Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Rome sidewalk

South Carolina sidewalk

Paestum museum
It has been weighing on me for a long time.  Why am I so captivated by the weathered exteriors of old walls, concrete walks, or abraded floors?  It doesn't matter if I am strolling up town or visiting another country, my eyes gravitate towards the effects of aging on manmade surfaces.  I am infatuated with the lines, forms and layered colors evident in places that have been worn down by motion or the weight of time. I am one of hundreds, if not thousands of artists who are attracted to similar themes. 

Rebecca Crowell is an internationally known artist whose work is a rich exploration of external deterioration.  On reading my recent post about my visit to Atlanta and my attraction to the faded floor in the gallery, she commented "My own work is inspired by such things as sidewalks, floors and old walls...sometimes I wonder, why make art at all when these things already exist in such perfection? (except I can't help myself!)"

Lost Wall #1 by Rebecca Crowell
This is a heady subject to explore.  If I'm tempted to answer Rebecca's rhetorical question I would suggest that it is through her eyes and her process that she gives the world a new appreciation for nuances of color and light that are inexpressable in any other way.

When I open my eyes to the beauty in what is cracking and peeling, I am also investigating my own life.  My art making allows me to internalize what my eyes see and my introspection explores, so that what remains on my finished painting is an expression of my Self, weathered by my experience.  Perhaps in enjoying and emulating the manifestations of decay and stress, I can allow myself to get beyond some unattainable perfection in my own life, or my own paintings. 

"sidelong memory," mixed media on canvas, Carol Beth Icard

"Incantation," oil on board, Carol Beth Icard

"oh happy day," oil on board, Carol Beth Icard
The transitory nature of our world includes not only weathered surfaces wrought by decades, but the kaleidoscope in nature that changes moment to moment.  When I look at the clouds in the sky, the pattern of birds on a wire, or a silhouette of bare branches against a sunset, it all goes into my thought process as a painter.  But what remains on surfaces, like the wonderfully layered walls in Pompeii, or the painted design on a tired floor, attracts me for its very perseverance. It gives me courage and is inspiration for my own endurance.


  1. Interesting and thoughtful post, Carol! and thank you for posting my work here. I have been thinking about why I am so attracted to weathered and eroded surfaces, and like you, I think it is the way these surfaces are formed, the history behind them. Also it just seems magical to me that the random action of weather, wear and tear, can create such intricate, organic beauty. I'm also thinking about the surfaces on which the textures occur, the underlying structures --the walls, sidewalks, or floors, which make for a contrasting geometric basis. I really love that combination of elements in abstract work--structure plus rich texture. So I guess it's perfectly natural for me to be attracted to weathered and worn surfaces, and isn't it enjoyable to see this constant source of inspiration in so many places and situations?! By the way I love the sidewalk pics on your post.

  2. I completely agree with Rebecca!!!! Well said!!!! I find my self also very attracted to these surfaces..... I am drawn to weathered surfaces in nature as well, like the trunk of an old tree, etc.

  3. Your post has given me much to think about. I too am drawn to texture. Sometimes I think it is the old scientist in me. I have found that observation is the key. Seeing what others don't.

  4. Just stopping by quickly to say I just received your postcard and I am now a follower.

  5. I'm not a painter, but I love the trunk of old trees too.