Squeak Carnwath

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Squeak Carnwath
Born 1947
Abington, Pennsylvania, United States
Nationality American
Education California College of Arts and Crafts, Goddard College
Known for Painting, Printmaking, book art
Notable work "The Story of Painting" (1999)
Awards Flintridge Foundation Award for Visual Artists (2001), Guggenheim Fellowship (1994), National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship (1985 & 1980)

Squeak Carnwath (born 1947 in Abington, Pennsylvania) is a contemporary American painter. She received her MFA from California College of Arts and Crafts in 1977.[1] She is a Professor of Art at the University of California, Berkeley, where she has taught since 1982, having previously taught at California College of Arts and Crafts and Ohlone College. She currently has a studio in Oakland, California, where she has lived and worked since 1970.


After high school, Carnwath studied art in Illinois, Greece, and Vermont before attending the California College of Arts and Crafts, where she studied ceramics, painting, and sculpture with Viola Frey, Art Nelson, Jay DeFeo, and Dennis Leon. Soon after graduating with an MFA, Carnwath began to receive recognition for her work including a Visual Arts Fellowship grant from the National Endowment for the Arts[1] and a SECA Art Award from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which included a solo exhibition at the museum.[2] Her work is also a part of the traveling multi-media art exhibit The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama.


In 1996, Chronicle Books published a 108-page monograph titled Squeak Carnwath: Lists, Observations & Counting with essays by Leah Levy and James and Ramsay Breslin. In 2009, the professional association between artist Squeak Carnwath and Karen Tsujimoto, senior curator of art at the Oakland Museum of California, culminated in the exhibition Squeak Carnwath: Painting Is No Ordinary Object (April 25 through August 23, 2009). The exhibition's companion book, Painting Is No Ordinary Object, is a 160-page retrospective of Carnwath's career. It features more than 80 color reproductions and essays by Tsujimoto and art critic and poet John Yau (co-published by Pomegranate, 2009).[3]


Carnwath has a distinctive and recognizable style which combines diaristic and personal elements with universal or existential themes. Her paintings "combine text and images on abstract fields of color to express sociopolitical and spiritual concerns."[4] She has described herself ironically as a "painting chauvinist" due to an abiding preference for that medium, although she is also an accomplished printmaker and has created sophisticated Jacquard tapestries, artist books, and mixed media works in addition to her oil and alkyd works on canvas.

In an essay for a 2001 Flintridge Foundation catalog, Noriko Gamblin describes the evolution of Carnwath's approach to composition and subject matter:

The work for which Carnwath first became widely known in the mid- and late 1980s is characterized by simple, iconic images and words floating like astral bodies within monochromatic or bichromatic fields. The images represent common things—chairs, vessels, bones, feet, genitalia, flowers, birds, houses, and so on—using rudimentary forms and emphatic black outlines. The words or passages of text, rendered in an ingenuous and expressive script, catalogue and comment on various aspects of existence, such as the affinities that unite seemingly unrelated objects and the essential differences (e.g., between that divide them. Simultaneously comic and grave in tenor, these pictures evoke the free-ranging ruminations of a daydreaming mind as it encounters the myriad phenomena of daily life and tries to make sense of them... engaging an ever-evolving constellation of preoccupations and investigations: how we know things, what we know, the nature of memory, perception, passion, time, and death.

Although Carnwath quickly established a distinctive personal style, some aspects of her work have undergone gradual transformations. The strongly geometric structure— characterized by grids, quadrants, and contrasting color bands and fields—of her paintings of the 1980s and early 1990s has loosened into more fluid arrangements of diverse elements, which include structural motifs as well as "decorative" patterns. Similarly, her iconography, which was initially tied to a relatively circumscribed personal symbology, has both expanded and grown more allusive. The early lists, litanies, injunctions, and poetic observations have been joined by more casual notations, which often lend a topical immediacy to her work.[2]


  1. ^ a b Heller, Jules (editor); Heller, Nancy G. (editor) (1995). North American women artists of the twentieth century. New York: Garland. p. 211. ISBN 0824060490. 
  2. ^ a b Gamblin, Noriko. (2001). " Squeak Carnwath," Catalog: Flintridge Foundation Awards for Visual Artists.
  3. ^ "Squeak Carnwath: Painting is No Ordinary Object."
  4. ^ King, Sarah. (1998). "Squeak Carnwath at David Beitzel," Art in America. Retrieved 2009-04-11.

External links[edit]