landscape weighed against humanity’s impermanence,” writes Carter at rosiecarter.com. “I’ve been working to capture this perspective, this feeling that comes from looking out over boundless expanse and losing a sense of substance. That sensation of being caught up in the sweep of a desert landscape or the arc of a never-ending night sky.” We spoke with Carter about her recent career change (from farmer to full-time art maker) and how the dramatic western scenery informs her work.
Why become part of Studio &?I’ve worked with this gallery over the years, showing in group shows, and got to know and become friends with all the members. I appreciate that Studio & has a different angle than other places around here; more contemporary, experimental. I love how they bring all kinds of artists in. I live in Montezuma County, so for me to have that sort of connection with other creative people has been a big deal. When the opportunity came up, I had to put some thought into it – it’s a commute for me. But like most artists, I spend 90 percent of my time working alone in my studio, so it’s nice to have the opportunity for some collaboration.
Why did you make the transition from farming to making art full-time?I’ve been trying to juggle both for a long time. I got more serious about it because I felt like I was finally making something representative of what I wanted to be doing. It became a bigger and bigger force in my life. With farming, it was pretty impossible; once the farming season started in April, I had to drop any sort of art. There wasn’t time. Farming is really physical and I was getting pretty beat up. It became something I wanted to do less. So here I am. I made the switch.
Anything you’ve learned from farming that you use in your artistic process?Farming is actually a very creative endeavor, because you’re always having to be flexible and reacting to changing conditions. When you’re creating stuff, there’s lots of accidents. Some happy, some not. That’s part of the creative process – it’s not a linear thing. You’re bouncing around, trying things, reacting to the results. And something that’s definitely helped me in terms of making an effort to be a professional artist is the discipline that farming requires. If you want to make a living at it, you gotta just be on it all the time. You need to be constantly working.
What mediums do you work in? I make what I call “dimensional pieces,” they’re kind of like shadow boxes. For those I use a lot of sheet metal, wire, pen and ink. I paint the backgrounds. And screen printing plays into almost everything I do. I first came about creating the dimensional pieces because I’m not a trained artist, so I don’t have a lot of skill in painting a picture that has dimension ... I don’t really know how. But I wanted to start creating dimension in my work. I also make free-standing sculpture, using a lot of the same materials. And then I screen print too, taking my pen and ink drawings and transferring them to the screen. I’ve been doing prints on sheet metal. And I also have a line of home goods called Home and Range, where I make throw pillows, dish towels, napkins and t-shirts with those same images. That’s what’s so great about screen printing; I can print on any flat surface.
Your “Artist Statement” mentions how in the Four Corners region, people are very intimately tied to the landscape. How does that idea inform your work? I’m really interested in geologic time and the universe. Living here, or in the West in general, you can really see that passage of time. Being able to stand in one place and look out over such a huge expanse and be aware that time has spanned ... forever. And our place in it, humanity’s insignificance. That’s what a lot of my work is about. But that doesn’t mean each moment isn’t special in some way. It might not be specifically obvious to the viewer, but that’s where I’m coming from; the understanding that we’re a blip. The name of my recent show was “All Shining Briefly.” I’m trying to express this small moment of shining briefly in this long expanse of time and the big scheme of things. I love the vastness here.