Interviewing Carolyn was an educational, philiopshical excursion into a true artists head. Carolyn works diligently as the head of the Marketing Department and the Gallery Manager at the Catskill Mountain Foundation. Enjoy the ride my friends! ~Vicki Thompson
Carolyn, Can you please tell me your favorite past time?
Your favorite present time?
Do you own an iPod?
I do now.
What kind of music is on that iPod?
I think it’s Radiohead.
What is your favorite word?
How long have you worked as director of the Marketing Department/ Manager of the Gallery / Grant Writer at the CMF?
I worked as the manager of the bookstore for about 7 or 8 years. That morphed into bookstore gallery manager for less than a year, I think, when we moved the bookstore into the gallery. And, what else do I do? Oh, Marketing. Marketing, I think I’ve been doing for two years now. And what else?
And you do some grant writing as well.
Oh yes, the grant writing. I’ve done the grant writing from the beginning, but I would do small grants. And then they’ve just gotten larger.
What would you like generation Y, people born during the 1980s and early 1990s, to know about the CMF?
That it’s here and it’s really great. I was involved with the CMF from the beginning, over 15 years ago as its grant writer. Then I left and had a whole sojourn here, there and everywhere. When I came back I saw that it was beginning to morph into something that I have always admired, Joseph Papp’s public theater. Just recently the CMF made a move from Hunter Village Square over to the Doctorow Center. Now it really reminds me of the theater because we have the public performing space, we have the arts space, 3 movie theaters, we have offices, we have the Piano Performance Museum and we have a concession stand. And, maybe, one day we’ll have a café, so that’s really exciting.
It’s like its own little city over there.
It’s like its own little art city over there, it’s cool.
As the role of gallery manager, what attracts you to the artists you pick?
I’m going to talk as if I know what I’m talking about. For me, art transforms. It isn’t just decorative, pretty, and colorful. There’s something about the way the artist sees something that strikes a chord in me. Or, maybe even makes me look away. But, it makes me feel something deeply and I think about it. So that’s what attracts me to certain art and artists.
But running a gallery in the Catskills, I guess it’s like running a gallery in any place other than large metropolitan areas. You have an obligation to the artists that live in the area to honor them. As smaltzy as it sounds, if you can’t honor that which is in your community, then, you can’t honor anything from outside. So I look for both of those. I’m looking for artists that have personal visions, not to the exclusions of colorful landscapes and things like that, that has a place too. But, I’m really looking for those transformative experiences.
You are a published author and in my opinion a great one at that. You allow the reader to feel, to think and to perceive. You put on no facade or sugar coating. Can you describe your creative process, do you have any rituals before you write?
First of all, I know I promised to take you to lunch if you said that, so thank you! Where do you want to go to lunch? Rituals, no, I don’t think so. I’ve thought a lot recently about clearing my mind. What happens is, I’ll start to think about something consciously and then it becomes automatic. So, I’m still thinking about it, but I don’t know that I’m thinking about it. So when I’m driving home, and all of a sudden I hear these people talking in my head and having a conversation about something that I want to write about, I know that if I sit down and try to write about it, I can’t. So a lot of times I have to pull over to the side of the road and I write it down. And then I think, eh, this is pretty good. I don’t know where it came from. It had to have come from inside me somewhere. That’s why I don’t like certain types of writing, because you have to write on cue, and I’m not interested in that. This is going to sound funny coming from someone who does some marketing. I think writing on cue, trying to sell something to the public, that language is often inauthentic to me. Behind the language is nothing. So you can describe something with ten superlatives, but it doesn’t get any closer to the experience and sometimes it really can be falsifying the experience. Whereas, it’s going to sound pretentious but, when I write for myself, the way it feels to me, and not even descriptively, but there’s some amount of the words are trying to get there, they never quite do. But there’s an attempt to try to describe with words that which is within. You know what I mean? It’s sort of like, I know, it’s a very famous painting but Munch’s The Scream. You don’t even need a sound coming, you can feel the anguish of that. If the person said anything more than one big loud scream and started saying, “I am in pain!” You would think that’s so phony. It’s that close to silence that you almost want to apologize for having written it down. That’s the way I feel. That’s why I find it very hard to share my writing with anyone. Rituals, like pencils, no. I find that even though I have an office upstairs in my house, I like it best when I’m sitting at my dining room table and I can get a million cups of coffee and I can spread papers out everywhere.
