A Collection of Changes: Carmen Neely

A Block Gallery Exhibition Featuring Works From the Municipal Art Collection

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Artwork Statement About the Artist

Artwork Statement

Artwork by Carmen Neely

On the Right Track but on the Wrong Train
Carmen Neely
Oil on canvas, enamel pins, embroidery
36" x 40"

Carmen Neely’s work has always been about the intricacies of transformation. The artist translates lived experience into nuanced gestures, and these gestures into myriad forms—from sculptures to laser-cut Plexiglass and textiles. Exploding over a flat white ground, her newest paintings play witness to an enigmatic inner world, one that’s bursting with energy and kinetic movement. Neely imagines her marks as a type of text—painterly letters or words—and the compositions are themselves sprung from evocative, conversational phrases: Breathe your own mask first or Heard quitting and seen dancing.

These new pieces gently incorporate older work, appropriating and reinventing gestures in the form of enamel pins or embroidered patches that are subtly affixed to the canvas. The adornments reference the sort of mass-market consumer goods that one might find in a souvenir gift shop while on holiday. Neely explores themes of otherness and difference, through the charged lens of tourism. “It’s a sampling of other’s lives for pleasure and entertainment,” the artist says, of our fascination with traveling to new or supposedly foreign places. “It sits on the shelf as a trophy and commemorates a type of conquest.”

By playing with these layered themes—and troubling the distinction between the painted gesture and its replica, in the form of pin or patch—Neely abstractly tackles her own sense of cultural otherness, "the sort of fraught, day-to-day maneuvering historically labeled as 'double consciousness' or 'double identity.' The work is playful but simultaneously derives from Neely's uncomfortable familiarity with othering; which "rejects your identity and denies you the right to claim a space as your own," she says. These paintings boldly stake their own claim—one that speaks from an intimately personal position yet yearns toward the universal.

About the Artist

Carmen Neely (b. 1987, Charlotte, NC) earned her MFA in studio art from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2016, and a BFA in painting from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2012. Her work has been exhibited at AIR Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Greensboro Project Space, Greensboro, NC; Ghost Gallery, Seattle, WA; Jane Lombard Gallery, Chelsea, NY; Lump Gallery, Raleigh, NC; MX Gallery, New York, NY; New Gallery of Modern Art, Charlotte, NC; Plank Gallery, Seattle, WA; Prizm Art Fair, Miami, FL; Untitled Art Fair, Miami, FL; Setareh Gallery, Dusseldorf, DE; Student Union Gallery, Charlotte, NC and at Vacation Gallery, New York, NY. Neely has been a resident artist at Sparkbox Studio, Ontario, Canada, Vermont Studio Center, and McColl Center for Art + Innovation. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Oklahoma State University.

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Stacy Bloom Rexrode
Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, Raleigh Arts

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