Carmen Gordon floats through her studio, a renovated original homestead on her Carthage farm. Built in 1901, Oak Hollow Studios is the envy of any millennial Cottagecore style guide. But her studio doesn’t exclusively serve as a space for creating her paintings; Carmen also offers lessons and hosts nationally recognized artists for workshops.
From a north-facing window, buttery sunlight spills over a dutifully curated tableau of antiques, feathers, antlers, dried flowers, seashells, and the skeletons of small mammals, as well as a series of jewel-toned works in progress.
All photos contributed.
“I found this umbrella in the corner of some antique store,” said Carmen, gesturing towards her award-winning charcoal painting, “Forsaken.” “I could tell immediately that there was something special there. You can tell that it came from a time before these things were mass-produced, so you’d have to mend it over the course of its life — reattach those tassels, and whatnot. So, I picked it up and thought it looked pretty well-loved. I remember thinking about who it had sheltered from the rain — and even the kisses that were stolen beneath it.”
This painting, “Forsaken,” placed in the American Women Artists Association 25th annual summer exhibition, and was originally to be displayed in Atlanta, but the exhibition went virtual due to the pandemic. However, one of Carmen’s latest oil paintings, “Weathering the Storm,” can be viewed in-person inside the newly renovated wing of the Country Club of North Carolina.
“Rather than redecorating with generic stock art, CCNC decided to invest in local art by hosting a call for submissions,” said Carmen. “They eventually narrowed it down to a few finalists, and now my work is hanging there. I often draw upon my surroundings for inspiration. My fiancé and I were walking around the property, surveying the damage after a hurricane blew through. We found this intact and untouched bird’s nest perfectly cradled in the cup of a branch. I got stuck on this concept of this fragile thing surviving those gale-force winds, the brilliant engineering of the birds.”
A native of Maine, Carmen attended Paire College of the Arts in Connecticut before relocating to Moore County with her family in 1986. Her late husband, Gary Gordon, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in recognition of his heroism during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. His actions are portrayed in the 2001 film, “Blackhawk Down.”
“I married fairly young, had kids — but I was always creating,” said Carmen. “I had those dreams of being classically trained. When my daughter Brittany went to college, I realized that I was eligible for tuition as well. In 2008, I received the Special Operations Fund Scholarship, which made it possible for me to study at the local Atelier for three years, and then another month in New York at the Grand Central Academy.”
At the Academy of Classical Design in Southern Pines, Carmen studied under classical realism giants D. Jeffrey Mims and Paul S. Brown. Despite her extensive training, Carmen insists: “Being an artist is just different – you don’t go to school for four years and reach your full potential. You’re learning and developing throughout your entire life.”
For information on commissions, please contact Carmen Gordon at [email protected]
~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Shelby Herbert.