Carson Carroll is an interdisciplinary artist based in the Carolinas and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Winthrop University. Carroll's work is made using a variety of mediums like found objects, plastic, and digital and alternative photography to showcase environmental awareness. Her focus on ecological and social issues like human consumption, throw-away culture, and plastic pollution aims to plant a seed of change in her viewers' minds and connect them to her message.
Can you tell us a bit about your artistic background and what motivates you to pursue art?
Carson: My love for art started pretty early, as I am fortunate to have multiple family members who work in creative fields or simply like working with their hands. My houses growing up were filled with murals that my dad painted, and my grandmother is a seamstress while my uncle is a photographer. I remember visiting their studios as a child and being in awe of the equipment, different textures, and the possibility of working in the art world. Throughout my k-12 experience, I loved traditional academic classes but was more excited about the types of problem-solving art classes presented, so I ended up studying studio art in undergrad. Since undergrad, I have kept a regular studio practice while working full-time jobs in art education/arts nonprofits as both a teaching artist and arts administrator. I work with students from ages 5 to 95, and their reactions, questions, and excitement for creating art motivate me to continue pursuing my work. I am also inspired by the duality of power and fragility in the natural environment, particularly in the ocean, and our role as humans in its future.
Left: The Empty Raft | Right: Attack on The Helicopter
What are three words that describe your art style?
Carson: Clean, layered, and participatory.
Do you aim to express any emotions or ideas in your work? What are they?
Carson: I document found trash from the coastal areas of Charleston, SC, in the cyanotype process, so my work definitely touches on themes of human impact and consumerism. My work is more subtle than a lot of environmental work, and I would like to keep it that way. I try to avoid immediate shock with my work and instead pull viewers in with aesthetically pleasing pieces that allow them to question both my work and their role in the environment later.
Have you noticed any changes in your art practice over the years?
Carson: In the last few years, I have adopted more of a social practice as my work has become more interactive and aims to ask viewers to take an active role in experiencing the work. Teaching in a classroom really brought questions like “How can I get viewers to stay with a piece longer?”, “How can I make more work more accessible to people?” and “What can my work teach viewers?” to the forefront of my practice. I also love the concept of play in art and am excited to push that in the future.
Are there any notable influences or mentors who have played a significant role in your artistic development?
Carson: I had some incredible instructors in college who are all working artists whose advice and teachings stick with me. Claudia Osteen, Leah Dyjak, Jen Ray, and Shaun Cassidy are just a few whose voices are there when I’m sketching out ideas and creating work. Dr. Michelle Livek is a mentor of mine in both the studio art and art education world. She’s a kickass human and teaching artist who has taught me a lot about life, inspired my push toward having a social art practice, and exposed me to resources to help me to exist as both an artist and a teaching artist.
Left: Out to Sea | Right: Brody Panics
Where in Charleston, SC, have you found inspiration?
Carson: The water, tides, sounds of the marsh, the art community, and my past students.
What are your favorite local art events in Charleston?
Carson: Art show openings at Redux Contemporary Art Center, Hed Hi Studios, and The Halsey! I’m also a big fan of live music, so I try to go to a lot of local shows in the area. The Pour House, The Royal American, The Music Farm, and The Tin Roof are frequent spots for me and my friends.
Do you have a favorite artist local to Charleston?
Carson: Oh gosh, that is such a tough question! So tough that I am going to give three names. While I’m totally biased because these three women are friends of mine, and I like them for just who they are, their work also speaks for itself. Shelby Corso, Hirona Matsuda, and Caroline Herring are big local favorites of mine in the Charleston area. I could stare at their work forever and am constantly in awe of how they push their mediums and practices.
What hopes do you have for Charleston's art scene?
Carson: I want Charleston to embrace more contemporary, diverse, and weird work. The art scene is close to being there, and the community wants it, but we need more exposure to different work. People travel to Charleston for the food, sights, and history, but I want people to travel here for more than just paintings of Rainbow Row, The Cooper River Bridge, and our oak trees. All of that work is beautiful, but the Charleston art scene needs more work that allows people to ask tough questions and have more in-depth conversations.
Left: Kiss The Girl | Right: Blown to Bits
Do you have any tips for fellow artists when exploring cyanotype?
Carson: Play, play, play. I think people can often get nervous with photographic techniques because chemistry and precision are involved. But the beauty of the cyanotype process is that it is more forgiving than other photographic techniques. It's also more economically friendly and accessible because you can do it with any absorbent substrate and the sun. My fellow artists should experiment with different substrates, exposure times, objects, textures, and shapes to explore the range of results one can get.
If you listen to anything while you work, recommend something for us to check out!
Carson: I’m a diehard Recipe Club and Hidden Brain podcast listener when I work, but if I am listening to music in the studio, it's a wide range. Playlists could include artists like Hope Tala, James Blake, The Growlers, Santigold, Bad Bunny, and Dijon.
Where can the #ACScommunity see your work?
Carson: I have a solo show, titled en masse, currently up at Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston, SC, until July 15th, 2023. I hopefully have a few more shows in the works for the next year, but Instagram is the best way to keep up with finding out those details and seeing my in-process work.
Are you a Carson Carroll fan? Follow her on Instagram to see what she gets up to next!