Michelle Carlson artwork currently at 20 North Gallery
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Michelle Carlson grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Carlson received her BFA in Printmaking and Photography from Bradley University in Peoria (Illinois) and her MFA specializing in Printmaking at Bowling Green State University (Ohio). Her personal artwork primarily uses the media of printmaking, photography, bookmaking and drawing and explores human interaction and relationships through various imagery. During her former role as Programs Coordinator and then Artist and Youth Services Coordinator at The Arts Commission in Toledo (Ohio), Michelle’s passion for making a difference in the lives of youth deepened. She is grateful to have had community teaching opportunities as a result of separate partnerships with Toledo’s YWCA, the Juvenile Court, the Toledo Museum of Art, Handmade Toledo and Art Supply Depo in the form of hands-on workshops. These sessions aimed to introduce the media of screen printing while providing an outlet for personal self-expression for all ages. Michelle is currently exploring career options in Special Education as she holds positions as a paraprofessional in the public school setting. In 2019, Carlson returned to Toledo to present her most recent series of work in a two-artist exhibit, Falling Into Place: Michelle Carlson & Bill Horvath at 20 North Gallery.
My work explores an interest in the interaction between the micro and the macro in organic life, as it is symbolic of the social relationships between humans. I create organic forms—inspired by wounds, microorganisms, and organ systems—to co-habitate in one composition, so that I may explore the concepts of nurturing dependency and parasitic existence evident in relationships. The use of rich color and texture embeds these necessary and tragic relationships with a delicate, alluring tenderness.
More recently, I have stepped back from biomorphic abstraction, to inspect the variety of form and complexity of relationships in animal and plant life. The various types of animals and vegetation and their contrast combined with their connection to one another is both an inspiration and another type of subject matter for my exploration of human relationships.
Boy and Blanket Series
The imagination of a child is endless. The imagination of a mother, upon being separated from her child, may also have a consuming presence. This series of works on paper explores a child’s desire for exploration and discovery balanced by a mother’s drive to both protect and empower.
We often forget the reality of newness surrounding a child in daily life. For most adults, days are filled with routine and habit, yielding efficiency and in some cases undesirable hang-ups. The cliché image of a child hugging a teddy bear points to our acceptance of certain behaviors as a child develops emotionally inside their reality of newness. A comfort object, replacement object, lovey, blanket, teddy, bunny or the sundry list of pet names is a transitional substitute for a child’s natural caregiver. “Although he is one of the most thoughtful and level-headed kids in the neighborhood, Linus (Van Pelt) is a nervous wreck whenever he’s separated from his trusty security blanket….The versatile blanket can be used for self-defense, as an offensive weapon, a parachute, a folded airplane, a hammock and even as a pair of sportcoats for Snoopy and Woodstock although that usage proved to be very traumatic for Linus.” (Fargo, 2017, p. 96)
This series also explores the symbolism of the color blue. The blue tint of Linus’s blanket dialogues with the iconic blue stole of the Mother of God. “By the fifth century artistic images of Mary began to appear – eventually she would be portrayed in art and music more than any other woman in the history of the world.” (Blue, 2019, p. 148) Linus expected his blanket to be a constant, in its many useful forms. Blessed Virgin Mary is many things to many people across many religions. “The versions of Mary are vast…Mary is Our Lady of Grace, Compassion, Light, Sorrows, Mercy, Guidance, the Daughter of Zion, Seat of Wisdom, Refuge of Sinners, Mirror of Justice, Queen of Peace, Star of the Sea, Mystical Rose.” (Blue, 2019, p. 157)
Inspired by pop culture and spiritual iconography, the series Boy and Blanket, uses rich flats of color, pauses of negative space and gold leaf to conjure the vastness – both inspiring and overwhelming – of childhood imagination and a necessary accumulation of independence.
Blue, Debbie. Consider the Women: A Provocative Guide to Three Matriarchs of the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2019.
Fargo, Andrew. The Complete Peanuts Family Album: The Ultimate Guide to Charles M. Schulz’s Classic Characters. San Francisco: Weldon Owen, 2017.
Nurturing and Protective Fruit Series
These past two summers, much of my free time was filled with cultivating my very first vegetable garden outside my apartment building. I found it very gratifying to care for something but bittersweet to know the tomato plants would dry up and fall over by October. Tending to living organisms that grew and grew and transformed and then left so quickly was so honest and real.
These two series are inspired by the protective devices of nature. Whether a fuzzy bud, protecting a tree’s reproductive organs until the next spring, or a bright red, fleshy berry called to be eaten and then replanted away from the parent bush, the honesty of these biological phenomenon are sweet and humble metaphors for our relationships to one another.
Previous 20 North Gallery exhibitions including artwork by Michelle Carlson
- ARToledo 2008: June 21 – July 27, 2008. Click to view exhibit postcard.
- 20 North/20 Years: April 20 – May 26, 2012. Click to view exhibit postcard.
- Art for All Souls: November 2 – January 12, 2013. Click to view exhibit postcard.
- Luminosity: April 7 – June 30, 2017. Click to view exhibit page.
- Falling Into Place: Michelle Carlson & Bill Horvath: October 11 – December 28, 2019. Click to view exhibit page.