Briefly describe the work you do.
In my Year in Color works, I seek to render abstract concepts, such as time and its measurement, into an abstract visual vocabulary. I began this body of work in 2011 when I took up the practice of creating a small painting for each day using a complex color that has been made by mixing a simple set of primary acrylic and gouache pigments and white. Every panel differed in tone and composition, showcasing a color mixed uniquely for that day. This practice was an attempt to translate and capture each day’s unique experiences, activities, and moods. With varying annual rules and limitations for each subsequent year’s incarnation, I have continued this exploration of the interplay between structure, intent, and chance to create a record of time – that is both a narrative and a record of time.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
My mother was a painter and, when I was growing up, she had the book Masterpieces Vol. 1 in paperback. It contains images of paintings and sculpture from the Renaissance to Dali’s “Persistence of Memory.” I spent hours pouring over the images of the paintings, as it was my only source of art history in a small town in Southern California where we did not have access to museums or art education at school. I took the book with me when I left for college in the Bay Area, and it has remained with me as a physical reminder and guiding influence in my broader conceptions about painting and art ever since. I studied ceramics and design at UC Berkeley, drawing and painting at California College of Arts and Crafts and received my MFA from CCAC in 1991.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice has varied over time, most recently balancing between time spent teaching and time dedicated to my studio practice. Generally, though, I try to be in the studio about 30 hours a week, where in addition to painting I do a lot of writing, which informs my painting.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Starting out I did not realize how much marketing and business work is involved in getting one’s art shown. I also had not imagined that I would teach, but I have found that be a very rewarding practice.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I usually arrive at the studio by late morning and, generally, the afternoon and early evening are my most productive periods. Those times also tend to provide the best natural light for painting.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work has changed in a narrowing of focus to color and structure with a continual thematic thread of memory and time. I have used the grid as an organizing structure since graduate school, and my paintings have often included both text and images. However, my current body of work employs the grid to explore subtle variations in color without the text or images, delving deeper into explorations of the constructs of time through these lenses.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I loved being in graduate school, and it gave me exactly I needed. I wanted to connect with a community, to push my work, and to learn. It did all that. I worked with Leslie Lerner, who suggested I apply a specific structure used in my drawings to my painting. I applied the grid structure to my work, and it continues to be the organizing approach that underpins my work today. Dennis Leon, Larry Sultan, and Ray Saunders all also had an impact on how I work and expanded my thinking and reading.
I read continuously a wide range of books, but ones that I return to are: Bacclard, The Poetics of Space, writings and work by Sean Scully, works about Morandi, and the poetry of John Keats. I also just love mysteries.
And, of course, my circle of friends and family are a fundamental source of support, critique and warmth, which is an important part of my practice.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I have tried a variety of different things as a means of supporting my studio work and myself. One exceptional experience was co-founding the non-profit Oakland Art Gallery, where I was the Program Director from 2001 thru 2007. I loved organizing, curating, and installing exhibitions, which felt very similar to studio work.
I continue to be active in my community, as a board member of the Kala Art Institute and by chairing the symposium committee of the University of California Berkeley Art Alumni Group for the last six years. These activities help to balance me in relation to my studio time.
Carol Ladewig received a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and her MFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts, where she also received a 1991 Barclay Simpson Award and Exhibition. Her work has been exhibited by the Lucy Berman Gallery in Palo Alto, Kala Art Center, Berkeley Art Center, Museum of Los Gatos, Ute Stebich Gallery in Lenox, MA, and BGH Gallery in Los Angeles, among others, and she is currently represented by Slate Contemporary, Oakland, CA. In 2013, Ladewig was named an artist-in-residence at the Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA. Ladewig’s work is held in both public and private collections across the United States and Europe, including the Packard Foundation, SAP America, and Alameda County Art Collections. She has been an instructor in the Art Department at Diablo Valley College since 2001.