Lucky New Yorkers in the know – and even luckier visitors – are directing their friends to Sea Idylls, Carole Feuerman’s Monumental Exhibition on Park Avenue between 34th and 39th streets in Manhattan.
Guest Post by Amanda Wall
An extension of Carole’s solo exhibition at Galeries Bartoux at 104 Central Park South, swimmer goddesses cascade down Park Ave as if they found their perfect temple of worship. As Carole gave her artist talk to a group of guests and art world professionals in front of Bibi on the Ball, cars were stopping to yell out of the window, “I love your work!” It felt like a red carpet moment that very few artists have the privilege to experience in their lifetime. Another epic location – Art Egypt in Giza – is in the works.
I recommend reading her autobiography My Hyperrealist Life and Legacy, Edition 2. I had the pleasure of interviewing Carole for this post and it became apparent there is more beneath the surface of the swimmers (and the history of their origin), in addition to their Zen titles and alluring beauty.
Carole’s amazing drive and ambition doesn’t stop with art world “luxury brand” success. She wants to leave a legacy, in other words, to be written into the art history canon as one of the original founders of hyperrealist sculpture – from the 70s and 80s – along with her contemporaries: Duane Hanson and John De Andrea.
A woman’s perspective of an art movement was sprinkled into our conversation (her early work was embedded in the foundation of hyperrealism). Her first champion was Malcolm Forbes, the founder of Forbes magazine (who is described on Wikipedia as “an avid but idiosyncratic collector”). Recognizing her talent and potential, Forbes became her first major collector and bought out her first gallery solo show, Sculpture, Sensuality, Fragments Part 1 at Hansen Gallery in the Fuller Building of Midtown Manhattan.
SYNOPSIS OF AN INSPIRING AND TRANSPARENT INTERVIEW WITH CAROLE FEUERMAN
CAROLE’s EARLY INFLUENCES
Carole’s grandfather and grandmother were influential, supportive parental figures, “The things they taught me I could understand.” Her grandfather was a self-made entrepreneur running one of the first yellow cab companies in Brooklyn. She reminisced about the Liberty Ranch in upstate NY, where she grew up with land, horses, a lake, and family houses close to one another. Carole shared happy memories about a dollhouse her grandfather built for her, riding horses with him, and a time when he cut off his pants to get in the lake with her (even though he couldn’t swim). He believed in her talent and helped her with her first art studio. Actress Esther Williams – famous at that time – taught Carole how to swim, foreshadowing the future content of these Sea Idylls sculptures.
THE DENTIST’S OFFICE
In the late 70s, while life-casting with polyester resin, the sink was overflowing from Carole’s studio into a dentist’s office below. The secretary from the dentist’s office knocked on the door and announced they were getting wet, and also high from the fumes. Carole was evicted and upset until her grandfather’s response was “own your own property and don’t take partners”. He helped her acquire an auto body garage as her own studio.
FAME AND FIRST LIFE CASTS
“My sculptures were not about celebrities, although I was exposed to celebrity culture with my album covers. I was an illustrator to pay my way through the School of Visual Arts. I wanted to learn how to life-cast, and I made a sculpture for National Lampoon Magazine and another androgynous body cast for a magazine cover article called The Age of Androgyny. Gender fluidity was becoming more mainstream through music and art in the 80s.”
When Carole wanted to learn how to cast in resin, she secretly hired Ben Bianchi (Duane Hanson’s figure model). Ben said she should start small with body part castings, so she started with her own body. Ben, who was working with Malcom Moorely –a famous photorealist painter – suggested they get his opinion. To avoid “the boy’s club” and Duane Hanson finding out about her collaboration with Ben, Malcolm Moorely came down to critique the pieces in the trunk of her car.
Snorkel was actually her first swimmer, and Malcom Forbes bought the sculpture (also insisting there would be no other existing copies). Snorkel went to Fiji Island, and Carole, due to the originality agreement with Forbes, needed to create another swimmer. She called the next one Catalina (named after an island in California); she made an edition of three. Catalina became the original avatar of the ideal. Survival of Serena – inspired by immigration – followed in editions of nine. Carole, ambitious and ready to compete with “the boy’s club,” took Serena to Ivan Karp at OK Harris gallery in Soho (the Pace or Gagosian of that time). Serena evolved as she became happier after 50, into the glamorous, post-Pop Art version she is today.
WATER AND EROTIC ORIGINS
“People always think that I love swimming, but I really liked the ocean – the breeze, jumping in the waves, and water’s healing properties. I learned my lesson that the world wasn’t ready for my first body of work, my erotic fragments, especially in a gallery in Fort Worth (TX) in 1979.” After her disappointment with Rated X (rated PG by 2023 standards), Carole decided to do the least erotic art, by focusing on leisure sports.
Her second show, Sculpture, Sensuality & Spiritualism, Fragments, Part 1 at Hansen Gallery in the Fuller Building in Manhattan, introduced the swimmers. Malcom Forbes, her first major collector, bought the original erotic series and Snorkel. “When I tried to be edgy like the men, it wasn’t cool.” The world wasn’t ready for a sculptor creating erotic art from the female gaze, but Forbes was hooked. When an artist and a collector or dealer are on the same controversial page, it marks moments in art history ahead of their time.
THE BOY’S CLUB
Ivan Karp at OK Harris gallery represented Duane Hanson and John De Andrea, while showing Carole at OK Harris West. “I heard that Duane was caught looking very closely at my work, and I knew he was threatened by me. He and John were known, and I was not.”
Catalina was the beginning, a symbol of strength and bravery, what a woman aspires to be in order to push through life’s challenges. “Serena grew as I grew, and that was very important.” Her sculpture, Balance, recently transformed into Justice. Society’s need for balance evolved into a need for justice. The pieces change while the concept remains. The work is about the issues that women face.
Conceptually, the idealized becomes relatable. Hyperrealism isn’t real. Carole’s hyperrealism is a fantasy of women’s aspirations, but underneath is a story of survival, perseverance and an artist’s hustle for visibility and the right to be written into art history.
© Amanda Wall (8/28/23) – Special for FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Click here to visit Carole’s website.
For more links, visit Carole’s Wikipedia page.
Click here to see photos of swimmer turned actress Esther Williams.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Sculptor Carole A. Feuerman in front of Bibi on the Ball on the opening day of her solo outdoor public art show on Park Avenue in Manhattan. (4/27/23) Credit: © Milo Hess / ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: 2PTCC44
Middle Photo: Courtesy of Carole Feuerman Studio. All Rights Reserved.
Bottom Photo: Carole Feuerman on Park Avenue with Pisces = Photo by Amanda Wall. Approved for legitimate by others use as long as link to this page is provided in user’s credits.
Amanda Wall is a Brooklyn-based painter. She graduated from the University of Tulsa (OK) with a Bachelors of Fine Arts (Painting and Communication Design), and received a Masters of Fine Arts (Painting and Drawing) from Pratt Institute in 2020. Click here for CV and samples of her work on her website