Carlson’s long career showcased at Oxford Arts Alliance
By J. Chambless
‘1948 Kirks Mill,’ a view of art students at Carlson’s home.
By John Chambless
C.X. Carlson, a longtime fixture of this region's art community who lived in nearby Lancaster County, is saluted with a retrospective this month at the Oxford Arts Alliance. You can learn details of the prolific artist's life -- born in 1902, he worked as an illustrator, cartoonist, poster artist and something of a goodwill ambassador -- and his paintings reflect that good-natured, inventive spirit.
"1948 Kirks Mill," showing art students painting outside Carlson's home, has a quick, splashy style that captures the shadows in the scene very nicely. "Houses By the Sea" (1942) has a fine winter chill, and "Lake Scene" (1979) is one of the watercolors that incorporate spider webs. Carlson was known to spray the webs to preserve them, then transfer them to the surface of his paintings. In "Lake Scene," it could be seen as a hanging fishing net, but elsewhere -- as in "Mexico," for instance -- the web's purpose is less clear, but still interesting.
"The Sea" is a dynamic composition of mythical creatures and sea life that looks like it may have been a design for a mural. Elsewhere, Carlson's South American series captures some intriguing details. The sketchy brush work in a market scene conveys the jumble of activity and people, and his small, lush green cityscape has a lovely sense of distance.
"Art Class at the Octoraro Art Association" shows Carlson's deft touch with caricature, capturing the faces of the art students with a cartoonist's skill.
There are two paintings Carlson did for the Borden Company, working out some forerunners of Elsie the Cow, which became the company’s mascot and logo. Who knew she had any relatives? Carlson's notes are on the bottom of one, asking if the likeness was satisfactory.
There's a display case of Carlson's published art books and instructional publications as well, further showing his versatility and his eagerness to share tips and techniques with budding artists.
With 20 artworks on view, the show serves to remind those who know Carlson about his work and his local contributions, while others will be introduced to him here. The result is a show that touches several decades of work with warm, nostalgic affection.
"Watercolors by C.X. Carlson" continues at the Oxford Arts Alliance (38 S. Third St., Oxford) through April 12. Visit www.oxfordart.org.