2007/11/23

ART MATTERS: Carla Aumick C


Carla B. Aumick: 1988 - 2007

Growing up I learned to convert abstract ideas into pictures as a way to understand them. I visualized concepts such as peace or honesty with symbolic images…peace as a dove, an Indian peace pipe, or TV ….footage of the signing of a peace agreement. (Temple Grandin, Thinking in Pictures)


Temple Grandin, PhD, animal scientist, designer of one third of the livestock-handling facilities in the United States wrote a remarkable book in which she closes a gap between humans and animals, describing her ability to identify problems and come up with solutions by “Thinking in Pictures - the title of her book. In her wisdom as a knowledgeable scientist and autistic person, Grandin’s research towards humane practices for farm animals coupled with an ability to solve problems of cattle behavior parallels a similar approach artists take towards solving problems of complex thoughts and emotions, design and communication strategies. Describing herself as a “visual thinker” Grandin says, “I could only understand the world in that way ."


This is not a story about Temple Grandin, but about a young 19 year old adult, Carla Aumick. Although she was not autistic, Carla developed her own visual vocabulary exposing a long, detailed, sometimes dark thread of personal and social inquiry. Her drawings and paintings have been aptly recognized for their excellence by teachers, parents and friends. She was on a road to accomplishment amongst the world of artists, but more then that, like Temple Grandin, her imagery was informed by a unique vision while resolving ideas and problems into pictures. We all know this: Adolescence is an intriguing, albeit conflicted time of life – more in some and less in others. But whether or not we are children, whether or not we can associate with the root source of a painting, whether or not we support or even value art in it’s highest manner of expression, it’s hard to look away from heartfelt work influenced by its maker’s poignant search for life’s meanings. Like the art work of Carla Aumick.

To tell the truth she was just a little kid, tirelessly making images on paper, creating things as personal expression, exploring her relationships in the world without getting entirely tangled up in a “norm”. Such is the challenge for many art students. My guess is Carla was trying, the best way she had learned, to narrow the gap between worlds: cultural worlds, imaginary worlds, hers and parental worlds, individuality and the world of her schools and, cruelest of all, the rigid social world of all manners and expectations of conformity.

She was one of our hopefuls, weaving art work, culture and personal matters through a steady support (thanks to her parents) of private art tutoring. How was young Carla so strong to rock the boat of mediocrity? Carla was a student of art at our time of global, corporate driven mass production which (ridiculously) values and pays out handsomely for each of us (artists), if we actually become art stars and can manage to be “marketed” as “secure investments”. This is what is ‘hot’ in art: wars, cultural divides, endangerments of our planet and all species thereof, gender issues, economic debates, questions of beauty, and, the historically recurring debate of “what is art?”.

In Carla meets the World on Her Own Terms, an exhibition I would vote to produce in the future, why would these rules even matter? It was, and still is, a gift to me, an artist who didn’t spend enough time with Carla, to draw inspiration from her creative fortitude and self –invention.

And, speaking of gifts, my husband recently hands me a book titled “Early Christian Art” -a compilation of works produced in the first two centuries along with the conversion of Constantine the Great…paintings and sculptures “destined to inspire the artists of all lands of Europe and the Near East for nearly 2000 years to come:”. Many names of the artists of these paintings, sculptures and architectural reliefs are unknown or not recorded, but the works bear information typical of a social or religious group. They tell stories. Mostly about God. From the stories, we understand pieces of our history and better yet, we can make it up and be a human link to that history and walk back in time to “greet” our ancestors. As a contemporary “artist-in-the-making”, Carla Aumick”s student art works will some day offer us a “step back” to an important life of beauty and love, conflict and distress, visual maps of a Hudson Valley adolescent remaking a world that (typically, I suppose) never quite fits (unless, of course, you Make It Fit) She was triumphant in closely guarding personal viewpoints, clinging to her rights to think independently, and forming her visions, as a young adult, into paintings. (How young were those widely admired Cave Painters or Aboriginal artists luring a world of artists to come see?)
As a high school student, Carla Aumick’s work was honored through a selection process, by the Bertoni Gallery in Sugar Loaf, NY for inclusion in their 7th Annual Small Works Exhibition in 2006. Her work was also included in the book “The Day Our World Changed: Children’s art of 9/11, a production of NYU Child Study Center and the Museum of the City of New York, published by Harry Abrams.

Carla was killed in an automobile accident, Nov 1st, 2007 in Wallkill, NY, headed towards her nearby home in Pine Bush, NY.

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