Portrait of the Artist, Caroline Huff
The inability to create art as a community has brought our community of artists together in remarkable ways. Visual artists are creating daily works of art, and musicians continue to provide entertainment through the internet.
This inspired me to learn more about one of the incredible visual artists in our CAMP Rehoboth community, Caroline Huff. A fine artist, with a national reputation for both her paintings and her teaching history, Caroline is a supporter of CAMP Rehoboth and has made generous donations of her paintings to our fundraisers.
Caroline attended Virginia Commonwealth University and received her Master of Arts from American University. Her work has appeared in galleries from New York City to Beverly Hills, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery, the Smithsonian, and in numerous private and corporate collections throughout the world. She taught at American University and Prince George's Community College (also chair of the art department) and is a respected juror for exhibitions.
Her paintings and prints continue to reflect a deep interest in the Greek islands as well as scenes of Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, the southwest US and the Chesapeake Bay country. She describes the essence of her compositions as “in the tradition of American realism but exhibiting abstract shapes and structure...a mixture of reality, memories, and dreams.”
Light is the common denominator for her work, and she has explored the light of near and distant lands—as stimulus for color, structure for design, and how light defines images and establishes mood. Huff states, “I have attempted to capture moments in the changing light of timeless settings—old boats at rest on the Chesapeake, the treeless beauty of a Greek island, the strange shapes of gondolas bobbing in the shimmering reflections of Venice, ancient doors in silent places implying old mysteries, solitary figures contemplating the sea.” She continued, “Someone said, ‘The eye loves something new,’ and I have sought to sustain the fresh visual surprises found in ancient places.”
As I explored her website (carolinehuff.com) I noticed three elements in virtually every piece—water, boats, and young adults. I inquired as to her inspirations: “I have always loved water, the way light changes on it, and its many moods—from the calm of Monet’s water to the energy and risk of Winslow Homer. I enjoy painting all kinds of boats, their interesting shapes in relationship to water…the reflections, the opacity or transparency, and the various bodies of water—oceans, harbors, the canals of Venice, the marshlands of Rehoboth. I also love painting people and water—a street musician by the Seine, Greek fishermen on their boats, people quietly contemplating the sea as they have for centuries—timeless moments I do not tire of painting.”
I mentioned that many of her paintings were of Greek islands. “I visited Greece almost every summer for 30 years. I would try a ‘new’ island—Santorini, Skiathos, Paros—but always end in Mykonos. I also adore Venice, Paris, and Rehoboth Beach, which was why I moved here. For the water of the bay, the marshes, and the spirit of the community and its vital creative environment.”
I asked how she approached composition, and she answered, “My camera is my sketch book, but my paintings are entirely invented. I use information from photos to ‘make up’ much of the painting. I may use children from one, a boat from another and, not liking the location of either, invent another place. Though my paintings are based on reality, I think in terms of abstract composition, and, for many years painted in a variety of abstract styles. Teaching American art history turned me to figurative painting which has been my signature style for many years now. Over the years I’ve learned to let the painting itself take over. What first? I shall begin to enunciate this dark area. Where to next? The edge of this shape in the corner. These light shapes create a passage through the painting as underlying structure. Matisse said every color, every shape, every line affects every other color, shape or line. I agree.”
“Finally,” I queried, “is there one word for your work?” Her response was, “‘Quietude’ is a word I like to think describes my work. I feel it may particularly describe the contemplative figures I paint. They are not about ‘loneliness’ but about ‘aloneness’.”
Wise words in this unsettling time!
Doug Yetter is the Artistic & Musical Director for CAMP Rehoboth Chorus, Director of Music Ministries at Epworth UMC, and co-founder and Artistic Director emeritus of the Clear Space Theater Company. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.