Interview with Caroline E. Absher by Rebecca Brantley
R.B.: Where and when were born? Briefly describe your personal journey to New York.
C.A.: I was born in North Carolina and moved to South Carolina at a young age. I got lucky, because in Greenville, South Carolina there is a publicly funded boarding school, the Governor's School. It is admission based and allows students from all over the state to concentrate in dance, drama, writing, music, or visual arts during their last two years of high school. My time there was like being in any fictional novel about arts boarding schools. It is everything you would expect. Visual artists were allowed complete creative freedom and access to material—stocked studios in every medium from the age of sixteen. So, that’s where I realized how prominent a part of my life I wanted painting to be. Then I moved to New York to attend Pratt Institute.
R.B.: Where do you work? Describe your studio practice.
C.A.: I’ve bumped around from studio to studio, because as we know New York is both the best and the most expensive city to make work in. Most recently I was given the opportunity to work in an artist run, “pay-what-you-can,” multidisciplinary studio space in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The most important thing for me is having other makers around me, motivating me, speaking with me about their work, and generally providing inspiration through their work ethic. If I had a studio to myself, I would spend far too much time over-thinking in complete silence!
R.B.: How did your experience at Pratt shape your artistic career?
C.A.: My experience at Pratt is still difficult to put into words! I think the only way to deeply benefit from a BFA is not really making objects, but putting the work into knowing your professors on a personal level, and latching onto any students whose work you admire, regardless of whether or not you think they want to be your friend. Halfway through Pratt I sort of decided I made the necessary connections in the painting department and didn’t need to fulfill a BFA. I graduated with a degree in Art History — and I am thankful every day to have that knowledge, which is hard to obtain unless you’re literally forced to sit in dark lecture halls for hundreds of hours, analyzing slides.
R.B.: How does working as an art director inform or intersect with your studio practice?
C.A.: I think about this all the time! My work as a production designer is the perfect escape from the creative process, because although it is creative work, it stems from a different place in the brain. My painter self is still active and ruminating throughout the day while I’m building sets, but it isn’t as self aware as it would be if I made money in a job closer to painting, if that makes sense. I am very lucky to have a career that keeps those gears turning without becoming desensitized.