- Photo by Kevin Kunstadt
- Pressing On installation, 86 antique sad irons on 16’ wooden table by Elizabeth M. Fraser (ca. 1920), Woodstock Artists Association & Museum
A page, for me, is a very visual thing, but also a contextual thing," says artist Carole Kunstadt. "I've always had this inclination for the written word. The ability to tap into the unknown and the unspoken through art has always been important to me." Words, paper, books are at the core of Kunstadt's artistic practice—she is a master architect of paper.
And while printed matter is primarily used to convey meaning through words, words are usually obscured in the work of the Hurley-based artist. Kunstadt's work is a kind of post-word world. It's the reimagining of the pages that creates their magic. In Kunstadt's hands, books are broken down and transformed, phoenix-like, into new shapes that encompass the original meaning of the words while transcending them. The repurposed forms reveal a previously undisclosed essence within the books. They also create new stories out of the antique objects, unlocking the physical potential latent in the pages.
The feminist themes and iconography in Kunstadt's work are hard to miss—irons, female authors, sewing, and eggs all feature prominently. Yet there is a quietness, a subtlety to her pieces that places it at the opposite end of the spectrum from what might be considered agenda-driven art. She freely admits to being a feminist, however. "I've come to it in the latter part of my life," says Kunstadt. "Something changes when we lose our parents. Losing my mother, I was very concerned about who will tell her story and who tells the stories of women, particularly, when they pass. I think that helped generate this work, that concern."
The physical qualities of paper are also a central concern of Kunstadt's work, and a metaphor for the durability and transience of the human experience. "Paper is very resilient, but it's also very transitory." I like that contradiction. It really captures for me the idea of life. It starts from a raw material and transforms into something in its lifetime that we use in various ways. In the end, it just returns to pulp. It can disappear."
Kunstadt's work will be exhibited in two groups shows this month: "Drawings/Works on Paper, Part Two," at Buster Levi Gallery in Cold Spring, and as part of the "Still Still Moving/Towards 2020" exhibition curated by Eleni Smolen at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon.