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Beautiful Disaster

ae2Local artist Glenn Carter invites Santa Cruzans to discover beauty in the mess

Powerful reactions are commonplace when it comes to Glenn Carter’s art. During the 2011 Open Studios tour, the Santa Cruz artist recalls being approached by a spectator who had come through the exhibit feeling intensely affected. “It was toward the end of her visit and she remarked how stirring all the work was for her on a very deep level,” Carter says. “And then she welled up with tears, saying ‘Thank you for this.’ Seeing someone moved to that level of deep and sincere feeling is the highest compliment I could hope to receive.”

Anyone who has seen Carter’s work can attest to the fact that two-dimensional photos of his work do not do it justice. It must be viewed in person.

Santa Cruz County residents have the opportunity to experience Carter’s work firsthand at the Cabrillo Gallery through March 9. The exhibit, “A Guest to the Mystery,” includes original mixed media pieces that make good use of recycled manufactured materials through a heavily layered process. “I chose Glenn based on the strength of his work and as an artist dedicated to the experimental process of art making,” says Tobin Keller, gallery director. “Our desire is to enlighten and educate the Cabrillo community and that of Santa Cruz County and beyond. The ultimate goal is to educate, and Glenn has a rich and deep history as an artist.”

Carter also has a deep history in Santa Cruz, having lived in the county since the early 1970s. Although art is his passion, construction has been Carter’s trade for most of his adult life. His extensive experience in contracted painting gave him an understanding of a wide range of materials that he now uses for his compositions. “When I got into more decorative finishes,” explains Carter, “there was a lot of crossover in translation of meanings and materials, so I was able to continually experiment at work, which has led to the kind of work that you see now.” Without any classical training, aside from a few miscellaneous watercolor classes in the area, Carter has developed a style all his own. “I’ve always been passionate about creating work,” notes Carter. “I think that’s really all you need. If you’re passionate and you keep doing it, you’ll succeed on one level or another.”

And succeed he has, in his own experimental way, using unlikely materials that seem more at home on a construction site than in an art gallery. Used steel wool, sandpaper, matted and dried paint brushes, and other hard industrial items are elevated to a higher art in Carter’s deft hands.

“I definitely have a talent for bringing beauty to things like these diverse, kind of crummy materials. I’m very interested in messes, the beauty in a mess, that is what a lot of this work is about.” Carter speaks to being a guest in the universe, understanding the converging of matter and materials, their responses to each other naturally and as a result of his manipulation.

Carter’s exhibit also will serve instructional value for art students and art lovers alike.

“Like any good artwork, or exhibition, students will learn a unique process,” says Keller, “a particular approach to art making, one that is not based on formula or recipe. They will see and hear how experimentation combined with a conceptual direction can be just as powerful and evocative as observational art.”

For Carter, there are a number of wisdoms and inspirations that he hopes students will take from his work. “I would hope that a student could have a reaction like, ‘Oh I could do this, not necessarily what the teacher, the class, or the public says I should do’—do what feels right.

“The most important thing is to work,” Carter continues. “You have to put in the muscle. Do not get stuck in the idiom that it has to last forever. Nothing lasts forever. Except taxes.”

“A Guest to the Mystery” Exhibition start date: February 6, 2012.  Exhibition end date:  March 9, 2012. At Cabrillo Gallery, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. Opening Reception is 5-6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16. Carter will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21. For details, visit cabrillo.edu/services/artgallery/index.html.

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