Nicole Charbonnet | Artists’ Chronicle: 2020

The Arthur Roger Gallery is checking in with gallery artists. Today’s feature is on Nicole Charbonnet. 

Nicole Charbonnet appropriates Americana imagery, as well as compositions from noteworthy international artists, as a way of stimulating a sense of nostalgia while addressing current social and political situations. For Charbonnet, painting serves as a metaphor for the phenomenon of recollection. Her process of painting mimics or simulates the process of memory with its numerous layers and textures, resulting in paintings that both illuminate the past and encourage interpretations that function as starting points in and of themselves. Charbonnet says of her process, “Whether painting images or abstract gestures, my paintings are textural and built up with layers over time. The superimposition of textures, images, collage, words and paint create surfaces that retain or reveal a memory of preexisting stages, resulting in a palimpsest in which some images, shapes or words are obfuscated, while others remain visible however shaped by previous or subsequent gestures and events.”

The distressed works are constructed using an additive and subtractive process. Layers of collage – artifacts from the artist’s life including letters, receipts, books, and fabric – are built up and manipulated with paint, modeling paste, marble dust, and plaster. The compositions, which include superimposed words, textures, and images, are repeatedly sanded, scraped, carved, and repainted. They retain a sort of palimpsestic record of preexisting stages and become metaphors for the phenomena of recollection. In Austerlitz, W.G. Sebald, wrote, “Our concern with history…is a concern with preformed images already imprinted on our brains, images at which we keep staring while the truth lies elsewhere, away from it all.”
Born in New Orleans, Nicole Charbonnet received her B.A. from the University of Virginia and her M.F.A. from Boston University. She also studied in France at the Academic Goetz in Paris and the Cleveland Institute of Art’s school in Lacoste. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and received numerous honors and awards including grants from the Pollock-Krasner, Elizabeth Greenshields, and Art Matters Foundations.