Carol Hepper


As a young artist I began working with ideas informed by my childhood, the descendent of homesteaders, growing up on a cattle ranch in the late 1950’s, 60s and 70s on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. My immediate influences were the cultures of ranching, and those of Catholicism and Native American practices. They not only left a powerful mark on how I perceive and live in the world but also, in retrospect, created a platform for my practice and my future development as an artist in New York.

My earliest work explored the dynamic way our bodies and those of animals have been a source for ancient and modern humanity to create the world we live in. I developed a personal formal language exploring ancient and modern creations based on the body. By paying close attention not only to nature and its systems, but also, importantly, to our human intervention in nature, this observation continues to inform my work today.

Over the past 20 years, I have been spending summers making artwork in the Catskill Mountains. The landscape of trees and forests has refreshed my vocabulary of form.  From the architecture of a skeletal structure derived from bones found on the prairie to the structure of fallen trees in the Catskill forests, there is a fascinating continuity. Around 2007, I started working with interesting pieces of wood cut for firewood. These truncated limbs, having a strong relationship to the body, sometimes revealed wire and other objects imbedded inside. The tree’s ability to heal itself by incorporating an object that may stop its growth was inspiring. The pruning of a tree to create health, strength and productivity was not unlike that of a surgeon interacting with the human body for similar reasons. I started an ongoing series of drawings and sculptures investigating the act of cutting wood, titled Orange Slices, highlighting the cuts in the wood with bright orange color. More recently these pieces have led me to investigate posture and presence.

Photography has been an ongoing part of my practice. Initially, I took photos to capture ideas and to document artwork. Along with my practice of making sculpture, since 2007 I have explored photography in a sculptural way, initially to redefine the surface of space and form, with multiple sequential images of woodpiles, stone patios and stone walls near my studio in the Catskill Mountains. The photo composites continue this exploration, only now using my sculpture as its source; they are intended to create a new experience viewing sculpture through photography.  Using light and shadow, I can compress, expand, flatten or warp real space. My images place the viewer above, below or beside the sculpture. The photo composites provide a simultaneous three-dimensional view creating a very different visual experience in relation to the physicality of the sculpture.