Carole Werder

Sojourner’s Truth (Bettye Walker), 2004-2021, oils and fluorescent paint on wood (carved, woven and popsicle sticks), 66”x47”x7”

Location: Edinboro, PA


Describe your featured work:

This work is a biographical depiction of my friend Bettye Walker. She reenacts Sojourner Truth’s history as a means of being a cultural bridge builder. To the left of Bettye’s portrait is an image of Sojourner Truth. Opposite is a chained door containing the words that were written anonymously on the mirror in Bettye’s fabric shop. Because such cruelty is a facet of her life, I included it with Betty’s permission. Above and to the right are her twin daughters Bonnie (deceased) and Connie. Betty’s husband James (deceased) is on the left. At the top, are Bettye’s parents in outfits designed and made by her to show them as a king and queen. Surrounding them are slave quilt patterns which were used to show the way north to enslaved people seeking freedom from the antebellum south. The woven wood at the bottom is a homage to Betty’s artful use of fabric. The painted kente cloth patterns are referenced as a symbol of her dignity and royalty.

Artist’s Statement:

I work as a sculptural painter to explore and interpret the identities of ordinary people I know and to tell their stories. Lately, in addition to people, I have been seeking to interpret various Bible verses in the same manner. Through the metaphorical use of common throw-away and scavenged wooden items; (popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, toothpicks, matches, chopsticks, and second hand finds) I use the ordinary to depict the extraordinary and the natural to reveal the spiritual.

My painting structures come off the wall to diminish emotional distance with the viewer. The three dimensionality of my work directly reflects the sensibilities of the many years of catering I did before being able to attend grad school. As an undergrad, my work was all two dimensional

The Three Graces Today (Franny, Pearl, and Dore), 2010-2021, oils on carved wood, popsicle sticks, matches, chopsticks, and coffee stirrers, 52″x59″x4″5

Poured Out, 2001-2021, oils and gold leaf on carved wood and popsicle sticks, 32″x32″x8″
Mind Control (2 Corinthians 10:5), 2017-2021, oils on carved wood, popsicle sticks, driftwood, and wooden utensils
Paths (Proverbs 4:18), 2020-?, acrylic and oils on wooden shoe forms, matches chopsticks, clothespins, popsicle sticks, and toothpicks

What are you working on now?

For the last year, I have been working on a piece based on Proverbs 4:18. The path of the righteous is like the first light of dawn, shining brighter and brighter into the full light of day. Most, but not all, of the structure is complete and I have started the painting process. The work is still unresolved and in process.

I like the challenge of both constructing with wood and then painting the surfaces to achieve unity, either by conforming color to the surface forms or denying the form to create illusions that fool the eye. Solving various ‘problems’ is enjoyable. How can I narrate without being too illustrative? How can I use items of kitsch without the work being kitsch? In the words of artist Red Grooms ‘How far can I go too far?’

Why do you belong to CIVA?

My artwork is intimately connected with and informed by my faith and flows from it. The opportunities that CIVA provides to share with other artists who are similarly motivated and inspired are a great gift. Being part of CIVA is an open window to see how the Spirit is currently moving, speaking to the world, and shaping culture.

I believe it is time for artists of faith to take an even greater role in revealing the truth of God’s powerful and close presence. Creating a clear path in our cruel, confused, and often aimless culture.

Carole Werder is a studio artist based in Erie, PA. Twenty years apart, she received both BFA and MFA painting degrees from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Carole has participated in notable group shows at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Andy Warhol Museum, the Erie Art Museum, the Butler Institute of American Art, Hall Walls, and Woman Made Gallery. Her one-person shows have been at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA; the Erie Art Museum, the Heeschen Gallery, Meadville, PA; the Sanford Gallery of CSU, Clarion, PA; the HUB-Robeson gallery of PSU, State College, PA.