Carlton Scott Sturgill’s fabric floral installations are captivating paeans to blooms and vines, the perfect artistic genre for the season of rebirth. Yet, woven into each are layers of examination and commentary that become evident when one looks more closely. At the heart of Sturgill’s work (ranging from racy naturalistic paintings inspired by photos taken from dating sites to sinuous handcrafted flora and large-scale interactive greenhouses) is his fascination with the dichotomy between public persona and private behavior and what we discover when we investigate that duality.
“I want to make something beautiful,” says Sturgill who sees the need to uplift humanity given the current crises affecting the planet. “But I also want to make something that has meaning. Flowers are an ambiguous symbol. We give and get them for almost everything in our lives; for weddings and birthdays, but also funerals.”
Raised in a small farm community outside of Cincinnati, Sturgill received his BA from the University of Cincinnati and his Master of Arts from London’s Chelsea College of Art & Design. His subject matter, born of what he observed to be the striking contrast between midwestern conservatism and what goes on behind the scenes there, comes from his roots, but resonates far beyond the heartland’s borders. “I got into the surface versus what’s behind the surface, the idea of the white picket fence façade and what is actually happening in the real lives of the people,” he says.
Sturgill’s materials of choice — Ralph Lauren paint color chips for his mosaics and Ralph Lauren fabrics obtained from secondhand retail for his florals — are uniquely suited to his exploration of the way we craft our persona or in modern terms “create our brand.” Ralph-Lauren-the-designer epitomizes the American ideal of success; Ralph-Lauren-the-label epitomizes classic Americana. Plus, Sturgill says secondhand cloth “has a range of experiences embedded in it.”
At a distance, the viewer may not notice the Ralph Lauren labels incorporated into Sturgill’s flowers, but they are there, telegraphing information to those who are interested in delving further.
Smitten with the culture and the city’s support of the arts, Sturgill and his wife ultimately made New Orleans their home after stints abroad and in New York. He is represented by Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, where his last show consisted of flowers made from used wedding gowns and tuxedos. His next show, “Life in Bloom,” is on exhibit April 1 thru May 29; opening reception April 3.