Paulette Hartlett Carr’s narrative is as multifaceted as the tools she works with to create her art. The Bristol resident is a two dimensional and a three dimensional artist known for sculptures that can tower as high as eight feet and oil paintings of big sky minimal landscapes. Growing up with a mother (a painter), a father (a musician) and a move from Pennsylvania to Madagascar by way of Paris in her preteens, it was only natural that at age ten she picked up a paint brush to express the environment around her.
Years later on a still spring day at the end of a garden path her sculpture Josephine’s Dress catches one’s breath with its life-like haunting form playing tricks to the observer’s eye, suggesting movement of the gown’s finery from a breeze that doesn’t exist.
Whether she is manipulating her welding torch with materials as varied as burlap, steel wood and patina to create a layering effect of fabric design for an imposing sculpture or using oil paint, palette knife and brush on canvases both large and small, it is the memory of the hand that guides her. “There is memory to your hand and as any artist knows it is a memory to your gesture when you are working after years and years of practice,” she says. “Each artist has his or her very own rhythm, pattern and it comes with experience.”
Experience has taught Paulette what works for selling her art. “I always tell young artists it is important to start to focus on what you really love. Do you like to paint trees? Do you like to paint, in my case, big sky minimal landscape? It takes several years, as long as a decade to find out what you are really good at,” she explains.
Paulette discovered the value of developing a style and look that the public can recognize and identify as her work. “It will make the artist much more marketable. The public needs that in order to relate to you,” she points out. A member of the Providence Art Club, Paulette participates in the annual Little Picture Show held before the holidays and always sells out her inventory of 25 or more pieces. “It’s a good cash and carry event and exposes me to a lot of people who like my work.”
A solitary painter who has been influenced by Rhode Island’s geographic beauty and open access to the ocean since moving to the state, she is already at work producing works for the 2014 holiday show. Paulette will often have four to eight paintings going on at the same time. “I paint emotion of what I am feeling, those days when we look at the sky and we go ‘wow,’ or it might be a dark day. It is a visceral response to the reaction to the day but for each viewer that connection is going to be different.”
Paulette’s professional career in the work force had always been an extension of her art whether it was merchandising with mannequins, interior design, broadcasting or renovating buildings and houses (including a full restoration in 1986 of the Nathanial Porter Inn in Warren, a significant historic architectural building). Her insatiable appetite to learn new artistic mediums over the years has led her to the Rhode Island School of Design, the DeCordova Museum, The Foundry, Corning Museum of Glass and The Steel Yard.
Since 2000 Paulette has been able to focus on producing and selling her art and with it the luxury to be very deliberate where she exhibits. A past chair of the Bristol Art Museum who values her community of artist friends, Paulette undertook in 2010 the publication of Vestiges, Sculpture in the Gardens, a book produced for her installation exhibit at Blithewold Mansion in Bristol. In 2012 she was asked to exhibit at Edith Wharton’s The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts by the highly regarded organization SculptureNow.
“I have developed a following but it takes years as with almost any business until you really get established. I used to exhibit here and there and enter lots of contests but I don’t do that anymore,” which doesn’t mean she isn’t out promoting. “I consider myself an exhibiting artist. I’ve always felt my work needs to be seen in a setting. Years when I don’t exhibit I don’t sell; years I exhibit I do well. I believe you are only as good as your last show.”