Becoming an Artist:
Carol was born in the small farming community of Central City, Nebraska. At the time of her birth, her father was a school teacher and a Golden Gloves fighter, and her mother an accomplished church organist. At the age of six, her family moved to Montana, and she has lived there ever since. Painting and drawing really didn't play an important role in her life, throughout her childhood and teenage years, but she had loved color for as far back into her childhood as she can remember. She and her brother, Jerry (who is also an accomplished artist) were fortunate to have parents who worked extremely hard to provide them with everything they could need. Carol was a distance runner for much of her later childhood and teenage years, and benefitted immensely from the coaching of her father, in particular. While knee injuries would ultimately sideline a racing career, what she had learned from the years of training and dedication would be instrumental in preparing her to meet opportunities to come. In college, she studied to be an accountant. She found her passion for painting in 1987 at the age of 25, after her son, Matthew, was born. The genesis of her life as an artist unfolds here. She was searching for an occupation that would allow her to stay at home and raise her child, and still make ends meet. "Becoming a mother was the single most extraordinary event in my life. It awakened a sense of creativity in me, in addition to giving me a sense of overwhelming gratitude, just to have the chance to experience being a mother to such a wonderful son." She is extremely grateful that she found that priceless opportunity to spend her time at home with her son during his childhood, because of the budding career that her early artwork and paintings were taking her in. A desire to listen to her own voice and express herself through her paintings quickly became a passion. She met and married Pat Hagan, the love of her life. Pat was and is instrumental in helping to build her career as an artist, and his constant encouragement for her to follow the passion she found within, to paint. She would not be where she finds herself today in her art career, without the support of her dear husband and partner, Pat.
Style and Color:
Carol is self taught as an artist. She did not have formal art training, with the exception of taking two workshops with the late Joe Abbrescia, whom she considers to be one of her mentors. She has worked hard to develop her own style of expressing herself on paper and canvas. She has been referred to as a Contemporary Expressionist, and a Colorist. Her paintings come from her heart. They are a contemporary expression of her subject matter, both through her choices of vibrant color, and even the use of very little color, yet more gestural lines, and the textures and marks that she makes. Her work is constantly evolving and growing, as she develops and explores new techniques, in an effort to layer color and texture in more complex ways. "Even the simplest lines and slightest marks are fascinating in their own way. They are much like people, in that each mark, no matter how detailed or how simple, has its' own voice....and has something to say. The smallest marks hold as much significance as the largest ones, in the story every painting has to tell. "
Spending much of her life in Montana has allowed Carol to nurture a deep love of the American West. She is constantly in awe of its' raw, spectacular beauty and grand vistas, rolling grassy hills and stunning mountains, and that animals that inhabit this incredible place. She feels very fortunate that she and her family are able to call it home. She has loved horses for as far back as she can remember. Her yearly letters to Santa Claus to bring her a horse for Christmas (understandably, now) went unanswered, however she now enjoys the company of the many horses whose pastures line the areas around their home. "In my own way, they are all "my horses". I can be alongside them, taking photographs and just spending time with them, in literally a minute from our door. I consider myself very blessed to be so close to the animals that give me so much inspiration and joy.". She particularly enjoys trying to capture the fluidity of their graceful, forceful forms and movements in her paintings, through brushstrokes, marks, texture, and color. "Horses are old souls. The quiet exchange of positive energy and communication that takes place just from standing next to a horse, or within a group of horses, is simply extraordinary. They hold within them a silent calm, yet a powerful sense of acceptance, grace, wisdom, and strength."
