Carrie is an artist who I met online.  I have a couple of her small pieces which are photograph-painting hybrids. They're straightforward yet intriguing and even mysterious.  This pretty much describes a lot of the work Carrie does  Can you be clear yet ambiguous at the same time?  Here's my chat with Carrie.  

MICHAEL: Hi Carrie.  Thanks for chatting.  First of all, I might be wrong, but what I've seen of your work makes me think about trances or daydreams. You employ a lot of washed out, gauzy-type images that seem like faint scenes of something uncertain.  Am I on the right track?

CARRIE: Thanks for inviting me! Yes, you are on the right track.  I prefer visual experiences that are a bit mysterious, a bit ambiguous.  One of the things I currently love about working with glass is that it lets me push that ambiguity even further.  I can layer the pieces so that imagery appears or disappears according to the angle it's viewed from and can also add surface engraving that shifts from being visible to invisible as well.  It's important to me that the pieces have this interactive quality and that they literally change depending on how they're seen.  Of course, this means that they're incredibly hard to photograph!

MICHAEL: This pushing of ambiguity and interactive quality seems to almost force people to have their own unique perceptions of the work even if they're different from your own.

CARRIE: Exactly. Although I think I prefer the word "encourage" to force!  I recently read an interview with Robert Irwin where he talks about "perceiving yourself perceiving" as well as how time-based art can bring into focus that process of perception. My hope is that literally building shifts of perspective into my glass pieces encourages that heightened sense of awareness. Leaving the meaning ambiguous and open ended is much more interesting to me then trying to present it as an absolute. I think (hope!) it also makes the art more collaborative and more like a conversation than a monologue. One thing I dislike in the museum model is the tendency to look at the sign, then the art.

MICHAEL: Oh, I love that.  While the signs are great introductions, I also tend to feel they build, quite literally, yet another wall between the viewer and the artist, although the intent is the very opposite. You know, what's going on anyway? I have yet to speak with a single artist who wants people to think a SPECIFIC way about their work. All artists want viewers to have their OWN perceptions. However, as you just said, the "establishment" seems to have this other agenda that keeps art mysterious and beholden to THEM. This is really hurting living artists. What's the deal? 

CARRIE: I think we're in an interesting time in that there are so many
different models for being an artist/commercial gallery, non-commercial gallery, collaborative models, interventions, etc.  I think the challenge is figuring out a method that fits your ideas and philosophy and then figuring out how to make it work. So I think it also comes down to the artist being self aware and proactive.  If you're an artist who objects to art as a capitalist thing, don't put your art in a commercial gallery! Personally, I try to balance this by doing both commercial and non-commercial work. Some things are for sale, some are not. It certainly isn't an ideal model, but it allows me to think about art from both angles; as an object that someone can possess and as an experience that is temporary. So I guess I think artists have a responsibility to be clear about what their intentions for their work are and to be thoughtful about the best means to fulfill those intentions.

MICHAEL: I find it very interesting that you're so defined and self-aware and yet you like ambiguity in your work.

CARRIE: Well, I don't know that I am so self aware! I guess I see this as two
separate but parallel things; being aware of my responsibilities as an artist and trying to stay open minded in the process of creating work as things will often arise from the work itself that are much more interesting than my original plans.

MICHAEL: Totally! Because your work is so ethereal, do you have to be in a certain frame of mind to create? Do you listen to music or enter a pseudo state of meditation? What goes through your mind as you create?

CARRIE: That's an interesting question.  I do feel as though when I am in my optimal art-making mode, I am in a very non-verbal and purely visual part of my brain, making intuitive connections and working in a reactive way. I do try to spend time in the studio every day.  Some days, it's just catching up on email and doing research about opportunities, but it's important to me to have daily designated studio time. I often listen to music, usually the same piece of music or playlist repeated over and over as I work on a piece.  I guess the familiarity of hearing the same sounds acts as a kind of meditation. It preoccupies my mind, but also allows it to drift if that makes sense?

MICHAEL: Indeed it does.  What kind of music do you listen to while working? I can't imagine it's music cluttered with a lot of notes, melody or lyrics.

