Carolyn Cárdenas

Master's Works


These works are tributes to painting, not only to the complex and time-consuming techniques of old masters, but to painting as communication, as conveyor of ideas or observations. The small egg/oil tempera paintings (usually no larger than four x four inches) show luminous, dense interiors, with twists and puns that are by turn ominous, satirical or funny.

Keen observation of both surroundings and the artist are important: nothing is spared, neither when commenting on society's myths and mores, or on the artist's position in the scheme of things. The self-portraits show a working artist, either as the subject of the painting or as a signature presence much like an old master work.

The main themes of the work are art history overlayed with contemporary subjects and today's art world with its machinations. In This Year's Model (after Holbein's "Merchant Gieze"), the artist placed her merchant amidst the modern trappings and status symbols of his trade as Holbein did centuries ago. Her "Portrait of a Venetian (after Titan/Gorgione, same title)" features a gang member from Venice, California, in the familiar High Renaissance setting.

A transitional piece, "Art Passed", foreshadows the departure from strictly art historical updatings. In this three by three inch self-portrait, the artist placed herself in front of a wall covered with miniscule, faithfully rendered mirror images of famous paintings – the entire composition a reflection, a contemplative look into a symbolic mirror.

The entire body of Master's Works is infused with the artist's dedication to painting, her homage to its history, and a reverence for its masters.