Carol has painted horses in different expressionistic styles as her work has evolved over the years. A more recent style she has added to her repertoire and explored, "Cavallo" (Italian for 'Horse'), portrays the Horse in a less colorful, yet far more movement- oriented light. "I find the energy and motion of these explorations into their exquisite forms reminiscent of the passion for Life that the Italians, in particular, are known to celebrate and embrace. This series is quite different from the colorful work that I have become somewhat 'known' for. These black and white pieces are an extended exploration of my love for these animals, and my attempt at communicating their exquisite forms in a more emotional release. What I will say about this style is that it is a recent 'branching out' of my work. These expressions have emerged as a product of a personal process of grieving I have been traveling through in recent times. This grieving was due to the fact that Pat was having such a difficult time with his Parkinson's disease, and was losing ground in the last year particularly, when the disease began to progress at a rapid pace. It is so difficult to watch someone you love struggling with a disease that steals quality of life away a little, or a great deal....whatever it so chooses....every single day. Fortunately, due to a Deep Brain Stimulation surgery Pat underwent in May of 2014, he has been able to get his life back. I find comfort, peace, understanding and fortitude in horses, and I have gravitated towards painting a separate series of them in an appreciation for what they bring into my life. This 'Cavallo' series is inspired by their strength and spirit. It is one of my ways of celebrating their existence on this earth, and how they constantly continue to help me to celebrate Life."
"I have always drawn my inspiration from the incredible views, skies, colors and landscapes of the West. My passion for horses, and my love for the animals and wildlife that make Montana and the West their home, are truly my inspirations, and what I feel compelled to paint. Color has always spoken to me as a vehicle of conveying both happiness and emotion. I don't always understand why I am compelled to use the particular colors that I do while working on a painting, other than to trust in the process and the urge to somehow convey, on a different level, the primal language that color alone speaks to me. I can look back on pieces done in the past, however, and it becomes quite clear to me why I used the colors in that painting that I did, at that particular time. I can understand, based on events that were happening that coincided at the same time as the completion of that work...and my emotional reactions to them, why I reached for the colors that I did in that painting. I understand what I was trying to say through the language of color, alone."
About Her Art:
Carol's paintings are now in private and corporate collections across the United States and world. Her work is currently represented in fine galleries and select museum shows. Just a few of the shows she has had the distinct honor of participating in over the years include the C.M. Russell Art Auction, the Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale, "The Russell: An Exhibition and Sale to benefit the C.M. Russell Museum", The Desert Caballeros Western Museum's "Cowgirl Up" Show, the Western Masters Art Show & Sale, the Yellowstone Art Museum's Art Auction, the Settler's West Galleries' "American Miniatures Show", the Legacy Gallery's Miniatures Show, the Nature Conservancy's "Montana Masterpieces Show", the Hockaday Museum's Miniatures Show, and the Brinton Museum's invitational Small Works Show.
She has had several large solo shows of her work, a few of which include Legends Santa Fe Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Legacy Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming, and Visions West Gallery in both Bozeman and Livingston, Montana.
Carol is truly honored to have been invited by the C.M. Russell Museum to be included in their inaugural class of a small group of premier Western Artists in 2014, "The Russell Skull Society of Artists", and has been invited to participate in the 2015 "Russell Skull Society of Artists" as well. She sums up her love for what she does in few words. "I am always painting. On days when I can't be painting, I am thinking about painting. I will have painting ideas lined up in my thoughts, and I dream about painting. I feel very blessed to have discovered this gift, and am passionate about the opportunity to be able to make a living as an artist, in this day and age. It certainly takes teamwork, the strong support of collectors, galleries, and museums....and certainly the tireless work of my better half, Pat, to make this path possible. I hope to make marks that will live longer than I will. I want to record, through my work, a brief moment in time of what it is like to live in this extraordinary place, the 'Big Sky Country' of Montana. And Pat and I want to give back, in what ways that we can, out of gratitude for all of the blessings that we find our lives to be filled with. What we have been able to build together, through our years of work and collaborative efforts in promoting my artwork, as well as the extraordinary help of so many wonderful family members and friends, has afforded us the opportunity to, in some ways, do so."
“The wildlife and western themes she favors become an ironic reality, blazing with an abundance of color. Living ‘in the lines’, she paints out of them, breaking all the rules.” Carleen Milburn, Big Sky Airlines In-Flight magazine, Fall 2005
Photos of Carol Hagan by Josh Wise in Billings, Montana