Humannature- Artist Statement


Humannature is a series of painting that explore our capacity for denial and its necessity to live a low paranoia life.  The first part of the series depicts images of plants, many of which are common garden or yard plants, that possess varying levels of toxicity to humans.  Some can kill.  The second part of the series depicts microscope images of deadly diseases such as the bubonic plague or ebola.  All imagery is abstracted through blur, simulating myopia, beginning the metaphor of 'blinding oneself'.  Layers of sanded resin and oil glazes complete the abstraction while also providing a physical barrier between the dangerous subjects and the viewer.


The Pretenders- Artist Statement

I am fascinated with simulations.  Plastic rocks, virtual buttons, faux fur, and more are captivating, the more convincing, the better.  I have a visceral love/hate relationship with these things, a true guilty pleasure.  The Pretenders is a series that explores my fascination with the real/unreal and the lack of authenticity that comes with it.

This project started as an offshoot of the (Un)natural Habitats work from 2012, which was modeled in part on natural history dioramas and a departure from representational uses of color.  Digital photographs of landscapes served as backdrops for brightly colored painted animals in hues that were deviated utterly from nature.  This earlier series also dealt with illusion, where photographic elements were rendered in a painterly style and painted elements were rendered as realism.  In essence, this is where the ‘pretending’ began.

Nearly every aspect of The Pretenders references a characteristic of unreal.  The animals are based on a series of photographs taken from actual natural history dioramas.  These setups, even at their best, are pale simulations of life with theatrical staging, harsh lighting, and creepy taxidermy.  The landscape backgrounds of the dioramas have been replaced with wallpaper and decorative domestic patterns, amplifying the unreal context of space and place.  Many of these patterns are executed in glitter, a cheap facsimile of precious gems and metals.  The animals, as with (Un)natural Habitats, are represented with bright, unnatural hues to emphasize their unreal yet playful quality. There are even techniques of painting and surface that have been adapted out of architectural faux finishing to provide a final quality of visual trickery.

The Pretenders is not meant as a negative critique, however.  In its own way, it is a celebration of the fake.  Representational art is based on illusion.  These works revel in this illusion in every possible way, introducing some humor and lightness in the serious debate over what is ‘real’.  We live in an increasingly virtual world.  The Pretenders proposes that it is okay to be compelled by what is authentic and what is not.  There’s enough of both for all of us.

[Dis]location- Artist Statement

How can we simultaneously experience where we WANT to be and where we HAVE to be on any given day?  This is the conundrum that [Dis]location addresses.

Over a period of years, I have developed a habit of shooting camera phone photographs of places visited and seen.  Sometimes these places are close by and more frequently they are far away from home.  Initially there was no purpose for these images other than capturing the beauty and interest of whatever caught my eye.  However, they soon developed into the Lost and Found project, which started with sharing these images through social media and ended with mixed media photo-based paintings.  These paintings used the original landscape photo along the geographical coordinates of the image location, date/time of image capture, and even the software filter used to modify the image.  This project addressed the many tools one might need to rely on as a support for memory and its shortcomings.

[Dis]location uses a similar information delivery system, with photos taken and shared through social media first and then developed further as mixed media paintings.  This is where the similarity to the earlier works ends, though.  The importance of remembering is still there, but it has become secondary to new concepts.  The geographical coordinates, date and time are still part of the image matrix, but they now reference the places of mundane tasks that are undertaken on a weekly basis.  The grocery store, gas station, dry cleaner, office and many other random errand locations- all places of necessity- are represented through the text elements.  The photo-based images are all taken from places traveled to, near and far, which represent locations of desire, where I (and probably anyone!) would like to spend time.  They are beautiful, peaceful and relaxing.  They are memorable and idyllic. 

Ultimately, the works in [Dis]location function as daydreams.  The text is on the ‘outside’.  It is the reality of the situation.  The beautiful image is on the ‘inside’.  It is the place we want to be instead.  These seemingly disconnected concepts co-exist within the work, much in the same way that desire and obligation co-exist within our collective experience.


Lost and Found- Artist Statement

Cartography is defined as the science or art of making maps.  Historically, this process has involved the intertwining of science, aesthetics and technique in order to communicate a broad range of information, including geography, technology and even creative thinking.  The goals of cartography often include identifying and representing relevant traits, economizing information to reduce complexity and eliminate irrelevance, and through design, orchestrate all necessary elements into an organized and effective information delivery system.

The works in Lost and Found can be thought of as maps.  They include references to traditional mapmaking, such as the drawn and printed lines of topographical maps, text and symbols, in addition to latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates.  They start with a camera phone photograph and are released first through social media, representing a first phase of communication through readily available, relatively low-tech methods.  The locations themselves are unremarkable, other than possessing a time and place that felt worth remembering.  Further documentation of time, place and image is collected in the form of coordinates, date, time and photo filter text.  This process at times feels like hunting; at other times, an act of surveillance.

