Roller Coaster Series: Medusa Storm by Carla Falb
Brian Sherwin: Carla, tell us about yourself. At what point did you gain an interest in creating visual art?
Carla Falb: In junior high I was deeply involved in music. At home I spent hours practicing classical piano and even auditioned to play with the Philadelphia Orchestra. When I got to high school, my piano teacher emphatically explained that I needed to decide if I wanted to make a commitment to become a concert pianist.
At the time, I was searching for a more creative outlet, so I decided not to continue with music, and began to take classes in visual arts. By my junior year I decided that I wanted to be a painter, applied for early admission, and was accepted to the Philadelphia College of Art at age sixteen.
BS: What can you tell us about your academic background concerning art? Did you study art formally? Tell us about your art studies in general-- any influential instructors?
CF: After spending three semesters at the Philadelphia College of Art (PCA), I realized that I wanted to learn traditional painting techniques, so I began studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts – the oldest art school in the United States. Looking back, I realize that since I was a classically trained musician; it made sense that I desired a more formal approach to painting.
While at the Academy, my most influential instructors were Arthur DeCosta, and Sidney Goodman. DeCosta’s demonstrations in Basic Color class focused on understanding the history of various palettes as well as skill development of alla prima painting techniques. His classes were engaging and informative. On the other hand, Goodman’s classes were intense. On the days he instructed, we were given the task to complete an entire figure painting in three hours.
I now see my undergraduate education as being the best of both worlds. At PCA I received a solid background in design and composition, and the Academy developed my formal/ technical skills. Today as a fine arts teacher in high school, I bring both of these approaches to my classroom instruction.
Roller Coaster Series: Circus Circus by Carla Falb
BS: Can you tell us about your art? Give us some insight into the thoughts behind your art.
CF: When I decided to focus on the visual arts back in high school, my choice was driven by a strong desire to work in a tangible medium where I could further my quest for self-knowledge. Later, in graduate school, before I came up with the idea for my Roller Coaster Series, I deliberated about who I was as an artist and as a person: what could I paint that truly expressed my personality, energy, and philosophy? Without a particularly interesting ethnic background to explore, and with no strong activist leanings, what unique vision I could share with the world?
After some soul searching I realized that the person who had the most profound effect on my life was my father, a Methodist minister. He shared his beliefs as well as his eclectic interests with me: i.e. the writings of Carl Jung and Herman Hesse, the humor of Charles Addams, and music ranging from Beethoven to the Beatles.
Overall, I see the work I produce as a metaphysical journey that connects the complexities of our physical existence with the emotional/spiritual realm – albeit from a pop-culture perspective. Simply stated, I’m trying to paint the visual equivalent of rock and roll. Summers spent at the Jersey shore and my quirky sense of humor lead me to use roller coaster tracks as means to create movement and depth in my compositions -- to take the viewer on a ride. However, underlying the general euphoria is the unsettling absurdity of the controlled-fear catharsis inherent in thrill rides coexisting with the sense of transcendentalism in my work.
Roller Coaster Series: Batman by Carla Falb
BS: Can you discuss your process in general? Are there any specific techniques that you utilize?
CF: When I first began my series, I would construct compositions by making collages of Xeroxed photos of roller coasters. Now, I use Photo Shop and have found that even though the physical process has changed, the creative process is similar. Since I usually don’t have a firm idea of what I want when I begin a new work, I play with juxtapositions of the segmented forms – sections of tracks plummeting downward, spiraling and looping through space; lattice/leg-like supports; bits of ground with pathways, blurred buildings and trees; and pieces of sky.
As I am assembling the collages I feel as if I am finding my way through a maze. I want the tracks to travel effortlessly through space and appear as a never-ending ride –using perspective and shifts in scale; yet also have areas of incongruity and disjointedness when examined closely.
To read Part 2 of my interview with Carla Falb click, HERE