For the record I did not PhotoShop in the halo. it is a reflection of Marie Navarre's Seeing the Song across the room. I met Carolyn Drake in 2013 when we were on a photo panel together at the Ackland Art Museum. I liked her and her work immediately. She had been based in Istanbul and working on two stunning projects in Asia which yielded artists books.
Almost immediately after meeting we invited her to the residency but the stars did not align for her to come until April of this year. She had clearly thought a lot about making the most of her time here and I'd never experienced one of our visiting artists so quick out of the starting gate. On like the second day I asked if she would be interested in going for a swim and she had already swum both days here and finagled a free membership at a great swim club. She wanted to work on a project surrounding coal ash as Duke Energy had recently had a massive spill near here and I asked her if I could set up meetings with chemistry/toxicology guys at Duke but she was already on their calendars. No grass growing underneath Carolyn Drake. She had an idea that she would like to take landscapes and process the prints somehow incorporating the coal ash material. She wanted to learn about the chemistry of the material but it turned out to be surprisingly hard to get the material itself in an undiluted form.
When it came time for Carolyn to do her artist talk I asked her for some images for the invitation and she sent me this from an orphanage in Ukraine and it knocked me out.
She hadn't ever printed it and Ellen and I were right in the middle of curating our next show called Private Portals featuring women artists in our collection and I really wanted to include it in the show and we were only weeks from the opening. Carolyn was a trooper. We found her a great local printer and she printed it at various scales to see what worked and we quickly settled on a 16x20 and then there were quite a few iterations to get the skin tone and background perfect. We bought the print and I framed it in the basement a day before it needed to be on the wall.
Each artist who stays with us inevitably overlaps with things on our schedule unrelated to their residency and we usually ask them along for the ride. Carolyn was here during my company KONTEK Systems' Night at the Bulls annual customer appreciation event at the Durham Bulls Ballpark (2014 event shown). Baseball didn't engage her very long and she was off with her camera in the hood.
Her time was over in a flash. We got to meet her husband Andres Gonzales, also an amazing photographer, when he came to assist one weekend. On their way out of town they scored a major cache of coal ash. We know we haven't heard the end of this story.