We are pleased to share this next guest blog by Damien Shalley.
Damien Shalley enjoys breathing the cold air of solitude – as long as he’s got some company whilst doing so. He’d hang an original Folkenroth in his apartment if he could afford one – an original Folkenroth or an apartment.
If you have a piece to submit to Bear Skin please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The dull corpus of your Bear Skin correspondent was infected by a fever in the mid 2000’s, a fever which to date has not been cured. No, not Influenza “A” or “B”, but something heretofore unknown called Influenza “F”. “F” for Folkenroth – Caroline Folkenroth, to be precise. This utterly underrated artist (married name Taulbee) first made her presence felt in the early noughties and by mid-decade was regarded by art commentators as one of the then ascendant “New Gothics”.
With her modernist works depicting a stylised and sometimes confronting take on female beauty (and her later, somewhat alarming surrealist pieces depicting abject despair – or her version of it at least), Folkenroth enjoyed a degree of success due to the relative accessibility of her painted imagery. You didn’t need to be an art scholar to appreciate the emotions present in her work – she seemed to transfer her feelings directly to the canvas for viewers to experience directly. Her pieces possess a wondrous feminine elegance. And of course, some have been controversial – but not for the reasons you might think.
Too obvious? – “Water of Life”
Folkenroth’s early pieces were defined by an obvious folk art style that some critics suggested was deliberate – a commentary on art snobbery or at the very least a pre-meditated ploy to create ripples of controversy with “outsider art” that would ultimately lead her to wider recognition. Others with less kind assessments suggested that her style was the unfortunate result of a lack of training –artistic naiveté. It is difficult to look at “Delphian Waters” and not agree. (Folkenroth did have some formal training but is largely self-taught).
Folkenroth fail – “Delphian Waters”
She also commonly utilised fantastical themes at this time – fantasy is prevalent in this phase of her artistic journey – but was also accused by some of relying on clichés. “Oh Caroline, no!” What’s a girl to do girl? Well…
“A Simple Sight for Sore Eyes”
As her self-awareness grew, Folkenroth’s work took on a new tone and complexity. In the mid 2000’s her output took a sudden, feverishly exciting turn guaranteed to put critics into a flat spin. Her whimsical, lightly-coloured, quietly emotional art took a sharp left turn into oppressively sombre black and grey surrealism and warning-sign red nightmare images. And it’s great! She delivered some truly striking and often unnerving works. The critics took a second look, the galleries clamoured for her pieces and the art world’s “Lilith” faction adopted her as a cause célèbre. The viewing public were energised and inspired, and Folkenroth was knocking on the door of art world fame. And then…nothing. (Well, nothing much).
Art – modern art in particular – can be as fickle a business as pop music. Trends come and go, and those in the right place at the right time get to ride the wave – for a while. Unless your career is well-managed (like Damien Hirst’s, whom some might argue is more “managed” than it is “material”), you can flounder. For whatever reason, Folkenroth never hit her stride and never succeeded in the way that many felt she could have.
Folkenroth faded to a very significant degree after her mid 2000s peak and has most recently taken up sculpture. Some of her works – she is fond of smiling angels – are very technically accomplished and as evocative as her best paintings. (She also works in wax to a lesser extent). Folkenroth has had involvement with A.R.T Research Enterprises – a bronze sculpture foundry working closely with the arts community to deliver highly technically accomplished sculptural capabilities. Her paintings and her sculpted works almost never appear together though and must be sought out seperately. The Lilith Gallery in Toronto, Canada holds a significant collection of her paintings, ensuring public access to her legacy pieces. Folkenroth prides herself on having created her own “stylized visual language” as she call it and continues to work towards creating “a visually beautiful, sensual, and emotional euphoric experience” for viewers of her pieces. Let’s hope she keeps doing just that. Ultimately, what her artistic future holds is anyone’s guess, but we’ll always have her remarkably evocative early efforts to contemplate and to remind us that the ethereal female mystique will beguile artists forever.