Artist Profile: Joe Caruso

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Joe Caruso, Galatea Fine Art Opening Reception, June 7, 2019    Photo: George Shaw


Written By Randa Dubnick

At low tide in Gloucester harbor, rocks that are usually fully or partially submerged are completely revealed. The rocks seem alive, full of living things, and covered with seaweed. These rocky vignettes are often overlooked as people rush past them to see the ocean or to watch the boats go by. But children have the wisdom to stop and delight in the creatures and shells and seaweed revealed when the tide goes out.

These hidden scenes are the subject of Joe Caruso’s show at Galatea Fine Art this month. This show, titled The Majestic/The Divine, includes large charcoal drawings of rocks at low tide, as well as an installation–a seascape made of seaweed paper.

2_Caruso_Catch Me if You Can, Charcoal with pastel on Strathmore paper, 38 x 42 in.

Joe Caruso, Catch Me if You Can, 38 x 42, Charcoal with pastel on Strathmore paper

Joe notes that the rocks are hosts to living things, “seaweed, grasses, barnacles and other crustaceans.” Encrusted with an assemblage of life, these rocks create an illusion of life and movement. Joe captures this sense of life in his drawings, for example in Catch Me If You Can, a drawing of a rock that is all but moving. Joe points out that rocks have a prominent place in mythology, and are often linked to the divine, as markers of sacred places or sources of protection. His drawings evoke the mythical, tales of sea-gods or ancient sea monsters hiding in the rocks, but dramatically revealed at low tide.

Caruso works in charcoal on paper—natural materials chosen for their simplicity. The dark forms of the rocks rise from the water, familiar and yet unrecognizable. The patterns of the seaweed and the texture of the rocks add a lively sense of movement to the drawings.

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Joe Caruso, Sea Rock Sculpture Garden. Handmade paper from seaweed, abaca and cotton, found objects, stones, on bed of foam insulation, with charcoal drawing in background.

Working with charcoal, eraser, and a blending tool, Joe achieves a rich palette. He begins with the “darkest darks and lightest lights” and thus uses an enormous range of tones. With the simple black-and-white drawing and pale colors of the paper, Joe captures the sparkling textures of the rocks in sunlight and the shapes of the seaweed—all seemingly moving in the sea breeze.

The drawings are paired with an installation, the Sea Rock Sculpture Garden, that recreates the seascape of rocks, reeds, and flowers with sculptures made of seaweed-based paper, reeds, and rocks. The installation is actually designed around one of the drawings, creating the illusion that you are right there in Gloucester Harbor.

For Caruso, creating this show was an exploration and an adventure. He returned to charcoal drawing that he had done in the past, “as if he never left it,” but the new subject matter led to exploration of unfamiliar territory as he learned more about seaweed and the ecology of the area. To create the installation, he even learned how to make paper from seaweed. But then, Joe says that all of his art provides avenues for exploration.

4_Untitled. Charcoal with Pastel on Strathmore papr. 42 x 44 in.

Joe Caruso, Untitled, 42 x 44, Charcoal with Pastel on Strathmore paper

Joe adds that his drawings are intended both as “a tribute to nature” and as “an attempt to capture a moment in nature”. He is able to convey in his powerful drawings the majesty of the rocks teaming with life. Sometimes we miss the beauty of nature, either because it is hidden from view or hard to find—yet more often simply because we are hurrying past it. Excitingly, Joe Caruso’s show The Majestic/Divine reminds us that if you are in the right place at the right time, amazing and mysterious scenes reveal themselves. But you need to take the time to look.

Joe Caruso: The Majestic/The Divine, June 5-30, 2019. Visit Galatea Fine Art, 460 Harrison Avenue, #B-6, Boston, MA 02118, (617) 542-1500. Gallery Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 12-5 pm and by appointment. PLEASE JOIN US FOR AN INTIMATE TALK WITH ARTISTS C.J. LORI, JOE CARUSO & NIVA SHRESTHA SATURDAY, JUNE 15TH, 1:30PM AT GALATEA FINE ART.


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