Going back to the voices in your head, now correct me if I’m wrong, in the past, people used to believe that creativity was this “thing” or energy, and you and I would just be normal, the same. Creativity would come and enter you and then leave you after it’s work was completed. Do you feel like these voices could be something along that line?
People talk about a muse and the muse comes and bababa….I don’t think that that’s true for everyone. I think when certain novelists sit down, like the mystery novelist Tana French, and when she writes a book, I don’t think that she’s waiting for inspiration. I think that she’s an observer of outside of herself. She very good at plotting things, narratives, conclusions; all those things that make up a story. I’m not so sure that I’m making up a story. I think I’m look deeply within myself, not necessarily a good thing by the way. Then, something inside me, it has to be inside me, I don’t think that it comes from outside of me. It answers me. I believe that life is a fiction in this sense, it has dimensions. I can bang on this desk and my hand doesn’t seem to go through, things like that. I think I make up my personality, I choose the pieces of my personality. I make this creation called Carolyn. There’s a Carolyn that gets me though every day. That Carolyn is kind of boring, she goes to work, she goes back home, she goes to work again. She’s not likely to speed while she’s on the road or get onto a motorcycle. There’s a Carolyn, inside me, there’s a couple of them, and I know they’re fictions. But, they could have been choices. So there’s a Carolyn that’s so wild, that I could have been tattooed everywhere, I could have gotten on a motorcycle, I could have driven all around the world with just a roll at my back to sleep on. I chose not to be that Carolyn, because that Carolyn was too painful. Even when I came close to that Carolyn, it wasn’t going in a very good direction. I could have chosen another Carolyn, wife and mother, I did not. All those Carolyn’s are there in my head and they talk to one another. I know, the doctor is coming… but that’s the way it feels.
No, that’s a good way to put your perception into words and articulate it. There’s a lot going on in everyone’s head and to be able to divide it up into paths that enabled you become the Carolyn that is sitting in front of me now is pretty great. I’m glad this is the one you chose.
You’re Welcome! What makes a book click for you? You seem to like fiction. Is there a certain rhythm in the writing?
There’s definitely a rhythm within the writing. I actually hear it. I hear the sentences as if they are rhythmic and going together. I don’t feel that if I’m writing a press release or article about something. But, in my own writing I definitely feel stops, starts, lots of breaths and hardly any breaths. That propels me. What makes a book for me is usually a silly conceit that no one else would care about. I am still trying to write a book, it’s called My Life is David Copperfield. It amuses me, I laugh. (She did) It’s about a bookseller who is locked inside of Barnes and Noble because of a series of events. A flood is one of them. And, everyone else has gone home so that there’s no way the bookseller can go home because the roads are all washed out. Anyways, these characters come to her. Emily Dickenson, Freud and Jung come to her. Freud and Jung start arguing with one another. Meanwhile, she knows how to use the cappuccino machine, so she’s making them cappuccinos and brings the drinks back to them. Then Freud or Jung, I can’t remember which one, spills a little bit of coffee. They start to interpret the spill, start to argue over what they see in that coffee spill on the table. So these ghosts of literary wander in and out and she’s able to talk to them about things she’s wondered about them. Basically, I think because not much has really happened to me in my life, except inside my head. So, these characters are more real to me in a very loose sense than a lot of people are to me.
I would love to get stuck in Barnes and Nobel and have that experience.
Who would come to you?
Some of the names you mentioned…
I always wanted to ask Emily Dickinson, because I’ve read everything about her, by her, about her brother, her sister. Everybody’s trying to figure out who was that love in her life that made her be so reclusive. She’s like a Rorschach test, because someone might say Samuel Lord, among others. I came to the conclusion that it was her sister-in-law, Sue, which married Austin. They lived within a short path of one another. Emily’s house was a garden path walk away from Austin and Sue’s house. Actually, Emily got Austin to marry Sue. So, in my fantasy I got to ask her if I was right. I won’t tell you what she said. But anyways, that’s not finished yet.
What do you foresee as the future of CMF?
I would like to see it more like the public theater. I would like to see more people and young people who live here year round embrace it. What I believe is that, not only does art transform, but also art saves. I think that it offers something so critically important in everyone’s life, whether you live in the country or you live in the city. You have a great opportunity up here because a lot of people don’t have this. It isn’t something that a community has a right to and it isn’t something that stays forever. It has to be nurtured and cherished. It has to become your own. So, I would really love it if more young people came to our events and told us what they would like to see and share their creativity with us. That’s what I’d like to see.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
In case people come by and don’t recognize me, I look different without my make up on.
Well thank you!