I see my work as being in flux, ever-changing, mutable, and replicating various states of proliferating growth.
When I was in high school I made several trips to Summerville, GA to visit the artist Howard Finster. On one of the first trips, I found myself alone walking down a mosaic pathway leading into his Paradise Garden. It was a hot day and bees were buzzing around one of his sculptures that looked like a lumpy pile of tar with snakes crawling on it. A sign on the piece read Serpents of the Wilderness. A real duck was sitting underneath a broken tv which was resting on a toilet. I then came up to a gigantic structure that seemed to be made of hundreds of old bikes, lawn mowers, and metal toys that were welded together. The rickety structure wrapped around a big tree. Vines were growing up all the sides of the monstrosity.
As I walked closer, I saw there was an entrance. I ventured inside the dark doorway and found myself completely immersed. It was a thrilling moment, in part because of the incongruity of the bicycles and metal parts jammed together around the tree, a kind of honoring and dishonoring at the same time.
Currently I live in a suburb outside of Philadelphia that was once a series of Quaker farmlands and untamed forest, but is now a place where sprawling strip malls and neighborhoods of suburban ranches are adjacent to dwindling wooded areas filled with deer. I often experience disparate overlapping objects: blue plastic sheeting covering an abandoned gas station sign adjacent to a once-pruned, now overgrown bush; a gigantic three hundred year old weeping birch tree at the end of a paved road encased by a eight foot high chain-link fence; plastic grocery bags caught on branches hanging above a backyard trampoline.
The idea of piecing-together disparate elements strongly informs my work. I have been making sculptural installations made of such incongruous materials as plastic shopping bags, felt, pipe cleaners, straight pins, and plastic electrical boxes since 2001. My work involves both the slow, plodding movement of patching pieces of cloth and plastic to linear structures made of pipe cleaners, as well as quicker, more gestural actions that connect all of the parts into systems, making large suspended sculptures.
The installations are drawings-in-space that cover, divide, encircle, and fill the spaces in which they are situated. Monumental in scale and intensely colored and textured, the work aims to physically affect the body of the viewer. These installations take various forms: parasitic-like growths that cover interior architectural elements and outdoors structures; hanging tent forms that immerse the viewer; suspended walls that curve and divide spaces; excessive, organic masses that transform rooms into caves.
(courtesy of the artist, 2010)
Artist's website: http://www.carolinelathanstiefel.net/index.html
Maine College of Art, Portland, ME, Master of Fine Arts, 2001
Brown University, Providence, RI, B.A. Visual Arts (Honors), 1989
Independence Foundation Grant in Visual Arts, Philadelphia, PA, 2009 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, 2008-09
Creative Capital Foundation Grant in Visual Arts, 2005
Sculpture Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, 2003
New Jersey Print and Paper Fellowship, Brodsky Center for Innovative Print and Paper, New Brunswick, NJ; 2002
Hilla Rebay Teaching Artist Award, The Guggenheim Museum Children's Program, 2001