Squeak Carnwath X Oaklandish - Capsule Launch
Oaklandish is thrilled to collaborate on a merch capsule with Squeak Carnwath, an Oakland-based painter and arts educator. Carnwath is one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary artists in the United States, with an illustrious career that spans five decades.
Born in Abington, Pennsylvania, in 1947, Squeak (a childhood name that stuck) grew up in various places along the Eastern seaboard. After graduating high school, she studied art in Illinois, Greece, and Vermont before moving to Oakland in 1970 to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts.
While in college, she studied ceramics, painting, and sculpture with Viola Frey, Art Nelson, Jay DeFeo, and Dennis Leon, graduating in 1977 with a Master of Fine Arts. Carnwath taught at UC Davis from 1983 -1998 and then at UC Berkeley from 1998-2000, quickly gaining national and international recognition and accolades for her work.
She has received numerous awards, including one from the Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art (SECA) from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which included a solo exhibition. She's also received two Individual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Award for Individual Artists from the Flintridge Foundation, and the Lee Krasner Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2018), among too many others to list.
Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout the United States and internationally. Today it can be found in the collections of many major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
Carnwath has lived and worked in Oakland since 1970, building her artistic career while supporting other local artists. In 2017 she launched Roll Up Project, a window display space for Bay Area artists in the Jack London district, which aims to celebrate and promote a diverse range of local artists and their work. In 2000, she partnered with her husband, Gary Knecht, and artist Viola Frey to establish the Artists' Legacy Foundation (ALF) to support and encourage fellow artists through awards and grants.
Her style is distinctive and recognizable. Her vibrant, energetic aesthetic reflects her fascination with the human experience and the complexities of our world. Her work is characterized by her use of pictorial icons blended with words and passages of text.
Carnwath's icons are inspired by her personal experiences and universal forms from anthropology and art history. They are essential to her compositions and have evolved and changed throughout her career, expanding and growing over the years, adding topical immediacy to her work. They symbolize universal topics of humanity by representing everyday things like chairs, vessels, bones, feet, genitalia, flowers, and birds. Simultaneously comic and grave in tenor, they evoke the free-ranging ruminations of a daydreaming mind as it encounters and tries to make sense of the world.
She combines these pictorial elements with words or passages of text garnered from fragments of poetry, philosophy, and other sources, adding a multi-dimensional aspect to her art that comments on the various intricacies of our existence, like the affinities that unite seemingly unrelated objects.
For Carnwath, regardless of the media, everything relates back to the act of painting. In fact, she often publicly refers to herself as a “painting chauvinist” with a nod to her abiding preference for the medium. She notes that the visible is how we orient ourselves, and it remains our principal source of information about the world, while painting reminds us of what is absent, what we don't see anymore.
In short, Squeak Carnwath is a truly unique and talented artist whose work is a testament to the power of creativity and the human spirit. Her paintings and other artworks are a joy to behold and a reminder of the beauty and complexity of our world.
Her collection with Oaklandish features components of a mural she created in Downtown Oakland called Oakland is the Center of the Beautiful World, which celebrates the creativity of the people of Oakland with various images referencing the globe, the United States, California, and Oakland radiating at the world’s center.
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Learn more > Artwork - Squeak Carnwath