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A chat with the 2022 Carter Community Artists, part 1

Mar 01, 2022


Michelle Padilla, Digital Content Strategist

Part of  these categories:: Carter in the Community

March is Women’s History Month and, in 2022, all four of our Carter Community Artists happen to be women! We were able to pull them away from their creative practices just long enough to answer a few questions about their work. This is part one of a two-part blog post. Read part two here.

How has being a woman influenced your art?

Four portraits of the 2022 Carter Community Artists.

(Top L-R) Dan Jian, Calder Kamin; (Bottom L-R) Mary Nangah, Rachel Nash

Calder Kamin: My main method of sculpting is crochet, often thought of as a feminine pastime, either with plastic bags or what is also known as “plarn” [yarn made from recycled plastic]. The divine obsession of making things with my hands I gladly accept from the female artisans who came before me! The creatures I make are soft, sweet, and the colors are super saccharine. Unapologetically cute. Yes, I'm girly, strong, and I can name five favorite female artists who inspire me (even more!): Lee Bontecou, Ruth Asawa, Jean Shin, Maya Lin, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles. #5WomenArtists

Mary Nangah: My creative practice naturally embodies my identity, sensibilities, experiences, and curiosities. Therefore, being a woman is inherently part of my art practice.

Dan Jian: In a recent project, I looked at the symbolic system in East Asian ink painting, where trees, rocks, and plants symbolize individual men, yet never once is a female or the feminine represented. Now in my new drawings, if I anthropomorphize an animal or a plant, it has to be a female body to make up for that.

Rachel Nash: Of course it has! I believe that painting is an extension of self. A piece of my identity is being a woman, so it comes out in how I paint, when I paint, and the content of my paintings.

What inspires you to make art?

Calder Kamin: Nature’s endless ability to reuse and adapt motivates me to eliminate waste and reimagine it as sculpture, animations, and installations for audiences of all ages. Through art, education, and an enduring optimism, I am out to empower others to see potential in by-product materials and in themselves.

Mary Nangah: I am largely inspired by disrupting the canon to provoke inquiries, dialogue, and reconsiderations. My paintings exude a binary of desirable exoticism with narratives of objectification.

Dan Jian: I make work to explore an inner world of stored images and to build an abstracted narrative that shifts space and time. It is self-indulgent, admittedly, but then I hope the making can also serve as a gift, a dialogue, or an exchange with others. So, I make art on the one hand to belong, and to be with history at the same time. It is a privilege to be an artist in this sense.

Black and white artwork depicting a zig-zag brick wall, doors, trees, a bird, and a caped figure.

Dan Jian, Night Departure, 2022, Ashes, charcoal dust, tracing paper on board, Courtesy of the artist

Rachel Nash: I am inspired by creation. Whether that is nature outside, human nature, or the interaction of the two, both consistently draw me in to new ideas. I love hearing the stories of other people and sharing my own.

Some people like to make “art for art’s sake,” while others like to make art with a message. For you, what is the purpose of your art?

Calder Kamin: Humans transformed nature to make our lives more convenient, only to leave a massive mess for the next generation. My contribution for radical change is to shift society’s perception of trash. I want to empower others to see the potential in overlooked materials.

Detail of an installation featuring a colorful fox on a tree stump surrounded by flowers.

Calder Kamin, detail of A World Without Waste, 2020, Wood, hose, foam, glass eyes, plastic trash, Photo courtesy of Essentials Creative

Mary Nangah: I believe every work of art has a soul that innately reveals messages and exudes sensations. I aim for my paintings to attract and perplex the viewer. My use of vibrant colors, peculiar forms, and intense textures draws the viewer closer. However, with closer observation, what seems to be appealing transitions into being disturbing. While my paintings embody a message, they also function as “art for art’s sake.” In doing so, the message is alive in the uncertainties of the narratives within the brush strokes.

Dan Jian: I really don’t see those two being separated. Even “art for art’s sake” is a message and could be viewed as a political stance. Similarly, a good political or conceptual work can address aesthetics. I hope my work is both. In terms of effort, I only try to resist cliché or acting too calculated for a singular outcome.

Rachel Nash: It is both for art’s sake and often contains a message. I am a better person when I am making art. It is a way for me to process, take time to create and slow down, and connect to God. Art also holds space. It holds space for stories to come to life, for people to connect to ideas and moments in time, and for expressions to live. Sometimes art tells my own story, sometimes it tells the story of others, and sometimes it is for people to see their own story through my art.

We love our Carter Community Artists! Check out what they are up to on their websites or follow them on social media at Calder Kamin at @calderful, Dan Jian, and Rachel Nash at @rachelnashgallery. Mary Nangah is working on a website–look for it soon!