The Last of us

WOMEN IN ART

View the online color catalog with an essay by Sara Burd (Curator, Nashville Magazine).

“That reminds me of . . .” is a phrase Carol Gove hopes to hear at her exhibitions.

Her art is often inspired by her own reflections, and yet the materials she includes are general enough to serve as reference points for all viewers. She encourages people to consider their own memories associated with objects like handwritten notes, botanical prints, blank sheet music, etc., but Gove layers paint and collage materials to obscure allusions. She leaves room for viewers to fill in the blanks with their own associations. Each viewer’s unique background and relationship with the materials, colors, textures, and lines shapes the significance of each artwork.

As an abstract expressionist artist, Gove seeks to elicit an immediate response. Her aesthetic follows in the lineage of the post-WWII New York artists such as Lee Krasner, Robert Motherwell, and Willem de Kooning who sought to make a new art that’s both cerebral, emotional, and revealing of the artist’s true identity. The foundational artists were loosely connected, but the general thread that binds these artists is their commitment to gestural application of paint and mastery of formal elements used to create expressive compositions.

Gove’s art is striking when viewed from far away, but considering her work up close also provides insight into her motivations and memories. Her art is often inspired by her own reflections, and yet the materials she includes are general enough to serve as reference points for all viewers. She encourages people to consider their own memories associated with objects like handwritten notes, botanical prints, blank sheet music, etc., but Gove layers paint and collage materials to obscure allusions. She leaves room for viewers to fill in the blanks with their own associations. Each viewer’s unique background and relationship with the materials, colors, textures, and lines shapes the significance of each artwork.

As an abstract expressionist artist, Gove seeks to elicit an immediate response. Her aesthetic follows in the lineage of the post-WWII New York artists such as Lee Krasner, Robert Motherwell, and Willem de Kooning who sought to make a new art that’s both cerebral, emotional, and revealing of the artist’s true identity. The foundational artists were loosely connected, but the general thread that binds these artists is their commitment to gestural application of paint and mastery of formal elements used to create expressive compositions.

Gove’s art is striking when viewed from far away, but considering her work up close also provides insight into her motivations and memories. Abstract expressionist artists relish time with their canvases as a means to explore their own relationship with their medium. For example, observing texture in Gove’s work reveals more than a haphazard decision; it is a sensitive presentation of how and why the art was made. The artist delights in the process of abstract expressionism, but also the meaning derived from assembling found objects into her work. Collage became part of the fine art vocabulary in the West during the early 20th century through Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. These artists began with the belief that combining painting and cut-out images allowed a new way of looking at both media. They pursued connecting with viewers through recognizable references to the everyday world.

The incorporation of collage elements allows Gove to create visual and expressive conversations that go beyond what she could make with just paint. She explains, “It’s exciting to me the immediacy collage can give you. You can be painting gesturally on a canvas, and deciding if you like the opacity of the paint or the drips or what your next choice will be, but when you find a piece of collage and adhere it to the painting, it changes it so much and immediately.” Many objects she incorporates into her work are personal items collected from friends, family members, and her own writing, but she also takes time to search at antique stores, online, and during her daily experiences to find the perfect material to communicate her vision. As Gove explains, “It’s that search with collage that I really love. If you go into my studio you can find boxes and boxes of source materials.”

Like many aspects of Gove’s art, the titles have multiple levels of meaning. Sometimes the title relates to how the artwork looks, but sometimes it is not apparent; it’s more of a personal caption. In Driven, for example, the painting feels intense. The gestural marks, dramatic colors, and the collage elements all pull the viewer’s attention to one place or another. As Gove notes, “The title relates to the motion your eye takes when moving through the piece or across the specific materials incorporated.”

The passing of the artist’s father has inspired new works in a series Gove has titled “Lineage.” She began the work as a celebration and processing of her life with him after his terminal diagnosis. In My First Friend, she combines a youthful palette and whimsical composition to connote the spirit of the young girl who admired her father’s attention and affection. Gove includes imagery that has specific meaning to her such as the number “3” masked out into a larger number “2.” The artist explains, “Two relates to my dad and me, but also the fact that soon the number of people in our family would go from three to two, my mom and me.” She also incorporates sheet music featuring the song “If I Live to be a Hundred” to reference mortality and endings.

Gove touches on special experiences with her father while also presenting paintings that strike the viewer’s imagination. Another work from the series, Tend to Me, the artist combines the feelings she experienced being her father’s caregiver and her memories of him tending his garden each year throughout her life. The modulated rhythm of light and dark in multiple hues across the canvas invigorate the composition, compelling relational investigation and feeling.

In all of Gove’s art, she maintains the tension between what is presented, what is remembered, and what is dreamed. By scouring for objects she adds material history to her work, and creates room for specific and general meaning. The artworks stand strong as aesthetic combinations of colors, lines, shapes, and objects that evoke immediate responses and conjure stories written and not yet written.