Paintings by Caroline Zurmely

"Still Life 5" - 8x8in, oil on panel

"Still Life 14" - 6x6in, oil on panel

Upon first glance, these paintings seem familiar. The large areas of even, loud color allude to the Pop Art movement of the 60’s. They carry a similar symbolism too, with commercial, mass-produced objects from both childhood and day-to-day life taking center stage. Caroline deviates from Pop Art, however, in that the paintings are also undeniably about painting itself. The ubiquitous mark of the palette knife asserts both the flatness of the panel and the physicality of the oil paint that Caroline often mixes with wax medium for volume. At times, she allows the paintings to betray her struggle with the material. For example, in “Still Life 2” and “Still Life 7,” the complex subject matter and small scale of the painting encourages painterly edges and smeared paint. 

"Still Life 2" - 9x12in, oil on panel

"Still Life 7" - 8x10in, oil on panel

Caroline told me in our interview that she is heavily influenced by the work and writings of American painter Charles Hawthorne, and she sent me along a quote of his that motivates her practice: “Do still life because you cannot tell a story about it—paint something that isn’t anything until it is painted well.”

"Still Life 4" - 8x8in, oil on panel

Caroline's landscapes, painted from life in the Providence area, betray that she is intensely interested in the process of observation. The landscapes forego almost any creation of natural, illusionary space in favor of attempting to transcribe the individual spots of color that land on the retina directly and unabashedly onto the surface of the panel.

"Landscape 1" - 8x10in, oil on panel

In this light, her still lives bring to the Pez Dispenser, the Starbucks lid, the Sun-Maid carton­—all manufactured commodities—an assertion of the individual’s experience. 

"Still Life 13" - 6x6in, oil on panel

Caroline Zurmely is a sophomore painting major at the Rhode Island School of Design from Dallas, Texas. She can be reached at