“I am especially happy to be here at Sidwell Friends School at a time when we are grasping for words that explain our philosophy, our values,” painter and former Sidwell Friends parent Carol Brown Goldberg told an audience in the Robert L. Smith Meeting Room on Wed., Nov. 13. Goldberg is the Sidwell Friends visiting artist, and she was the featured guest at the School’s 2019 Daryl Reich Rubenstein Guest Artist Lecture. Curated by Aaron Brophy, the Middle School art teacher, Goldberg’s work also hangs throughout the Kogod Arts Center in an exhibit Brophy aptly titled “Inner Light.”
Indeed, in several of her “circles” paintings, Goldberg creates a radiant light that issues out from a central space-dark depth. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as she painted these massive works, she listened to an audiobook about astrophysics, “the cosmos, and about the Hubble Telescope’s window into deep space.” She often listens to audiobooks for inspiration as she works—“taking in these people, their experiences and wisdom, and it gets entangled in my lines.”
In fact, Entanglements is the name of one of her latest bodies of work. This particular series teems with plant life, a kind of untamed garden that Goldberg portrays in vivid colors on some canvasses and in stark blacks and whites on others. The works clearly reflect her interest in biological systems. The audio book she had on hand while painting? It was about “DNA, molecules, and mitochondria. Entanglements is a poem about life, about who we are as organic beings, how we entwine together, how we grow,” Goldberg said. “Some of us get entangled before we get to the light—but that’s a good thing.”
As Goldberg spoke, Brophy showed a selection of photographs he took of dozens of her paintings—from wide angles to tightly focused photos. Some showcased just a fraction of a canvass, and yet they could have been entire pieces on their own for all the color and drama that unfolds in just a corner of her work. There were also images of Goldberg in the studio, tidy white rooms overflowing with paintings in various states of completion. And finally, photographs of Brophy’s students attempting to replicate Goldberg’s work. Some were meticulously traced circles across the page, some paid homage to her lush pen-and-ink work, some dripped color across their pieces, and some saturated their pages in explosions of neon. All had become entangled in Goldberg’s inner light.
“Carol sees art as a counterpoint to the real world,” Christopher Addison, the co-owner of Addison/Ripley Fine Art in Washington, told the room when he introduced Goldberg. By the end of the evening, the assembled guests at the Rubenstein lecture all seemed to agree. After all, for at least an hour, they had been transported elsewhere.