Site Review: Carol Setterlund

Site Review: Carol Setterlund

Multi-disciplinary painter and sculptor

By Richard Malinsky, Arts Editor
See Carol’s work in WTP Vol. V #1

There have been many artists who are technically both painters and sculptors, though one discipline usually dominates their oeuvre. Carol Setterlund is one of the rare breeds who proves herself equally accomplished in both disciplines.

Rather than chronologically, the works on her website are organized into three categories. In the category Painting, “Wither Thou Goest sets the stage for a group of 20 vibrant acrylics. The surface-color forms are applied with an eye for compositional balance pushing against the defined borders of the panel:

Carol Setterlund painting
Wither Thou Goest, acrylic on panel. 48″ x 42″.

Her free-form brushwork is reminiscent of Joan Mitchell, though to a more galactic effect. Micah Schwaberow describes on her Quotes About the Work page, “the language of astronomy suits the unpredictable constellations of color she generates…In Setterlund’s paintings we can witness the galactically slow gyration of cosmic debris which—with patience we cannot fathom—a solar system might be borne.”

These gyrating, but also lyrical, compositions are activated by surface color foiled by mostly neutral backgrounds. This neutrality lends to these paintings the atmospheric reminiscent of abstract expressionism, though with a greater sense of depth.

Setterlund’s next category is simply titled More Paintings, but these works are distinctly different from the first category. That galactic gyration is still evident, as in “Liminallity #3,” but overall it seems to have been pared down. In “Birds Entering Without Warning,” sparse colored lines are carefully choreographed to suggest a swirling flight pattern against a black-and-white textured background:

Carol Setterlund image 2
Birds Enter Without Warning, mixed media on panel. 24″ x 24″

Some of these paintings deviate entirely from the style of her earlier works, perhaps because here she has expanded past acrylics to mixed media and oils, but also because she explores the more linear:

Carol Setterlund image 3
Primal Breath, oil on canvas. 36″ x 36″

Earlier in her career, Setterlund drew primarily from nature; and these paintings, at once perhaps speaking to the infinity of galaxies, also thematically relate back to that timeless ever-presence of the land. In contract, her sculptures speak more to the endurance of the human spirit. The mythological figure of “Conjur” is reduced to a symbolic head and totem-like cylindrical torso. It comprises wood and copper, and one can see the progression from the uncarved, to hammered and chisel. Reprising those spirals in her paintings, a metal circle frames his face. Whether this circle represents planetary orbits, or the vastness of the universe, it has long been recognized as a symbol of continuity:

Carol Setterlund sculpture
Conjure, wood and copper. 54″ x 30″ x 26″

Many of the 17 pieces in this section have titles from Greek mythology and reinforce the concept of ancient connections.

For Setterlund, this dual body of work is at once varying and cohesive: “Although the physical acts of putting paint on a panel or taking a chain saw to a hunk of wood are very different, I approach each with the same hope of spontaneous motion and therefore, the discovery of something I didn’t know before.” On the surface they seem completely different, but there is a common inspiration and significant thread that runs through her abstract painting and figurative sculpture.

Setterlund is represented by The Erickson Fine Art Gallery, Healdsburg, CA.

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