CAROL COLE . The Bubble Blower
Carol Cole's The Bubble Blower invites the viewer to ponder how the artist's considerations have persisted through time and how they have defined a particular moment in history. It is a rare occasion, outside of a museum retrospective or an open studio, to have the opportunity to view multiple works, made over time.
In the early seventies, when she was in her late twenties, Carol Cole took her first art class at the Masur Museum of Art in Louisiana. A few years later, in 1977 - the year The National Women's Studies Association was established - her Bubble Blower series was exhibited at Bienville Gallery in New Orleans. Breast (from The Metamorphosis for Franz Kafka), 1976, was the first Bubble Blower drawing in a series of fragile pencil and color pencil drawings that featured dome-shaped figures emblematic of the female breast. As a symbol of both nurture and vulnerability, the breast gradually became a focal point for the artist's work.
Upon completion of The Bubble Blower series, Cole realized that her work was grounded by psychological fear. This resulted in FEA.R.S. (Finally Everything Remembered Simultaneously), a series of color pencil drawings (1977-1978) and sculptures (1991-1992), addressing the artist's many challenges.
In 1998, by recycling techniques from her previous artwork, her inspiration for The Bubble Blower, evolved into The Resurrection of the Bubble Blower. In this series, Cole surpasses the complexities of her earlier sculptures. Materials such as miniature imitation fruit, pompoms and doll hair are combined with a lively palette and titles, which give the work a celebratory tone.
The burning desire to make art has always sustained Cole. Whether playful, witty or poignant, the artist's work was always driven by values. She learned early on what it meant to be a fallible, fragile human being. It led her to trust her experience, to face her fears and overcome consequent psychological obstacles.
Through her work, Carol Cole illustrates that identities always overlap, that they can never be understood as separate and that gender is part of a larger structure of oppression and injustice, something she has always dealt with in her own way. Nothing Carol Cole has ever done has been career driven. Instead, she always advocates the human need for nurture, shared vulnerabilities and the potential for living generously by encouraging everyone to be honest about their humanity.
The works, on display in the exhibition, are just a small selection from a large body of work. Never reductive or bracingly political, the artist's work is first and foremost humanist.
Carol Cole's artistic career spans over forty years. Born in 1943 in Mississippi, she has been working and living in Greensboro, NC, since 1984. Her most recent show, Carol Cole: Cast a Clear Light, was on view at the Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNCG from March through June, 2018. The exhibition was co-curated by Dr. Emily Stamey, Weatherspoon Curator of Exhibitions, NC, and Paddy Johnson, Editor of Art F City, New York.