Carole D’Inverno grew up in Italy and Belgium during the postwar years, and after working as a chemist, decided to become an artist. Now based in Brooklyn, D’Inverno creates abstracted historical subject matter, often focusing on human interactions with the land. Here, she discusses a work on paper from her series, “Appalachia: An Abstraction.”
“I’ve always had an obsession with history. A lot of my work is based on whatever subject I zero in on. The Appalachia show was offered to me, and I wanted to do research on the region. It was great for me, because when I first got to the States in 1979, I was 23 years old; I met my husband overseas, and we came over to America. His parents had moved to North Carolina, so my first day in the States was there with them. I didn’t speak the language. It was a complete culture shock. I remember being amazed at the environment. Everything looked different—not just the people and what they ate, but the flora and fauna. Everything was so new and shocking and overwhelming. Because of this, I’ve always had a soft spot for North Carolina. That landscape is rooted in my introduction to America, which is why I wanted to study the actual history of this region.
Languages and sentences make shapes in my head when I read something. As I get older, I try to hone in on the first image that comes to me when I read. I keep that one image, and it becomes the basis for a large drawing or painting. The shapes end up being the first thing, and the colors come after. Each of my works is rooted in language to begin with—especially with old sayings. Because I’m not American, there are certain sayings that fascinate me. Where do they come from? I try to find out. I sketch while I do the research, and once I feel like I’ve got a sense of what the history is, I put away my research and just paint or draw. The rigorous part of the learning process turns more intuitive when I begin to make the art.
Broken Boundaries was inspired by looking at aerial photography of mountain-top removal in North Carolina. They lop off the tops of the mountains, which is so heartbreaking to see. The title refers to how we’ve broken our respect toward nature in general— it’s been so blatant and aggressive. In the work, if you look up close, there are dark parts of the main shape—those are gigantic trucks on top of the mountain, and then there are all these smaller trucks scurrying around. There are also tracks made by these enormous trucks. North Carolina is such a beautiful part of the country, but it’s changed so much. You used to have to go down two-lane roads to get to Chapel Hill. I’ve seen the changes, but it’s such a beautiful place to get to see today. I definitely have an emotional connection to the land there.”