CARRIE: Well, for this show it has been mostly the National (High Violet) and Frightened Rabbit (Winter of Mixed Drinks). PJ Harvey is kind of my default studio music.

MICHAEL: Why did I think you were on the east coast or maybe Chicago? You're in Portland, Oregon now? There must be a story there.

CARRIE: Yes, I've been in Portland for about three and a half years now. I was in Chicago for twelve years before that! The move was kind of a confluence of personal and professional things. I had just ended a long-term relationship in Chicago and wanted to be closer to Bullseye Glass Company (based here in Portland). Bullseye has an amazing research and education department and is really focused on pushing glass as a material which is what I was interested in pursuing. The company has two aspects: the factory where they manufacture the glass and teach classes and the gallery where they exhibit work.  I also teach classes as a guest instructor at the factory.

MICHAEL: Very cool. I notice that more artists seem to be interested in glass as a medium. What's so great about it? Isn't it expensive?

CARRIE: Well, I like working in glass because it allows me to work in layers in a way that's similar to printmaking while also being more dimensional-sculptural. As a material, it's fascinating to me how the same piece can reflect, absorb or transmit light depending on the angle you view it from. But yes, it is an expensive medium.

MICHAEL: What is Portland like? I've heard that it's a very art-friendly city. For some reason, I'm picturing a very "green" city where lots of people ride their bikes year round and are members of garage bands. Oh yes, and there are lots of cafes.

CARRIE: Yes, Portland is very green in all senses of the word. It is a very relaxed little city, with a bohemian feel to it. Lots of cafes, small local businesses, bikes, etc. It's pretty easy to have a good quality of life here which makes it a good place to be during this economy. It's definitely small though, after Chicago! A friend of mine from Scotland said that it reminded him of Berlin.

MICHAEL: Is it artsy? How do you feel there as a creative person?

CARRIE: Portland is definitely artsy. I enjoy the slower pace, but am sometimes frustrated by the lack of drive. It has a strong tradition of DIY culture, which adds to its alternative feel. I would say the art here has a very interiorized/personal feel. This is a question that's been on my mind lately, as I'm trying to decide whether to stay here or move elsewhere. I'm not sure where else I'd move.

MICHAEL: If your body of work had a message thus far, what would it be?  I know this is a somewhat complex and even perhaps silly question.

CARRIE: Hmm, it's funny how simple questions are often the hardest. I guess a thread I see throughout my work is examining how the traces or remnants of an event are left behind and how that residue influences and affects a space. So perhaps the message would be to cultivate an awareness of that flux and see the value in the transitory and discarded.

MICHAEL: There's this whole mass audience of people out there who would probably love art, but have no clue about the accessibility of talented artists like you. You've obviously thought about this. What do you think?

CARRIE: I think the internet is changing that, in good and bad ways. On the
plus side, it's much easier to see and read about art than it used to be.  On the downside, it seems rarer for people to actually go to galleries and experience art in person.  An interesting antidote that I see emerging is artists operating almost like urban planners and setting up multi-part projects in their communities. Theaster Gates comes to mind, as does Paul Chan and Mark Bradford. They manage to work in a populist way, but still create interesting and complicated art.

MICHAEL: Obviously, most artists create their own work on their own which is the whole point. However, I think contemporary art would be much higher on the priority list for everyday folks if more creative people actually worked together to reach the public and promote art. What do you think?

CARRIE: Yes, it would be great to see more artists collaborating with each
other and the public. As you can probably tell, I think artists have a responsibility to try to reach out and support their communities in creative ways.

MICHAEL: Finally Carrie, What are you hopes for your work and the future?

CARRIE: Well, first and foremost, I hope to be able to keep creating art and to make work that is meaningful and engaging. I'd like to be able to work on a larger scale and take longer periods of time to develop my work. I'm interested in incorporating more multimedia: film, sound and video into my work as well.

MICHAEL: Great. I wish you the best. Nice chat Carrie!

CARRIE: Thank YOU for your passion and enthusiasm for art. It is much appreciated!

If you'd like to find out more about Carrie's work, check out her website at