Attracted by the open vistas and quality of the natural light on the St. George peninsula, contemporary artist Carmella Yager and her husband, Dennis, made Tenants Harbor their home in 2012. Here she finds the solitude and beauty of her surroundings necessary to her creative process. “Everywhere there’s beauty,” she explains. “I’m able to experience the seasons more fully. Nothing blocks the light, and I can connect to nature for inspiration.” Known for her colorful oil paintings rendered as a narrative of her subconscious, in each Yager fixes upon a single element from her surroundings that is the basis for an exploration of her imagination. As she builds her work, years of modifications occur as she discovers new layers of meaning that expand the narrative. “Concept comes from the work; my work is leading me,” says Yager.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Yager discovered fine art during a visit with her grandmother when she was only eight years old. Placing before the child a cigar box full of colored pencils and an old envelope, her grandmother challenged Yager to draw a face. It was in that moment that the young girl discovered her natural talent and future occupation as a professional artist. Therefore, upon completing high school, Yager attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City to study painting. Shortly thereafter, she married and raised a family in Newton, Mass. During those years, she attended the School of Fine Arts (SFA) in Boston, completing a four-year certificate in 1987. The following year she successfully completed a fifth year at the SFA as an independent studio artist, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree award by consortium affiliate, Tufts University. Her accomplishments in academia earned Yager the prestigious Clarissa Bartlett Traveling Scholarship and an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
After a year travelling through France on her scholarship, Yager joined the faculty of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where she taught drawing and painting to adults and children from 1992 to 2012. Influenced by her former mentor, noted Spanish artist Domingo Barreres, Yager learned abstraction—ethereal imaging that relies on the subconscious. This led her to encourage her students to explore: “Art is about opening and not putting a lid on anything. Let it take you. You put down a mark and it is totally limitless in how you use it.” Sometimes her “mark” is a simple line or shape, and other times it is a recognizable object. Because she loves to read and finds power in writing words, Yager often embeds in her paintings letters or words. She wants to suggest to her viewers many layers of meaning that they can discover for themselves.
Working in series, Yager establishes various themes based upon emotion, observation and fantasy. Her subconscious always at work, she constantly revisits the paintings in these series through time as she find new meaning. Therefore, employing oil paint as her medium allows Yager to easily change the forms and designs in her paintings to create a new effect. She’s especially attracted to the luminosity of oil colors and their ability to accept wax or various types of oils to change their physical property. This allows Yager to establish a variety of effects with the medium.
Previously, Yager has exhibited her work in the Boston area at the Ginsberg-Hallowell Gallery, the Pertutti Gallery and the Museum of Fine Art. Presently, her work may be viewed at the Port Clyde Art Gallery, where she is a member.
—Katharine A. Cartwright
PHOTOS: Katharine Cartwright