Just five years after Carmen Neely ’12 completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at UNC Charlotte, she was giving solo gallery exhibitions in major U.S. cities like New York and Miami. Since then, she has added Chicago (where she currently lives), Paris and Düsseldorf, Germany, to the growing list.
But among her many accomplishments, the installation of her painting in the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris last month certainly stands out. On September 19, the Vice President welcomed Neely along with a roster of A-list artists, curators, and arts supporters from across country to her home to celebrate Black visual artists. The event was covered in The AFRO.
“VP Harris shared that she has welcomed prime ministers, presidents and princes from all over the world to her home, and the art on the walls, brilliantly curated by Jessica Bell Brown, offers her visitors a deeper insight into what America is all about — who we are now, who we’ve been, and who we imagine ourselves to be,” wrote Savannah G.M. Wood.
The centerpiece of the event was a panel discussion in which Neely joined prominent artists Carrie Mae Weems and Glenn Ligon, with Thelma Golden, Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem.
While rooted in real-life events and experiences, Neely’s work is abstract and can incorporate different materials – from paint to plastic to yarn to clay – and found objects, resulting in vibrant colors and richly layered textures. She calls them “narrative abstractions.”
Two of Carmen Neely's paintings as seen in her solo show at Setareh Gallery in Düsseldorf, Germany.
“The studio program at UNC Charlotte was very open to interdisciplinary exploration when I was there,” she said. “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.”
Neely 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.”
Neely is represented by Marianne Ibrahim Gallery in Chicago.