Squeak Carnwath: Spare Change

Turner Carroll Gallery, 725 Canyon Road. Santa Fe

"We love you Dr. Funkenstein, your funk is the best. Take my body and give it the mind to funk with the rest." - George Clinton and Parliament

Squeak Carnwath thinks with her skin. Variously associated with the seventies California Funk movement and the New Imagism of the early eighties, this painter of everything (and all the rest) produces membranes of oils and alkyds that are seductively sensual surfaces even as they represent the residue of a thinking woman' s thoughts. Her mature works, well represented here, are large Ab-Ex size paintings with scattershot imagistic compositions and handwritten words scrawled and scratched into their rich and varied surfaces. She credits a six-year-old's moment of arranging milk and cornflakes on the kitchen floor as the dawn of her artistic expressivity and finds her early inspiration in working with clay alongside teacher and close friend Viola Frey. Carnwath first gains notoriety with room-sized arrangements of ceramic installation art in homage to Virginia Wolfe, but soon chooses the abstract realm of paint over sculptural space as her permanent home. Having a late May birthday like Bob Dylan makes her a Gemini, so naturally her illuminating words matter as much if not more than any of her more material materials.

Carnwath's great ability rises out of autobiography that somehow goes universal when you least expect it. The more personal and cryptic her symbology and iconography becomes, the more cosmological significance she seems to gain. While her work has been described as childlike or even infantile, it can slip suddenly into profundity and relevant philosophical speculation in a way that makes you think twice or even thrice. Her works are vital and vulnerable. They are full of flavor and feeling and remain always unpretentious to the end. This last aspect, the willingness to skirt academic bullshit and to refuse the slick snob appeal behind which too much contemporary art takes refuge, is what makes a Carnwath print or painting seem like a generous breath of funky fresh air. Unfortunately it is probably also the reason she isn't as well known and respected, as she truly ought to be. In many of the paintings here she cordons off a piece of the piece with a dotted line, hilariously labeling the inside "guilt-free zone" and then presumably let's herself do whatever she wants. She gives the viewer the same permission. She thinks with her body by manipulating the tactility of colored dirt and somehow shows the way to a more humble, more human form of grace and majesty than our usual so-called sophistication allows us to accept.

Jon Carver, THE magazine, September, 2009

Manzoni's World, THE magazine, Feb., 2010

Tim Jag, THE magazine, Nov., 2009

Site Santa Fe, THE magazine, Sept., 2009

Katherine Lee, August, 2009

Chicana Badgrrls, THE magazine, July,2009

The Scupture Ranch, THE magazine, Sept., 2007

The Art and Artifice of Science, Art Papers, July, 2007

Gregory Lomayesva, THE magazine, July, 2006