CAROL NEWBORG Visual Artist
Sanctuary spaces and natural forms have always inspired me. My first installations were large-scale environments created with hand-made ceramic pyramids, logs and other forms. These works were a response to long stays near sanctuary ruins during a year of travel in Southern Europe.
Later I worked with found wood to make sanctuary installations, which were a personal homage to the Chiapas Maya. During an artist residency in Chiapas I frequently visited Chamula's church which had a pine-needle covered floor instead of pews. These visits helped me to value and create meditative spaces.
The sanctuary installations are also a bridge to my long-term work with art in California prisons through Arts in Corrections. In the mid-eighties I had California Arts Council grants to set up a new studio in a women’s prison outside of Los Angeles. Later I realized it was a type of sanctuary, as are the other prison art studios in which I continue to teach and collaborate.
Infinitely varied but repeated elements of the natural world are the model for some recent installations, which are composed of many small but slightly different paper mache forms. I am inspired by the way that rocks and shells washed up on a beach appear similar but are each distinct. Spending time in nature looking at its infinite variety is a type of meditation which helps me focus for my arts work in the community.
In contrast to clay and the solid small paper mache forms, recently I’ve worked with light-weight forms made from wire and paper or textiles. Some of these pieces are inspired by petroglyphs and the sense of a now-unknowable language. Other sets were inspired by nature, such as the almost abstract natural elements found on a forest floor. Forming and building multiples and installing them differently for specific sites have been elements of my art since the mid-70’s.
I find that seeing the role of art in prison to help people change and heal confirms art's necessity to life. My ongoing work in arts in corrections inspires me to continue to explore my own deepest connections to art and its meaning for me- a way to experience nature and to share the world with others.