I met Molly Carpenter a few weeks ago on Twittter. One day she posted a short notice about the Salem Friends Chicken Pot Pie Dinner in her hometown that caught my eye. I wrote her to find out more about the dinner because chicken pot pie has always been one of my favorites. While waiting to hear back from her, I followed the link on her Twitter profile to her web site and I instantly knew I had to do a story on Molly and her unique work.
Molly Carpenter is a sculptor who lives in Salem, a tiny town in South Jersey, with her husband and her two children on a farm that has been in her husbands family for centuries. Art has been a part of Molly’s life for as long as she can remember. As a child her family would take her on trips to the Delaware Art Museum and her favorite thing to do was to sit at home and draw for hours on end. She grew up watching her uncle and grandfather paint. She carries on this tradition and she is here today to share her passion with us.
BestofNJ.com (BNJ) is proud to present our first New Jersey artist feature on Molly Carpenter (MC).
BNJ: How did you get started in art?
MC: I was one of those kids who drew all the time. During math class, science class, you name it. It was to the exclusion of almost everything else.
BNJ: What is your favorite period in art history?
MC: Now. I think that art is more important than ever, that it can help to make our own civilization even greater. There are so many sad and scary images that we are all subjected to every day, we need to balance that.
BNJ: Who are your favorite artists of all time and why?
MC: I have lots of favorites; N. C. Wyeth, Frieda Kahlo, Gustav Klimt, Botticelli, Rodin…many more! All the practicing artists that I have met online and locally contribute to my own art and my love of art.
BNJ: What local artists do you respect and follow?
MC: All of them; Salem County has so many of many different disciplines. James F. Turk, the Arts Director of Salem County has done so much to pull us all together. He and the Salem County Cultural & Heritage Committee have arranged a 2 day open studio tour across the county on May 30 and 31. I’ts called “Art in Bloom” and will feature interpretive floral arrangements as well as artwork.
BNJ: I read that you show at the Philadelphia Flower Show. What do you show there?
MC: For years I worked with the local garden club named Shawosa. They featured my work a couple of times. Once we did a room based on the life of the sculptor Gaston Lachaise- it was the first nude flower arrangement (probably the last too) in the history of the flower show and got lots of attention, even made the New York Times.
You seem to be fond of portraits. Do you do other subjects? What is it that you get from portraits that you do not get from other subjects?
MC: Technically I view everything as a portrait, a portrait tells a story. In the last year I have found myself adding a dreamlike quality to the portrait relief work, I find it more interesting than simply catching a good likeness. Scanners can do that now in 3D, which is amazing.
BNJ: I noticed that you work in 2 and 3 dimensions. Do you prefer one over the other and how are they different for you? How is your mental and physical process different with each one?
MC: Actually, almost all my work is 3 dimensional. I have done paintings and murals, but primarily my work is sculptural. The freestanding work is known as “in the round”, and the panels are bas- relief. I’ve spent the last couple of years getting the correct formula for working ever larger in bas-relief, so I’d have to say that is my current preference.
The large open molds that I make from the original clay sculpture are fun to work in and I love the fact that all the moldmaking and casting materials are water based and non-toxic. This allows me to do all the work on a sculpture from start to finish in my studio at home. Mentally, the creative process is the same whether a piece is in the round or a relief panel, but physically the panels are not as cumbersome when in clay to move around. I just finished a 4’ clay piece and it was easy for me to move it around the studio by myself to catch the light as it changed.
BNJ: I noticed that your bas relief pieces are done using Oystershell AquaResin and urethane. Can you explain the process involved in making these pieces. Are they poured or sculpted or both?
MC: AquaResin™ is a wonderful material! I hit upon it after trying lots of different casting materials, urethane amongst them. With urethane I had to wear all kinds of protective equipment and tried to work outside in the open air. Then I learned the hard way that the material was heat sensitive- the reliefs were buckling in our wonderful New Jersey summer weather! The AquaResin is environmentally friendly and dimensionally stable, and takes paint and gold leaf beautifully.
I make each sculpture out of oil-based modeling clay, a process that can take weeks to months. Once I’m happy with the clay I make a natural latex mold into which I apply- or “lay up” several coats of resin and the wire for eventual hanging. Once that hardens I remove it from the mold and have the finished piece ready to finish and paint. The finished product is actually quite lightweight too.
BNJ: Why do you live in New Jersey? How is it important in your work? Or is it?
MC: We live on an old farm that has been in my husbands’ family since the early 1700’s. I love it. It is close enough to the Shore, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and NYC, but far enough away that I can enjoy the quiet of the country. I can see for miles from my window here by the computer. The colors of the sunrise and sunsets are phenomenal- very inspirational! I try to achieve the same luminosity when I paint my work. Salem County has a charm all its own.
BNJ: Where do you show your work? Where can people buy your work; Any local galleries, shops?
MC: I show my work here in my studio, online at my website www.mollycarpenter.com, and at First Impressions Gallery in Salem NJ and Centerville Gallery in Delaware. I am seeking representation in other galleries in New Jersey.
BNJ is proud to have had the time to opportunity to introduce you to this fine artist Molly Carpenter. We also appreciate the time that Molly gave us and her patience with us in doing this article. We appreciate her willingness to open up her studio and share some of her working methods with us. It has been a pleasure. We did not have the chance to ask Molly about this piece shown to the right. It is The Constitutional Compass Rose located at the State of Delaware Legislative Hall. It is a bronze that measures 12 feet wide. It is just one example of the type of work that Molly does for public parks and municipal buildings on a commission basis.
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