Artist Spotlight: Caron Tabb

Hollow Through My Core  (2015) Acrylic and charcoal on canvas 48 × 30 in

Hollow Through My Core (2015)
Acrylic and charcoal on canvas
48 × 30 in

Caron Tabb’s paintings are born from a continuous stream of energy, flowing from her emotional core, through her body, and onto the canvas. Each piece is a series of choices—technique, material, color, line—which come together in an emotive composition that elicits a unique visceral response from each viewer

Tabb sees the canvas is a fluctuating, enduring surface. She compares it to the hair she lost in overcoming cancer as a teenager: something that can be regrown, reimagined, and reclaimed again and again as she paints. Her canvas has the ability to take in everything she throws at it, and transform her raw feelings into something productive and beautiful.

Having studied fashion design, Tabb brings an openness to alternative materials into her work. She explores a number of techniques, many of which incorporate natural, eco-friendly materials. She has been recently experimenting with rust dyeing, a technique in which the oxidization of rust transfers over to paper or fabric using tannins. Tea, wine, vinegar, even ocean water, can all be used to transfer rust in unexpected ways, imparting the soft, earthy colors of patina.

“I have a great appreciation for what elements do to materials,” Tabb explained. “The wind, the water, the rain, rust—you almost capture a moment in time. You never know what you’re going to find.”

Window of Tolerance  Pastel, acrylic and charcoal on paper

Window of Tolerance
Pastel, acrylic and charcoal on paper

Tabb’s paintings all, in a way, carry that theme of capture. She works with her canvas on the floor, moving around it with her entire body to make bold marks. She captures movement, time, and above all, the mental and emotional state of the artist at that specific time—something that she will never experience in quite the same way again. That is the part of the magnetism of her work: it draws something out of its audience that is familiar, and yet impossible to experience again in any other context.

Many of her pieces have specific context for herself as well. “Window of Tolerance”, for instance, is everything about a loved one who was suffering from severe depression several years ago, and the process they went through together in coping with it. It refers to the psychological term “window of tolerance”, which teaches people who suffer from deep-seated negative thinking to expand their capacity to tolerate such feelings. Instead of being consumed, they work through these thoughts—expand their window of tolerance for them.

To Tabb, this open conversation about mental and emotional health is important in her work. She allows her paintings to display these concerns in plain sight to be understood and accepted. As these concerns evolve, and her relationship with them shifts, her paintings change along with it.

“He’s doing great by the way,” Tabb breaks a smile after this difficult conversation. “Which, by the way, is the reason why there’s so much more color in my work now.”

Caron Tabb's studio in Newton, MA

Caron Tabb's studio in Newton, MA

Caron Tabb’s work is above all, about being fearless. Fearless about her techniques and her materials, fearless about where her process will take her and what she will discover along the way, and fearless about how much of herself is laid out within it. This assertive approach is what allows her to create identifiable work that the viewer can respond to.

“There’s no downside to being bold. I just go, and there’s something very liberating about that. I feel like I’m just getting going, like I’ve just begun to peel away from the surface.”

Be sure to experience Caron Tabb’s recent work in Abigail Ogilvy Gallery’s summer group show, The Tides, opening Thursday, July 14, 2016.


Wednesday, June 22: Puloma Ghosh

Artist Spotlight: Holly Harrison

This February, Abigail Ogilvy Gallery looks forward to presenting a solo show by Holly Harrison, The Language of Lines. Harrison will present a collection of mixed-media pieces that focus on the interplay between the organic shapes and fluidity of birds, and the geometry of repeated horizontal lines—painted, collaged and contained in imagery of human structures.

mixed media on wood panel
48 x 72 in. diptych

Harrison began working with bird imagery about seven years ago, inspired by the poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens. She began with a series of collages, each one dedicated to a different stanza of the poem. Since then, she continues to compose her collages with the essence of poetry in the rhythms and melody of her work.

A master’s degree in literature and creative writing, and many years spent as a professional writer, reveal themselves in the poetic sensibilities engrained in her Strata series, several of which will be included in the show. Comprised of multiple bands of imagery and collage, the layers work like stanzas of modern verse, with bits of meaning half-hidden underneath like symbolism and subtext. The words she uses to describe this work are reminiscent of how writers describe literature. “There’s a resonance that happens between each piece to create a whole experience,” she says. “I wanted to create a dialogue between all the different elements.”

Bird Watching
Mixed media on wood panel
40 x 30 in.

Over time, the highly banded Strata paintings began to open up as Harrison moved from juxtaposing imagery to build a narrative, to forming a single image or a pair of blended images. What remained constant was the horizon line, which she carries over from collage to painted elements. “When I moved into The Language of Lines series,” she says, “I became interested in transparency—the idea of what is underneath, what is hidden, and what you don’t see.”

Harrison's Concord studio

Harrison's Concord studio

Harrison’s pieces begin with a colorful underpainting, which she masks and unmasks with layers of paint. At completion, the underlying hues still peek through, muted by whites and grays as though coated in mist. Black-and-white photographic imagery blends seamlessly into the painted background, creating a discourse between the repeated geometry of the lines and the more organic shapes of birds, tree branches, and the curves and wires of utility poles. The birds always find their way in, sometimes at the very beginning, as she pulls colors and textures from their image, and sometimes after everything else has fallen into place.

Harrison often works on several canvases at once, creating a base that leaves the final product open to possibility. Choosing from hundreds of photographs she takes while chasing down flocks in pursuit of the right moment, she is particular about which birds ultimately make it into her artwork. “Sometimes a shot is too complete,” she says. “It can stand alone without alteration.” She searches through her photos for striking images that would be complemented by the lines and textures added by her collages.

Her finished pieces, like her process, show the way nature and order cohabit the spaces we navigate, just as birds flit in and out of human domain. “People build in the world, they change their environment to suit themselves, and nature just keeps adapting,” she explains. “Birds and human dwellings intersect where they share an environment. They are these wild creatures but they're so integrated into our lives.”

Harrison’s favorite materials include samples of drawings made by her daughter, old paintings on canvas paper by her husband, and strips of semi-transparent screen mesh. She weaves them together in the slow build up of layers that ultimately become a cohesive image.

The Language of Lines is a lyrical arrangement of the organic and the constructed, tied together by the lines of the horizon.

Family Tree
Mixed media on wood panel
48 x 24 in.

Holly Harrison's work will be exhibiting at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery from February 5 - 28, 2016. Check out her work on Artsy, and don't miss the opening during next month's SoWa First Friday, on February 5 from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m..


Wednesday, January 26, 2016: Puloma Ghosh