Carol Hepper: The Skin of Things

June 30 - August 25, 2018

Carol Hepper in Conversation with Nancy Princenthal and Oliver Shultz
Saturday, August 11, 2018
5-6:00 pm


The Catskill Art Society will present Carol Hepper: The Skin of Things, a major exhibition of recent works by Carol Hepper, a Jeffersonville and New York City based artist, on view at the CAS Arts Center, 48 Main Street, June 30 through August 25. Since the early 1980s, Hepper has exhibited in museums in the United States and abroad, and her work is part of private and public collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Walker Art Center; North Dakota Museum of Art; and the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. This exhibition brings together Hepper’s recent sculpture, drawing, and photography made over the past decade with her sculptural constructions of the early 2000s.


The descendant of homesteaders and daughter of cattle ranchers, Hepper’s early source material and studio was the landscape of her native MacLaughlin, South Dakota. Since then she has continued to work largely with natural materials – fish skins, animal hides, cattle bones, and branches – fracturing, splitting, severing, stretching and suturing her materials together again to produce complex sculptural works that involve the viewer in the act of perception. Since the beginning of her career, when she photographed her sculptures outdoors in the South Dakota prairieland, photography has also played an important role in Hepper’s practice.   


The exhibition highlights a suite of freestanding sculptures constructed from raw and reclaimed wood, tufts of fur, metal, tree branches, paint, and hand-blown glass, which belong to a series of works Hepper began during her residency at the Park Avenue Armory in 2012. Hepper has photographed these works in the round and  reproduced them as large photo composites installed nearby. Assembling dozens of individual images of different sections of each sculpture into a single image she renders the three-dimensional object  in two dimensions, revealing all its sides simultaneously. Paired with the bodily experience of moving around the physical sculpture, the flattened composites suggest how time can be compressed or distended, that all sensation depends on a degree of artifice.


Hepper’s more recent sculpture is juxtaposed with key works from the early 2000s, which she constructed using tanned and painted fish skins. In the large-scale paintings Tsunami (2000) and Percussion (2000), Hepper transforms  tanned sturgeon skins into an abstract composition that functions as both image and canvas. Stitched together with fishing line and painted to re-incorporate the color and vibrancy lost during the tanning process, the vibrant, hardened surface of the skins forms a luminescent fabric that floats over the wall like a perforated tapestry, producing an intricate play of light and shadow. Even as she employs them like a painterly material, the fish skins remain easily recognizable, attesting to their provenance as once-living creatures that Hepper has reanimated through her work.


The Orange Slice (2012-2013) series is comprised of drawings inspired by the cut wood from pruned fruit trees, as well as firewood from fallen trees, that Hepper finds around her home and studio in Jeffersonville, New York. The knotted, organic forms of these found branches are rendered in black watercolor and gouache, juxtaposed with a swath of bright orange pigment over the place where the wood has been cut or severed, calling attention to the trace of human intervention into nature’s forms.


Carol Hepper: The Skin of Things is accompanied by a catalogue comprises a critical essay on Hepper’s work by art historian Oliver Shultz, Curatorial Assistant at MoMA PS1, and an interview between the artist and Patterson Sims, independent curator. The 56-page publication is produced by the Catskill Art Society and available at the CAS Arts Center, Livingston Manor. The publication, Carol Hepper: The Skin of Things includes an interview with the artist conducted by Sims, and essay from Shultz.