The City Magazine Since 1975

Living Large

Living Large
September 2011
For Eva Carter, each big, bold abstract painting is a journey that calls for decision-making, risk-taking, and some free fall

In 2009, Eva Carter closed her East Bay Street gallery to paint full-time at her Wadmalaw Island home. After a dozen years of making and selling art downtown, the artist was ready for a fresh perspective. With the view of the Intracoastal Waterway as her daily inspiration, Carter enjoys watching the seasons, tides, and moons change through her windows. Appropriate, considering that she says her large-scale, abstract oil paintings “deal with a connection to the environment as well as what is going on internally in our lives.”

Characterized by powerful brushstrokes, Carter’s artwork has earned her recognition as one of the state’s top abstract painters. Her pieces can be found in the permanent collections of the Gibbes Museum of Art, the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum of Myrtle Beach, and the Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University. They also hang in hospitals, banks, and the office buildings of companies ranging from Disney World to local law firm Savage & Savage. “When people come to see us, they are pretty tense, and Eva’s work has a calming effect,” notes Andy Savage, who’s been collecting her paintings for 30 years.

To take on a piece measuring some five by six feet requires a lot of energy—both mental and physical. “If I don’t feel willing to commit, then I don’t start,” says the artist, who builds the bracing and stretches each canvas herself. “Then I sit and wait to become one with the size.” Once she begins painting, the piece evolves intuitively, and Carter has learned to listen to what the canvas tells her. “It is right more often than not,” she explains. “But following its lead can still feel a bit like jumping off a cliff.” For this passionate painter, that sense of free fall is all part of the process. “I want my art to show that there was risk involved, and that means working big and bold and using decisive brushstrokes that offer evidence of my journey through the painting.”  

Carter’s lifelong journey has had a lot to do with following her art’s lead as well. Born on a farm in Tennessee, she studied art at East Tennessee State University and moved to the Isle of Palms in 1977. She explored a variety of mediums, including watercolors, before discovering that oils were the best way to express herself on large canvases. Influences such as Richard Diebenkorn, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline inspired her to shift from representational art to a more abstract style. “That changed my life as well as the direction of my career, but I’ve never looked back,” notes Carter. “For me, big abstract paintings are simply the most challenging and the most satisfying kind of art to create.”

A new studio on Gillon Street gives Carter a footprint back in the downtown art world as well as a convenient place to meet clients. “It allows me to have the calm beauty of Wadmalaw as well as the vibrant cultural atmosphere of the city,” she says. “I’m lucky to have it all.”