Carmen Neely

Carmen Neely

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting, UNC Charlotte (2012)
Master of Fine Arts, UNC Greensboro (2016)

Hometown: Gastonia, NC

Carmen Neely, who is now working and living primarily in Chicago, Illinois, is reaching audiences in major American cities and abroad. In February 2017, Jane Lombard Gallery in New York City presented Carmen’s solo exhibition, It Makes it More So if You Say So, and she participated in the Prizm Art Fair in Miami in December 2017 and the Untitled, Art fair in Miami in 2018. And in early 2019, Setarah Gallery in Dusseldorf, Germany, presented her solo show, Lifelines.

Carmen was in Charlotte for a summer artist residency at McColl Center for Art + Innovation, May 28-August 13, 2019.

The NYC show, her first solo exhibition in the Big Apple, prompted an in-depth interview in BLANC Modern Africa magazine and a strong review in Art in America: “Neely has produced a body of work that allows for shifting configurations of authorial presence, and one that far exceeds the sum of its parts.”

While rooted in real-life events and experiences, Carmen’s work is abstract and explores and combines different materials – from paint to plastic to yarn to clay – and found objects, resulting in vibrant colors and richly layered textures.

“The studio program at UNC Charlotte was very open to interdisciplinary exploration when I was there,” she says. “I was constantly encouraged to explore, take risks, and develop my own practice. Feeling this push to explore unfamiliar territory and the freedom to experiment really helped shape my approach to art making.”

She credits the nurturing faculty in the Department of Art & Art History with giving her the foundation she needed to succeed. “The art department at UNC Charlotte provides such an encouraging environment. It is full of faculty that are supportive and willing to offer students personal guidance and help along the way. I think this is why I thrived there.”

In the summer of 2020, she joined art alumni and other North Carolina artists to establish the NC Artists for Black Liberation. See Carmen's work at her website.

In September of 2023, Carmen participated in a panel, hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris, with prominent artists Carrie Mae Weems and Glenn Ligon and Thelma Golden, Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem. One of Carmen's paintings has also been hung in the Vice President's house.