Rastafarian roots run deep with Rani Carson. The Jamaican native artist’s work portrays warm moments between family members amid celebratory
gatherings within her culture.
Carson is a master in her craft, earning a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Barnard College, Columbia University and an M.F.A. from Brooklyn College. Years later, she made her way east to Suffolk County Community College, where she was a professor of the arts from 1974 to 2010, simultaneously serving as curator for the Grant Campus art gallery. Retaining studios in Oracabessa, Jamaica and Riverhead, she now returns to her prior campus grounds as an exhibitor for Black History Month.
Suffolk County Community College’s Lyceum Gallery will showcase her intricate workings in casein paint, which will include multi-panel murals and monumental-size work.
How do the locations of Oracabessa and Riverhead inspire your work differently?
When I am in Oracabessa, I am inspired by the Jamaican community of Rastafari brethren and sistren who take a serious stand for truth, righteousness, justice, nature, and culture. When I am back in Riverhead, I often work from photographs of the same people, so the inspiration is almost the same.
How did you become involved with the East End community?
I used to spend summers renting a cabin on Mattituck Creek where I couldn’t even see another house. I got to know the North Fork, the landscape, the people, the theater community, the farm stands, and the artists. When the loft I was renting in Brooklyn was put up for sale, I decided to relocate to the East End.
What artists influenced your work?
I saw a show of Vincent van Gogh drawings at the Met, and his way of using line and cross-hatching gave me the idea of experimenting with brushstrokes in a very linear fashion. Much of my early Jamaican work was done that way using the very fluid medium of gouache. Now, my work is less linear and I am using casein paint instead of gouache. I always liked Paul Gauguin’s work, but I especially loved and studied and copied Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s paintings of women.
You taught art at Suffolk Community College for quite some time!
I am very grateful for all my years at Suffolk, as I met many wonderful students and faculty. I enjoyed teaching and also managed to keep painting during all those years.
Did you have a particular professor who made an impact on you during your years of study?
The teacher who had the most impact on me was the artist, Herman Rose, who taught at the New School. He and his actress/artist wife, Elia Braca, were my artistic mentors, and gave me encouragement and friendship.
Do you have a painting with a story behind it that you’d like to share?
I guess I would like to share the experience of the creation of the largest painting in the show, “Living Waters.” I attended a Christmas celebration at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Kingston. I did a small painting of that, which later led to the creation of the larger work. I tried to convey the depth of worship I experienced there, and included symbols of many faiths and traditions.
How does art heal you?
Art heals me mentally, spiritually, emotionally — in every way. When I am working, I am involved in a healing meditation.
The Lyceum Gallery is located at Suffolk County Community College Eastern Campus at 121 Speonk-Riverhead Road in Riverhead. See more of Rani Carson’s work at http://www.rastafari-inspiration.com.