Artist: Carly Lake
Media: Mixed Media Installation
Gallery: Dennis W. Dutzi Gallery
About the Artist
Carly Lake’s work may focus on intimacy with oneself and with solitude, but her outward demeanor is not at all like the topic of her project. She is as warm and open as an old friend, and she was clearly enthusiastic about her work. Carly is an undergraduate at CSULB, and obtained her BFA there. She finds watercolor her favorite medium to work with because of it’s fluidity and the challenge it can present. She is most often found working in the morning hours. She also occasionally enjoys listening to music while she works. Carly balances the sedateness of art with more active hobbies, like soccer and she tries to exercise often. Carly worked on her exhibition, Closer, with May Ta. In this exhibition, a number of ideas were explored. Carly stated that she wanted to show both sides of human intimacy. That it has both challenges and rewards. And that it is important to get to know oneself through solitude.
Carly had a number of pieces in her part of the exhibition, so for the sake of space I will describe the three I found most intriguing, and also the piece that Carly told me was her favorite and the most meaningful to her. The first was called Commute, a painting that was the one the first to catch my eye. The scene is of a busy highway with skyscrapers. This part is done in only shades of gray with black outlines, giving it a sterile feeling. Though the subject matter is very mechanical, Carly uses fluid lines to give the image a flowing shape. Overlaying this picture is a series of transparent, red human figures. They appear to be women, and look to be dancing with hands joined. Their curved bodies and energetic stances convey a sense of movement and freedom to the piece. The color also brings a certain energy and power to the work. The next piece is actually three small statues called Beings. They are amorphous, vaguely human shapes that appear to be either kneeling or sitting cross-legged. Two are brightly colored, bringing a cheerful feeling to the viewer. The third, though, is black with white highlights and a large empty space in the middle. The colors and slightly bent shape convey deep sadness or loss. The third piece is called Clonal Mojave Yucca. It is a hanging board with a circle of finger like projections. Under each is a length of string that was entwined with the others. The tangled string has an unpleasant, discordant look to it. The top is much more ordered. Though it still has a fluid, organic quality in both color and shape. The piece Carly loved most was a blanket made of sewn together letters between her and her boyfriend. The piece may be sown onto a blanket, but it has none of the softness associated with one. This blanket is rather stiff and has a dry, scratch appearance. Since the surface is made of paper sown in a random pattern, it has a wild and disorganized look, like papers dropped on the floor in a hurry.
Carly’s art may span many media, but the same powerful message remains. In a statement at the entrance to the exhibit, Carly and May placed a message stating that while people all desire intamacy with others, we are in the end, always alone. They believe that one must find a balance between seeking intimacy with others and finding it with ourselves, since relationships can either be a hinderance to finding oneself or a pathway to it. They also attempted to show how the human body and the objects that one collects can be ways to convey the personal contemplations of an individual. In my personal discussion with Carly though, she gave me some insights into what some of the individual messages of her pieces were. In Beings Carly wanted to show a diverse array of emotions felt by people. She told me each small statue was meant to appear to be kneeling. She wanted to show that this position can be one used in both great sorrow and despair (as in the black and white figure with a hollow center), and how it can also be used to convey joy and bonding (as in the larger, brightly colored figure with other figures pained on it). I was particularly intrigued by Clonal Mojave Yucca. Carly told me it is actually not inspired by people in a group but by Yucca trees. These trees start out as a single tree, which spreads in a concentric ring outwards. It looks like a circle of trees, but Carly told me it is actually considered only one organism because the roots are connected. In her mixed media piece, Carly used small, finger-like staues to represent the trees. Then she used string underneath a brilliantly painted board to represent the root system. This installation didn’t just represent the flora of the Mojave desert, however. It also is a metaphor for human relationships. We may seem very separate on the surface, but in actuality we are all interconnected, almost like being part of the same organism. Carly also mentioned that the tangled string represents our connection to nature as well as to others. Carly’s favorite piece, the blanket made of love letters also had a deeper meaning. It was a very personal piece, sine it was made of letters written over the years between her and her boyfriend. She said it actually took quite a bit of bravery to put it out for the public to read. What I wanted to know was why she chose to turn her letters into a blanket and not, for instance, a mobile or a simple framed picture. She told me it was because of what both a blanket and a bed represent. The bed is a place of contemplation and is one of the more intimate spaces we inhabit. She said that a blanket can also be used to keep us apart from others, like when we pull a blanket around ourselves to keep the outside world away in favor of our own private thoughts. Carly’s work shares a common theme, but the greatest meaning is derived when one takes the time to understand each piece fully.
Synthesis/ My Experience
When I first saw the exhibit in the Dennis W. Dutzi gallery, I knew that it was something special. I wanted to know what it was about. The funny thing is, generally I enjoy going through an exhibit before reading the creator’s message,though. This gave me a rather unique perspective on the art. I saw the loneliness in May Ta’s work, but in Carly’s work I didn’t. I saw instead a joy in connections with others. I saw some of the separateness, like how in Clonal Mojave Yucca each tree/person is a separate organism. Or how in Commute the cars on the highway could be shown as mechanisms to keep people apart. But the underlying theme was one of interconnectedness. In Beings, the statue with the most positive demeanor (smiling faces and bright colors) was the one that was not alone. It had other figures painted on it, swirling and intertwined with the main statue. The saddest figure was the small black and white one. With its empty center and bent posture it seems the epitome of grief, but more of loneliness. Clonal Mojave Yucca also seemed to have an underlying theme of the importance of human relationships. The bright thread under the figures that is intertwined to me represents positive connections to others. And since the thread also represents roots it seems especially poignant. Roots have a connotation of being immovable and forged through many years of work. Like a relation with a spouse or family member or even a friend who has stood by you through the years and trials of life. Commute also had strong connection themes. The dancing red figures with joined hands to me represented the desire of the people in a big city to be closer to those around them. Even the title of the entire Exhibition was called Closer. As if the purpose of the works was to bring people closer together and to show the importance of connection. This was my interpretation. Carly and May’s message at the entrance to the gallery was slightly different. They told of how the works together represent our desire for intimacy, but also the understanding that we can’t really have it. That we will always be strangers from each other. And that while relationships may serve as a pathway to finding oneself, they can also keep you back from discovering your true nature. I find it hard to say where I stand in this perspective. Having recently taken a Meyers-Briggs personality test, I have been placed almost squarely in the middle of introvert and extrovert. I enjoy spending time alone, where I can contemplate my life with a good book or drawing. But I also crave connections with others, and can spend hours talking with my friend Olivia about science, medicine, relationships, and everything inbetween. It’s a unique place to be and it causes me to see both sides of this fascinating exhibit. I find that the pieces I analyzed along with the statement meant to describe them, caused me to question which category I fall under. Do I see relationships as valuable tools for understanding myself, or do I see them as the opposite? As roadblocks in the way of knowing my true personality. Upon contemplation I must say I don’t believe that either thought is completely true. At least for me. I think life is not about black and white. Only about darker and lighter shades of gray. I believe that people need a balance of connection and separation to become the people they are meant to be. Some lean more towards one side or the other, but I believe no one is complete without both a relationship with others and a relationship with oneself. This work was something I found important, something that everyone can identify with. Because as everyone has had a desire to be apart from their fellow people, I know each person has held at some point a desire to draw Closer.