Beth Carter, Messenger (detail), Bronze, Edition of 15, 50 x 26 x 24 in., Courtesy Bertrand Delacroix Gallery.
On view now through 8 March, 2014, is the powerful new collection of work by Beth Carter “Dancing with Morpheus” at Bertrand Delacroix Gallery in New York. Carter, a native of Bristol, England, is known for her starkly beautiful and haunting sculptures and drawings on paper. This show introduces ten new sculptures and several new drawings. The new bronze sculptures range from life-size figures to small more intimately scaled pieces shown alongside the new large-scale monochrome charcoal and colored pastel drawings. Serving as a perfect allegory for this new body of work, the title of the exhibition Dancing with Morpheus refers to the Greek God of Dreams and leader of the Oneiroi -Winged Spirit Dreams.
Beth Carter, Crowmask, Bronze, Edition of 15, 32 x 24 x 18 in., Courtesy Bertrand Delacroix Gallery.
In these new pieces Carter intuitively manifests her fascination with themes of transformation, half-states, hybrids and duality with her characteristic sense of playfulness and foreboding. Here, Carter’s animal-headed humans are thoughtfully involved in self-reflection. She clearly wants us to focus on this aspect of what differentiates us from the rest of nature. Instead of using these animal heads to channel the power of the Hawk or Crow or Bull or Horse, she uses the animal heads to show us our deep skepticism about the justice and fairness of nature itself. By taking the head of the Bull or Crow and combining it with the “body language” of melancholia, we get a profound visual impact which expresses some of our deepest moral concerns.
Beth Carter, Monkey and Hare, Bronze, Edition of 15, 33 x 23 1/2 x 30 in., Courtesy Bertrand Delacroix Gallery.
Carter first crafts her sculptures out of clay or wax and subsequently casts them into limited edition works in bronze or resin. Her work is distinct in that while it is deeply rooted in mythology, it plays with classical precedents to create a new genre -one that is steeped in fantasy, melancholy and whimsy. The artist categorizes her works as “magical realism.” There is something captivating and peculiar about her enchanting minotaurs, winged creatures and hybrid forms. Her unusual sculptures are derived deep in her subconscious; the artist emphasizes that her works emerge from an internal, contemplative place and this unfiltered emotion is clear in her striking work. We discover an unfolding meditation on those existential dilemmas that beset us all.
Beth Carter, Minotaur on Box, Bronze, Edition of 15, 56 x 38 x 27 in., Courtesy Bertrand Delacroix Gallery.
Perhaps Carter’s most well-known pieces feature the reading or seated Minotaur, a vulnerable half man, half bull creature naked and hunched over a tiny gold book. These pensive pieces encapsulate many of the larger themes that run through her entire body of work. Her art often explores the nature of duality and opposition; whether it is the relationship between beasts and humankind, vulnerability and power or the real and the imagined, Carter cleverly juxtaposes conflicting ideas that the viewer, alone, must reconcile.
Beth Carter, Fool, Bronze, Edition of 15, 18 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 5 1/2 in., Courtesy Bertrand Delacroix Gallery.
The distinct sense of melancholy present in Carter’s art allows her creatures to be at once physically imposing and emotionally vulnerable. Her thoughtful drawings in charcoal and conté demonstrate this same interior drive to explore sadness and the subconscious. Carter’s unique works create an alternate reality -one that invites the viewer to partake in a journey to a strange, dreamlike world where the lines between man and beast, reality and fantasy and the possible and impossible are no longer clear. Prompting a rare kind of empathy towards her subjects, Carter is a force to be reckoned with in the fine art world of figuration.
Carter received her degree in Fine Art from Sunderland University in the United Kingdom. In 1995, she was awarded 1st prize in the Northern Graduate Show ‘95 at The Royal College of Art, London. Afterwards, she traveled to Sri Lanka, India, New Zealand, Mexico, Gambia, Kenya and Tanzania to study mythological sculpture. Her work has been shown in the US and abroad and appears in private collections throughout Europe, Asia and the US.