The images undergo a painstaking process of addition and elimination.  References are layered, in full or in part.  What was black and white becomes color, what was transparent becomes opaque, what was added becomes subtracted and scraped away.  Qualities of light and surface are completely altered.  Nothing is sacred; nothing is precious.  They are controlled and released, structured and intuitive.  In this way they have become a powerful metaphor.

The works in Lost and Found are maps.  But they are not only maps of a place.  They have become maps of memories and experiences.  They include specific information of time and place, but very little of it is complete or reliable in the way a cartographer would require.  They include multiple modes of examination and multiple modes of representation, but fall short of defining or fully representing with any clarity.  It is here they find meaning.  They are sharing without specifying.  They are revealing and concealing.   They have depth and significance, but can also be beautiful and fleeting.  They are Lost and Found.


Carl A. Linstrum, May 2013


(Un)Natural Habitats- Artist Statement

The act of discovery has long been a critical part of my creative practice.  New materials, new techniques and new subjects have been the fuel that has sustained my work for many years.  That moment of epiphany that comes with taking a risk and stumbling on something new and unexpected just never gets old.

This new series of work did not start out with radical change in mind.  A renewed interest in subjective color provided the departure point out of the “Warning Signs” paintings of 2011, which began my exploration of animal subjects as metaphorical characters caught in a staged drama, alerted to unseen dangers outside of the visual field.  Through evolutions of painting and many avenues of thought, the “(Un)Natural Habitats” paintings have become something greatly departed from what was before.

Everything about these new works carries a quality of artifice.  The ‘natural’ subjects of animal, bird and insect are no longer bound by reality, having transitioned clearly into subjectively colored monochromatic versions of themselves.   The photographic backgrounds are distorted and covered to the point of no longer clearly referencing their landscape source.  The entire relationship of the creatures to the environments is modeled after natural history museum dioramas, which are pale simulations of historical and environmental experiences.  There is even the presence of selected surrogate subjects, from origami roses to Japanese lanterns pretending to be the moon, which are playful, but not quite right.

The “Document” pieces expand on this avenue of discovery and historical record by simulating old journal pages from a Darwinesque exploration of impossible creatures.  Strangely colored like their brethren in the panels,  these animals and birds are rendered as traditional subjects while also representing strange new species of fantasy and invention.  As with the other paintings, the artifice of these works is left evident, including the map coordinates and Latin designations of color and scientific classification.

By holding on to some reference to the ‘real world’ while simultaneously entering into a new and undiscovered realm, these (Un)Natural Habitats have become something very different from where they began.  I can’t wait to see where they take me next…


Carl A. Linstrum, 2012


Daydream- Artist Statement

I don’t want to grow up.

This series of paintings have emerged out this simple statement.  The world we pass through daily is a complex one; challenges and rewards, responsibilities and deadlines, and the juggling act called time management all attempt to define this existence.  I want simple pleasures.  I long for days filled with slow time, games, and imagination.

The Daydream paintings are a document of these days.  The photographic images are actual records of what I’ve come to call ‘places of imagination’.  One such place is a small forest near my home that my children call The Fairy Forest.  A walk through this space becomes an adventure where holes in trees, collections of sticks and leaves on the ground, and a piece of torn plastic can all become evidence of fairy homes.  These wonderful walks inspired a trip back to the ‘place of imagination’ of my youth, an overgrown creek area that could easily become a jungle or a distant planet in the mind of a child.  The landscape photographs in these paintings come from these places.

The collection of images and symbols that occupy the spaces on and around these photographs expand beyond the ‘places of imagination’ in all directions.  Inspired by memories, personal experiences, literature and film, they are frankly escapist.  Some of the references are clear while others remain open to interpretation.  The world of these paintings is full of possibilities.  Anything can, and does, happen.  This world is not, however, a simple one.  The paintings have an element of whimsy, but they are also meant to be a serious exploration of the possibilities of perspective.  What do we allow to define us?  Is it possible to be a ‘grown-up’ and still remember how it was to be a child?  I hope so.  I hope that my Daydreams can serve as this reminder and perhaps begin to forge this path.

I don’t want to grow up and I don’t want you to either.

Carl A. Linstrum
February 2010


Artist Statement


I am often seduced by beauty.  I am drawn in by the stimulating visual, the color, the light.  My seduction is only sustained, however, if there is interest beyond the surface.  I must have somewhere to go, something to think about after the impact of the first impression fades.  This is the very same philosophy that I apply to my painting.  The foundation of my work is beauty, in both subject and technique, but the choices that I make are motivated by my desire for deeper meaning and communication through visual means.

My current work address the themes of family history, the functions (and fallacies) of memory, and the importance of spirituality.  All the elements of my paintings point to these themes, whether it be the use of beeswax as a preserver, wallpaper collage as a signifier of the domestic, or the various symbols or images that contain their own meanings and interpretations.  These works are meant to be ‘read’ and interpreted instead of merely presenting a set of ideas that can be understood in only one way.