Bend-based painter Caroline Cornell grew up in big sky country—Eureka, Montana, to be exact, a secluded town of a few thousand on the edge of the Canadian border, with a name that is an apt sentiment to her artistic inspiration. Combining nature, distinctly stylized landscapes, Dali-esque contorted trees, muted colors and a slight obsession with crows, the almost 24-year-old calls her paintings contemporary backwoods art. You can find more of her work at Feather's Edge Finery and on display for the month of October at Bishop's Barber Shop as the Source Weekly's artist of the month. During First Friday Art Walk, Bishops will be doing bang and beard trims by donation with proceeds going to the Assistance League of Bend.
Contact Caroline online at contemporarybackwoodsart.com
Source Weekly: Tell me about how you got into painting?
Caroline Cornell: I was very inspired by my parents. They're both very creative and always pursued me to pick up a paintbrush. Finally, I just did and something came out of it!
I started with these little tree paintings on slate and I would sell them like mad. My friend's family opened a coffee shop in our town and I would show there and ended up with this really darling little following of middle-aged women in Eureka. They just loved it, and I was so blown away because I was 16-17 at the time and I was already selling pieces.
SW: How did you get from there to here?
CC: I chose not to go to college. I looked into art school but was detoured by it because I figured if I was already selling my work, and I was inspired by my travels that I needed to go travel. So I traveled around the west and lived in Hawaii for a while. I felt so compelled to travel to Bend, even though I didn't know anything about it. I came here with my best friend growing up, she was a musician and I was an artist, and I said, 'Let's go tour the northwest.' We did these beautiful shows where she would play and I would display my art all across the walls and we were making great money and people were loving us! I said, 'Let's go to Bend,' and my car ended up breaking down here. I blew all my head gaskets, my radiator, everything. I just fell in love with it. That was three years ago in January.
SW: What's your medium?
CC: Mainly acrylic, I use a lot of texture. A lot of my work has a nice textured background. I paint on anything I can get my hands on, a lot of canvas, I've worked on plywood I've worked on Masonite. I prefer canvas but if it's not available, I've painted on peoples' bathtubs.
SW: How much does your Montana upbringing play into your art?
CC: So much. My work is very contemporary, and modern and a lot of people didn't understand it because they want the picturesque realistic stuff, but I was always inspired by nature and the scenery there is so beautiful, so calm. I think that is the root of where my work comes from.
SW: Is travel another influence for you?
CC: Absolutely, the experiences and the things you see, that's so big for me.
SW: Where have you been and what have you been inspired by?
CC: Hawaii inspired me a lot. Iceland was this vast, cold, dreary, moody thing. I feel like a lot of good art came from this cold place, but it was so beautiful at the same time. I fell in love with Spain, the warm weather there was really great. Paris, of course. I worked on a farm in southwest France that was really desolate where no one spoke English. We learned how to milk goats and make cheese, and that was a really good time for me to get out of the chaos of traveling and just be there.