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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Culpepper's Interiors

The current issue of Still Point Arts Quarterly—the spring 2014 issue—features the art of painter Constance Culpepper. Her series is called Interiors. I am fascinated by her work! I easily lose myself in any one of her colorful and fanciful pieces. The abundance of pink, pale green, aqua blue, and bright yellow feels youthful and feminine, while the use of geometric shapes, sharp angles, and crisp edges adds a fearless and spunky spirit. This work is fun . . . fun to look at and fun to work through one's imagination. I find myself wanting to use the pink spoon to taste the blue soup while sitting on the yellow couch in the room with the red zig-zag carpet and aqua blue walls. 

Constance Culpepper, Blue Soup

I am also fascinated with Culpepper's story. As a young girl, Culpepper spent summer afternoons at her grandmother's Victorian house in Cleburne, Texas.
There she sketched figures and rooms inspired by her grandmother's stack of Vogue and House Beautiful magazines, did some type of needlework—cross stitch, needlepoint, or knitting, sewed clothes for her dolls, or patched one of her grandmother's many handmade quilts. She was fascinated by the color, pattern, and texture in the quilts as well as with the eclectic mix of objects in her grandmother's house—antique chairs, hand-painted Mexican cabinets, Delft pottery, French china, old glass bottles, ceramic lamps and figurines, old family photographs, Persian rugs, and petite European paintings. These experiences and objects created an interior world that fueled Culpepper's imagination.
It's so easy for me to picture a young girl immersing herself with the objects of family history, learning to stitch and sew, wrapping her dolls in old quilts, and admiring the colors and shapes of old bottles and figurines. It's easy for me to realize how the lasting memories of a young girl's early life with such objects can hold tight in the depths of this girl's psyche and find release in her adult life in art. I was such a little girl too, doing cross stitch before I could ride a bike, trying to copy the patterns in crocheted pieces made by my grandmother and grandaunt, delighting in holding the old figurines that always held a place of honor on my mother's dresser. These objects of home life are important in part because they connect generations and serve as a springboard for memorable stories about one's family and one's past. What Culpepper does, by adding color and fancy, is to honor these familiar objects with the influence of her imagination. I'm guessing her grandmother would be delighted. I'm guessing my mother would smile.

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