Squeak Carnwath: Painting Is No Ordinary Object

Accomplished painter Squeak Carnwath (MFA 1977) just had her first major museum show in 20 years at the Oakland Museum of California. Painting Is No Ordinary Object was curated by Karen Tsujimoto and accompanied by a large catalog. The exhibition was widely reviewed (including substantial pieces in the San Francisco Chronicle, the East Bay Express, and KQED Arts) and enthusiastically received.

Carnwath's paintings are complex, layered, dense with meaning, and rich with a sense of wonder. "Paintings are not ordinary objects," the artist observes. "Painting is a carrier of meaning, of human touch. Each brushstroke or smear of pigment is freighted with philosophical inquiry." Her recurring motifs touch on personal and universal themes, from a rabbit tentatively seeking his place in a chaotic world to the seated blue Medicine Buddha, healer of ills and reminder of the latent Buddha nature in all of us.

Despite deep reservations about the dropping of the terminal "C" from "CCAC," Carnwath looks back very fondly on her years here (and not just because tuition cost a few hundred dollars a semester back then!). She particularly remembers Viola Frey, Dennis Leon, and Jay DeFeo as formative faculty influences. "They represented three different responses, diverse ways of looking at the students' work. Viola was unconditionally encouraging, at least to me. Dennis could stand in your shoes and talk about your work from a mature perspective, as if from the future. Jay was interested in the magic, and encouraged you to do anything. To her, all kinds of things were part of the art-making process, from breakfast to whatever. Both Viola and Jay were incredibly hardworking artists and strong women."

Browse photos of the August CCA alumni walk-through of the exhibition.

Read the Oakland Museum of California press release.