Caroline's approach to painting has been influenced by modernist composer John Cage. By creating a painting for each of the 78 Tarot Cards (Cage used the I Ching), she has created a "chance machine". The machine consists of a series of actions (the ritual laying out of tarot cards in response to a question) followed by hanging the paintings that correspond to the cards from the reading, up in her studio. She then looks at the palette, marks and images before her and synthesizes them into a new canvas. This process, and the use of a series of symbolic cards, is also influenced by John Searle's "Chinese Room" argument.
“In the nature of the use of chance operations is the belief that all answers answer all questions.”
- John Cage, Harvard's Norton Lecture Series, 1988-89
Caroline on her Process:
In searching for a new approach to abstraction, I decided to begin with symbolic ideas rather than visual stimulus. The Tarot Cards offered a system of symbols and interpretations ready-made for my use. I have created a series of paintings depicting each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck.
Once finished, I use the cards to generate images and compositions. I do a traditional layout of cards as if for a card-reading. Then, I take the ten paintings that correspond to the cards in the layout and I use the palette, marks and images from those works to create a new larger painting. This series of steps inserts chance operations into my process and challenges me to mix images, marks and color that I might not choose consciously.
The resulting painting is titled based on the question posed for the reading. It also represents "The Answer" to the question.
To create the facecards, I collaborated with dancers and other artists. I read them the symbolic meanings of the facecards and they improvised movements based on those prompts. I worked with the video of the dancers to create abstract paintings that represent each facecard.
It became clear as we worked, that "The Answer" could be a performance rather than a painting. To generate our performance, we drafted a question and I laid out the cards. Each dancer choreographed movement to represent a particular card, and two dancers choreographed the portion of the ritual in which the cards are laid out. Our composer responded to the movement of the performers the way that the performers had responded to the meanings of the cards. This new work became a performance piece called "The Reading" which was presented at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and at The Dance Complex in Cambridge, MA in March 2015. This work included, spoken word, projected animation, dance, movement, and an original score.