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Success in the world of contemporary art
Success in the world of contemporary art

Carolyn Cole '76 has accomplished what most aspiring artists dream of her work is shown in six galleries nationwide and her boldly colored contemporary paintings are held in over 500 private and corporate collections.

Cole goes beyond a flat surface by incorporating texture through multiple layers of vibrant acrylic paint and collage elements.

"I glue recycled envelopes over my canvas surfaces, then paint over them," she explains. "I add pages from textbooks, as well, painting over the text, obstructing much of it, and then scraping the surface with a palette knife to reveal the layers underneath. By building up layers, the paintings become infused with a cultural history, and at the same time they allow a viewer to create a personal history."

Cole's own history as an artist is equally layered. While at Portland State she worked nights and summers as a typist in a law firm, but managed to graduate with high honors.

Several of her earliest shows were at PSU, including a 1979 group exhibition titled "Works on Paper" in the White Gallery. It then traveled across six Western states. For the next few years Cole was part of several other significant local exhibitions. Wanting to experience a broader, international scope of art, Cole and future husband and fellow PSU graduate, James Minden '77, also an artist, moved to New York in 1981. They married in 1984.

"New York was a stimulating place to live and work, and we enjoyed 10 great years of interacting with a huge art community there," reflects Cole. "Although my art was in a lot of shows, and there were opportunities, we missed Portland's affordable housing and lifestyle."

In 1991 Cole and Minden returned to the West Coast to a growing art community. The mid-'90s were a turning point in her career. Cole's canvases sold well, and she sought and obtained representation in galleries in Los Angeles, Chicago, Carmel, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. In Portland, Cole is represented by Butters Gallery. Her work is in the private corporate collections of American Express, Campbell Soup Company, Heinz Corporation, IBM, and Walt Disney Productions, to name a few.

Cole's career continues to flourish. She consistently sells nearly every piece created, is in demand for commission work, and her work is nationally sought after by corporate and private collectors alike. Yet she remains down to earth.

"During the first 20 years I had many part-time jobs to support myself, but my artwork always came first. I'm grateful that people connect with my paintings, and that I make a living working as a full-time artist. Doing what I love is something I never take for granted." –Janna Mock-Lopez