Portlander, Carol DuVernois quickly scans the varied styles of her art displayed in her studio/bedroom. There are acrylic paintings of jazz musicians, a skeleton standing on a mound of skulls and portraits of people she knows. Her eclectic artwork is why she cannot write an artist statement. “I could never sum up everything I do. Art to me is getting to do something much more than making a statement,” she said. “If I were to write an artist statement, it would say, ‘Me likes painting.’”
Carol, 53, doesn’t depend on her artwork to put a roof over her head or food on her table. If she makes money selling her work, well, she said, that’s just a bonus. “Art is what I love to do. I don’t consider it work. I can come home from work, have an idea and do something I want to do,” she said, adding she spends her free time painting and drawing.
From being a “horrible student” in high school to a late bloomer, going to college at age 30 and living in Massachusetts, Florida and California, Carol said each experience has benefitted her as an artist. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz, Carol chose not to attend art school because she saw what it did to people she knew. “Art school seemed to beat the creativity and what it means to be an artist out of you,” she said. Self-taught, she took a class on anatomy, even purchasing a skeleton, so she would know how to correctly draw the human body.
One day she may be painting portraits of people she knows – her stepmother, a regular at the bar where she worked as a bartender, her grandfather or herself. The next, she may switch to working on what she saw at a jazz club or her favorite jazz musicians. Her work resonates with the same energy of the people she paints.
While standing in line at the coffee shop where her artwork was displayed a while back, she heard two people describe her artwork as disturbing. “A lot of people won’t say to your face that they don’t like your artwork,” she said. “I understand some people won’t like it, but what’s important is I do.”
She’s grateful for her day job allowing her the freedom to explore her art without the pressure of meeting deadlines or having to sell it. “I met a woman who makes ceramic masks that are beautiful and she’s successful at selling them. I asked her if she enjoys what she does. She told me she used to but not anymore. Her art used to be something she did before she got stuck in the box of becoming known for doing one thing,” she said. “I don’t want to be like that. My art is for me.”