Carol Bruns (b. Des Moines, Iowa 1943) is an artist living in Brooklyn, New York, working in sculpture and drawing. She graduated NYU 1966 in Fine Arts, then attended the Art Students League, NYC and l'Academie de La Grande Chaumiere, Paris. She first exhibited in 1975 at OK Harris Gallery showing wall works made from found supports cloaked with cloth and thin, colored plaster. In 1980 she was guest artist at the Caraccio Etching Studio, Orion Editions published her prints, and in 2002 she received a printmaking fellowship at the Women's Studio Workshop. From 2000-2006 she was in four two-person exhibitions at the Tew Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia. Group exhibitions continued throughout this time as well as community organizing (Dumbo Open Studios), curating (Persona, A New Look at Portraits 1997; Festival of Political Pleasure 2017), publishing artist's books (Pages, with Robert Jacks), and stage décor (Bellerophon Dance Company). In 2013 she was interviewed by Gorky's Granddaughter, and in 2019 received a Tree of Life grant. Her most recent exhibitions were at The Parlour Bushwick in 2015, Sculpture Space in Long Island City, SRO Gallery in Brooklyn in 2017-18, and Zurcher Gallery 2022. Ms. Bruns also writes art essays and reviews exhibitions, two most recently published in d'Art International and artcritical.com.
I've lived 79 years now---call me The Rad Relic. When I began making art long ago, experiences of feeling miserable, inferior, and stuck drove me to years of meditation and reading psychology. From inner necessity I've cultivated a relationship with the unconscious as a healing process and muse, by means of dream work and yoga practices. I've watched as it transforms the destructive within into meaningful sculpted figures, faces, heads, and drawings that reclaim energy locked in the core of the self. Converting pain to a purpose beyond myself, this ongoing source in the unconscious gives my art its coherence.
As a student in the 1960s, I accepted the tradition of drawing the figure for its value as a way of seeing, a discipline of visual thinking. Under gifted teachers I began to draw the life model in a special way: extending the gaze beyond the surface to the spirit and movement of the human, in contrast to the classical method of a detached observer rendering anatomy. As the decades went by, my sculpted figures retained and deepened into these roots. My inner life groped through mythic realms in a process that is itself mythic--- a descent to the underworld where characters, objects, and events are both real and unreal at the same time, condensed in their meaning as are dreams.
From 1995-2000 I worked in small-sized wax, then cast into bronze, which featured theatrical movement of the figure inhabited by my youth experiences in dancing, horse riding, and skating. Around 2001 I evolved the size and materials to much larger and more primitive sculptural materials which reflected the new inner archaic and primal contents. When the figures stopped moving, becoming still, they entered a place outside of time.
Proceeding with this radical perspective, its new forms and old psychological forces, the sculptures create an umbrella of aesthetic pleasure sheltering great discrepancies from the comic, spontaneity and surprise to the dark side----fear and aggression, diminishment and deficiency, the deformed, frail, unrealized, and death.
With an outsider's vocabulary of newspaper, cardboard, styrofoam packing forms, bamboo, plaster, steel, cement, and paper, I construct and invent wall-mounted masks, life-sized free-standing figures, and heads. A unique feature of the process is a pliable, self-made paper laminate that can form hollow, light shapes that rumple and bump in a handmade, organic way, capable of unlimited variety. The sculptures are finished with a shell of thin plaster.