2014 Featured Artist: Carol Padberg

We are so thankful to everyone that contributes to our United Arts Campaign. To show our gratitude to our wonderful donors, every year we offer thank you gifts. One of which is a Greater Hartford-inspired print for those who contribute $500 or more. For 2014 our Featured Artist, Carol Padberg, has created a collage print inspired by Hartford’s cultural diversity.

Carol is an interdisciplinary artist whose work brings together craft, agricultural practices, and community. Her work has been exhibited in North America, Africa, Asia and Europe. You may know her from her Interactive Crazy Quilts exhibition displayed at the New Britain Museum of American Art. She is currently serving as the KNOX Community Gardens’ Artist in Residence in which she facilitates community involvement and brings art into the gardens. Her most recent works use textiles, collage strategies and community engagement to address ecology and public space. She is also an Associate Professor and Interim Chair of Fine Arts at the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford. To get to know Carol and her print better I asked a few questions.

What drew you to creating collages?

Collage is one of my favorite mediums, because in a way collage is a lot like life. There’s this element of putting things together and taking things apart, simultaneously. It’s additive and subtractive, in many ways it feels like a metaphor where you feel that dynamic of things emerging and coming into being. But collage inherently is cutting into things, taking them apart and putting fragments together. As a medium I think it’s been attractive to artists for a long time. It has its roots in modernism. Before that in households’ woman have often collaged things together as keepsakes. But for the time we live in now it’s also inherently recycled materials. So I like the fact that I can take things from any environment and give them a second life as parts of a collage.

Your limited edition 2014 print is gorgeous! Can you explain the different pieces of the collage and the inspiration behind it? 

Hartford Valentine
Hartford Valentine

I was thinking about Hartford itself and the ways in which Hartford has been both cut into, but also the ways that resiliency keeps making this unified whole of a city. In terms of the process of working on that collage, I was thinking about as I was cutting into strips, the postcards from streetscapes of Hartford’s past or photographs of street festivals like the West Indian Day or The Three Kings Day parade. I was thinking about the ways Hartford has experienced either the addition of the highways and how that cut into Hartford into the 1940s and 1950s or the way that populations that had more wealth left the city. And then as I was sewing I was thinking about what has remained here all these years and where are the deeps roots in Hartford and what’s the fabric of the city and how do we continue to bring elements together? It was almost like a meditation on moving things together and the metaphor of diversity in any city, postindustrial cities in particular.  

You are currently Artist in Residence for KNOX community gardens, whose project “Urban Roots” is funded through the Hartford Arts & Heritage Jobs Grant. Since 1972, KNOX has transformed acres of vacant lots into edible, productive gardens to combat food insecurity in Hartford. KNOX currently oversees 14 community gardens that serve over 300 local families.What do you have planned for these gardens?

It’s such a blessing to work with KNOX. They are a group of people that really gets things done. Dealing with sustainability and teaching ecology while at the same time providing a source for food stability in areas that really need that. I’m their Artist in Residence and what that means is that I get to collaborate with the gardeners and with the KNOX staff. We’re starting to get into the conversations with each community garden community and asking what do you want to see happen here? The other conversation we’re starting to have is what is the message of the garden? If you can have a fence around the garden that has quotes from the gardeners built into that fence as a lasting durable text artwork, that’s a way to empower the gardeners and make the gardens more visible.

What else is in store for 2014?

2014 is a year that I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds. One of the things I’ve been working on for the past 3 years is an educational initiative for artists called Nomad/9. This is an MFA program that brings together artists from around the world and in addition to art focuses on ecology and urbanism. As I’ve been getting more involved in Hartford I’ve also been working in Ghana, Hong Kong, China and London. I’ve been thinking about ways that artists really need to connect across boundaries, whether that’s across geographic boundaries or getting out of the art world and working with farmers, architects, city planners, people that are making things happen. That’s a big project that’s coming to fruition. Another one is that the studio is going to the garden and the garden is going to the studio. There’s a lot of ways that I’m working with The Garden Redux which is a collaborative entity that my children and I set up that allows agriculture and art to come together. I have some other collaborative projects unfolding; the Knot project is one of those. It’s a time where I feel that the situation we’re in on this planet is something that I can’t help but address as an artist. Anything that involves food, sustainability, and ecological literacy I’m interested in addressing. I’m stretching my art practice to embrace ways of getting communities involved and making art extend beyond the boundaries of the art world.

To learn more about Carol, check out http://carolpadberg.com/.

To watch a video of the making of the collage, click here.

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