East Hampton–based artist Carol Saxe works in a realist style, her brightly lit paintings drawing viewers in, inviting them to take part in the setting. Her series include windows, boats and coastal scenes, among other subjects that are distinctly recognizable to East Enders.
Saxe, whose work can currently be seen at Chrysalis Gallery in Southampton, earned her MFA at the University of Michigan and MA at Columbia University, and has gone on to receive numerous honors and awards for her artwork—locally, they include an Honorable Mention from Guild Hall’s Member Show in 2013 and Best Dan’s Papers Cover in 2012. This week, Saxe lets us in on her inspiration and influences.
This cover scene looks familiar—is this the back patio at Wölffer? And how did you capture that warm sunset glow?
Yes, the setting is the back patio at Wölffer Estate Vineyard. I intensified the contrast between the sunlit warm colors and the shaded cool colors to capture the quality of light. The different shades of weathered teak and shades of stone absorbed or reflected the light in beautiful colors and gave me a lot to work with.
What medium did you use to make this work?
My paintings are all done with acrylic paints, as I am allergic to oil. There are now high quality acrylic based paints that stay wet like oils that have enabled me to change the way I work.
As an artist, how does your home or surrounding environment influence your work?
The surrounding environment is very much a part of my work. The paintings are meant to evoke the viewer’s response to what we experience here. Some I would describe them as “lifestyle” paintings, like the Wölffer patio, paintings that are meant to focus the viewer on what is special about life here now—the ambience, the architecture, the setting. Although there are no people in the painting, the tables are there and the scene is set for people, for parties or quiet conversations while sipping wine and looking out over the vineyards.
My window paintings are also intended to draw the viewer into either an emotional response or a recollection. Windows create the tension between inside and outside, insider and outsider. I like a painting that can tell a story, one that the viewer can hopefully look at for a long time.
Who are some of the artists you most admire?
Wow, there are so many. Picasso, of course, was brilliant and revolutionized painting and sculpture. The Impressionists are my favorites, especially Monet, Manet and Renoir. The way they handled paint was brilliant and the beauty and range of their colors. As for more contemporary artists, I really admired David Dodge Gray’s large clean architectural paintings for their blend of realism and abstraction.
May Stevens water paintings—many years ago I saw a wall-size painting she had done of an empty boat adrift, and it is one of the most amazing and moving paintings I have ever seen. It just resonated deep emotion. When you got up close, you saw that the tiny ripples in the water had actually been created by tiny script…lots and lots of words. I found out later that she had had painted it after her son died and it was about loss. But like all great paintings, it needed no words of explanation. The powerful imagery and masterful execution said all that needed to be said.
I see Dan Pollera’s work often, as we exhibit in the same gallery, and I really admire the intensity and beautiful shadows he has created in his recent porch paintings. I also admire April Gornik’s landscapes for their freshness, scale and simplicity, but primarily the emotional effects she achieves with color. She really is a painter’s painter. Sadly, the art world has been one of the last bastions of the “boys club,” so subsequently many deserving women artists probably remain unknown to us.