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Artist focus: Carly Schmitt

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


The human figure has been a constant source of inspiration for artists throughout time. With the near infinite unique details associated with each body, this form allows the artist the depth and breadth necessary to pull the viewer into the worlds the artist creates. Carly Schmitt's work refreshingly functions as a passport into her own psychologically sublime world time and time again. Her intimate portraits and small vignettes give her viewers vivid glimpses of a place that is as much alchemical and allegorical as it fantastic and animated. Schmitt's characters exist in this place unabashedly, and without too much explanation, forcing the viewer to ask the appropriate questions and begin to make assumptions which ultimately hook them.

In Schmitt's current body of work, there tends to be threads connecting the work to various exterior sources of inspiration, such as japanese animation or "anime", the rich history of unabashed figurative works on paper like Egon Schiele, the somewhat last-ditch utopian throwback mid-century ideas of the future, and the culture of contemporary illustration, with its embracing multi-media fully, and illustrations ability to exist in multiple contexts without degrading its value (for instance, Schmitt currently has a line of stickers being produced by Gatosaurio, Ines Estrada's brainchild zine publishing operation based in Mexico City). These references, some stronger than others, somehow all fall back however, revealing themselves slowly and as secondary concerns to Schmitt's own creativity. One of Schmitt's strongest assets, besides her clearly superior ability to draw, is her ability to produce truly, genuine work, free from too much sourcing.

This unique and professional quality of work as allowed Schmitt a great deal of international exposure as a relatively young age through a number of illustration and design blogs such as Juxtapoz, Wooster Collective, empty kingdom, Think Faest!, Proteus Mag, MeatHaus and others. These blogs are an excellent example of how a young artist, fully leveraging the power of the internet, has the ability to find numerous audiences throughout the world to support their work, even if their local audience is not as receptive. Because of this great deal of exposure, Schmitt's work was also curated into the zine Gang Bang Bong 2, and the Graphic Canon anthology.

Schmitt's work is based off of specific characters which she develops over time, who all live in a very specific space, "..All of my characters kind of dwell in a magical, alchemy infested world, they are all kind of wizards and alchemists," Schmitt notes. This alchemy infested world challenges the viewer to realize that symbolic importance behind many of the images and the imagery there within. Schmitt recurrently uses zodiacal, highly detailed geometric symbols, mythological references, as well as more pop-culture mythos in her work. Schmitt also includes that, "I just add magical symbols and imagery because I like to think of some of the drawings as being magical amulets or protection charms…" alluding to the rather ancient use of art as a manifestation of the spiritual/philosophical world. These allusions to some of the deepest aspects of the function or role of art are important to consider when viewing Schmitt's work which, on the surface, tends to look much more "light" and sometimes almost humorous.

Pieces like "Polyhedral" are great examples of Schmitt's complex character development, refined mastery of the figure, and merging of high/low culture into truly distinct images. In "Polyhedral", Schmitt's works with a recurring character of hers, the Cyclops Girl, who has fairly normal physical features… except for only have four fingers and toes, no nose, and one gigantic purple eye. These physical deformities (drawn to look much like that as opposed to being comical descriptions) are then paired with bright teal hair, wrapped up with a bone, and a two-piece leopard print outfit that exposes her midriff and breasts. The striking, almost Richard Tuttle like attention to detail, turns this character into some sort of mixture between ancient mythological monster, and recent mythological Flinstones character Pebbles, all grown up. The Cyclops is then balancing or levitating two geometrical polyhedral shapes above each slightly raised arm, giving the image an almost "mid-ritual" feeling.

In other works, Schmitt's characters take on more introspective, somber, more dystopian feelings like "Trance", "Soma", and "Ghost". These three portraits involve impeccable stippled shaded forms, creating delicate facial features, perfectly delineated hair, and an absence of a normal eye. In "Trance" and "Soma", Schmitt creates eyes which are glazed, with a no pupil, and irises which are made of concentric circles, somewhat reminiscent of hypnotic pinwheels. In "Ghost", Schmitt's character's face is almost completely shrouded in shadow, blotting out the eyes, with highlighted helmut like hair. This absence of the eye, traditionally the window to the soul, makes these characters tragic in Schmitt's vocabulary, these three characters are not fully formed, not producing "magic" in any way, and are literally disembodied, existing in nondescript spaces. This contrast between characters however fleshes out Schmitt's body of work even further, giving room for playing certain characters off of others, and finding new narrative arcs between them.

Carly Schmitt was born in Naples, Florida, moved to Fort Wayne when she was 16 and attended South Side High School where her drawing abilities were encouraged and she found early success through the Scholastics fine art competition. From there she attended Moore College of Art and Design. Schmitt is currently based out of Fort Wayne, and intends to stay here for the time being. Her work and her art practice are the perfect example of what Fort Wayne artists are capable of. Our city is low cost/high functioning as far as amenities, surrounded by larger markets, and has a strong internet infrastructure. In today’s world, this is really all any artist needs to find success. Schmitt seizes these opportunities perfectly, and will no doubt continue to find success through this process of collecting an audience, individual by individual, drawing by drawing, over time, until she forms a market allowing her to more fully fulfill her artistic ambitions.

For more information about Carly Schmitt:
-*Work currently on view at:
Wunderkammer Company
3402 Fairfield Ave, 46807

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