Written by Jenni Harris
Photographed by Cameron Ohls
Painting and drawing major Caroline Wright’s artistic impulse can be summed up in the four-word catchphrase of her childhood— “Let’s make a craft.” Born into a family of creative souls in Easley, South Carolina, she was only four years old when her mother taught her how to sew. “I knew then that I wanted to make things,” she said, “I knew I wanted to be a maker.”
However, it wasn’t until her senior year of high school that she considered art as a fulltime career option. Even though she had a lot of “creators” in her family, nobody ever taught her how to paint or draw. But despite this lack of formal training, she decided to major in the field because she thought it would be a challenging and conceptual counterpart to the functional textile arts she enjoyed such as sewing and knitting. She laughingly admits that her first attempts—simple figure renderings of a sphere—were not very good, but now it would be near impossible to find anybody who thinks Caroline has not made a name for herself in Anderson’s art community. A current junior, she has two pieces set to appear in this year’s Ivy Leaves.
When you look at one of her paintings, it’s hard to imagine that Caroline has only been working in the medium for the last year and a half or so. She has developed a distinctive style, looking to her favorite artist, Jenny Morgan, for inspiration. “I love the level of hyperrealism she has and the way she juxtaposes it with abstraction—blurring, sanding away portions, and mixing in unrealistic color,” she says. Caroline strives for realism in her own work, specifically when it comes to the human form in portraiture. “[Painting] people is always going to be exciting—always going to be a challenge,” she says, “The form of one person is always different from another.” Because of this, she describes her own style as focused and relational, specifically in reference to her use of minimal and flat backgrounds. This better emphasizes the model so that the viewer can have optimal opportunity to interact with the painting subject.
Another word Caroline uses to describe her work is “confrontational.” More important to her than technical style is the hope that her art will inspire a call to action and to reactionary change. “I don’t want somebody to look at my art and remain complacent,” she said, “Art can be a huge platform to evoke change in the world.” This conviction has led Caroline to tackle pieces dealing with environmental issues, adoption, and even anxiety. Her piece, Pop, which she named as the favorite painting she’s done and will be featured in the journal, calls people to reach outside of their comfort zones to experience growth and fulfillment. “Sometimes I’m anxious about trying new things, and it holds me back from doing them. But every time I’ve pushed through that anxiety and done those things anyways, it’s led to a positive outcome.” As one of these leaps of faith was coming to Anderson as a painting and drawing major, I think it’s safe to say that such a mindset has proved its value.
Though several years have come and gone between the present day and those moments of childhood crafting, Caroline has remained a maker. Sometimes she’s a maker of clothes, sometimes a maker of portraits. But no matter what her latest project is, when she opens it up to the public eye it always gives the same invitation, the same inclusive appeal to us all that echoes the refrain of her earliest days: “Let’s make a difference.”