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Meet Carmen McNall

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carmen McNall.

Carmen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am an Oakland based artist. From a very young age, I can remember being fascinated and tied to drawing and painting. I was exposed to frequent desert trips as child and used to crush up different colored rocks I found, mixing them with water to create paints. I liked the idea of making something out of just the elements.

I was drawn to printmaking and fell in love with the intimacy of the work. Learning the many different processes felt like learning an ancient secret passed down from generations. My favorite process was woodcut, in particular the hands on aspect of carving the wood and the immediacy of the printing. It was the most simple yet bold of all the techniques.

I continue using woodcarving in my work, transforming it from a printmaking process to something new, carving on paintings and large wood panels to create a textural element to the work. Using patterns as a language to define movement and the elements.

Has it been a smooth road?
There have been many challenges I have faced and will continue to face as a female artist. Many people expect artists to work for free or for a very low price, they think because you love what you do and it’s your passion that it’s not work or your job. You have to fight for what is yours always and prove your worth to everyone. As female artists, people tend to doubt your abilities, particularly while working on larger pieces and murals. These are challenges women face in many industries. Those moments are opportunities to show your capabilities and educate the misinformed and in the end because we must work harder our work holds power and pride.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I work in many different mediums and forms, such as painting, printmaking, large scale installations, murals and wooden sculptures. My work tells the stories of female figures of strength, focusing on those who work with their hands; keeping alive the artifacts of humanity. I find great power in the passing down of trades from generation to generation, commanding a presence and pride as craft-makers and workers of dying traditions. I am interested in the way a simple hand made item can hold such power and personal importance, providing strength and guidance in times of struggle.

Incorporating patterns I find in the natural world, I reflect on the relationship of people and their environments as times change and we change.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Things are very heavy in this time for artists due to COVID-19. It of course is a hard time for everyone and all future plans are on hold and up in the air. Projects and shows that had been planned for since last year are postponed until an unknown date.

We are shifting to a more virtual world. Artists are having to find creative ways to make a living and connect with people. Social media and selling work online will play a huge roll in the future. Online workshops and art shows are how the community can engage together. However, I hope that this time without physical connection will bring a larger support to the arts and once we can return to our in person lives, more people than ever will show up for the artist!

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