A Glance at Glimpse
Caroline Tavelli-Abar made a collage this year and titled it “Inside.” It hangs next to a similarly framed photograph from 2013 called “Green Marble Quarry.” Caroline imagines “Inside” portrays the rock before it was taken from that quarry.
Just as that image reveals stone extracted from deep in the ground, the 24 pieces her show reveal expressions offered by the artist over the past 20 years. Drawings, paintings, collages, and photographs span small and large, dark and light. “Glimpse” is the current exhibit in the Spotlight Gallery.
The Way it Feels
The art on display is a compilation of work created by Caroline between 1998 and 2017. The largest collage, “Mirror Mirror on the Wall,” is made from several pieces, cut, re-assembled, and painted. Caroline describes putting it together. “When I was making it, I was very focused on the colors. I was very excited! I was risking putting color on my charcoal drawing. … and was feeling very brave to put sparkles in my drawing.”
Only one piece is an intact drawing. “Ma Lettre,” made in 2001, is Caroline’s depiction of herself just before her marriage, writing a love letter to her family. While creating the charcoal drawing, she asked herself, “What happens when somebody’s moving instead of being static? What happens when the model is clothed?” The change in approach “empowered us both, in a way. It felt great.”
Look to the right of Lettre and you see a stamp collage, to the left, a folded watercolor. “All of the pieces are me taking parts and pieces and collaging them together and trying to understand by making. To me, the whole show feels like that. It feels like a collage, it feels like a self-portrait.”
Yellow in a Small Dark Moment
More than half the art is folded watercolors or collages built on folded watercolors. They start small and grow larger. They start dark and grow brighter. The first, “Square Red and Orange Sail,” was made in a hospital.
“I’ve been hospitalized twice for bipolar disorder; the first time was for depression.” Some of the folds in the little piece made there are just a quarter inch apart; the painting is not even four inches wide or tall. Dark red, purple, and black appear with the sails. The yellow in the painting is crayon. “I didn’t have any yellow there, except for yellow crayon.” Her theory: People in hospitals need joy, and reach first for yellow.
The folds in later pieces span inches and the dimensions approach two feet. They are made with buoyant white, joyous yellow, glowing orange, and sky blue. “These watercolors came after I left the hospital and I was home and I was healing. It was like this burst of energy was coming, and I was making all these folded pieces.”
Brave Enough to Look
“Sometimes when I explore dark areas it’s on purpose.” Making “Inside” (image top left), she covered the page with India ink then, “I went in and used the collage to bring light out of the dark.” Looking at “Dark Tide” she explains, “The dark was kind of creeping into the piece.” It was coming in “unintentionally.”
“When I say unintentionally — I’m using black and I’m putting it on there. So, I’m using it, but I don’t necessarily want it to become so dark. The black is pulling into the wet area. So, I use the gold leaf … The gold leaf in different lights acts as a color that’s really bright. It’s really shiny and it lightens everything up again.”
She is also exploring small work. Whole pieces are themed and built on cancelled stamps. “The stamp collages are a way of getting really small.” Pointing out details in “Tulip Stamp” Caroline says, “I love it. It has two little tulips. It feels like a little house almost. It feels like home.”
Finding Balance in Circles
You can’t make a two-dimensional circle by folding. Craving that shape, Caroline began experimenting with mixing other materials with watercolors. She added acrylics and ink, all of which dry at different rates. At just the right time, Caroline took photographs. The smallest and darkest is “Water Orange,“ then, “The Title is Up to You.” Light and dark integrated in the largest of the three, “Healing Mantras.”
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
If Caroline could go back in time and reassure the 1998 Caroline in any way, she would tell her “not to worry so much.” She would advise a young Caroline: “Just enjoy the process of making.”
She is comfortable saying she doesn’t know what’s next. “Right now I’m working on being in the moment, so it’s harder to see further ahead. I’m hoping I will continue to be creative and thrilled by the making.”
The one thing she is certain she would like to create? “Joy. I would love to leave some joy behind.”
You can meet Caroline at a reception in the Spotlight Gallery during Montpelier’s February 2 Art Walk 4-7 p.m.