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Grace Carney’s Meditative Abstract Oil Paintings Are Causing a Stir with Collectors

I just ordered a lot of new stretchers that are bigger than I’ve ever painted before,” says Grace Carney, who is preparing for her first solo show with P·P·O·W gallery in Lower Manhattan this winter. “I never plan out what I’m going to do. I always want to bring myself into new territory that makes me uncomfortable—or throw a wrench in it. I think that’s what makes better work.”

It is a provocative and fearless statement for the artist, whose sumptuously abstract oil paintings, which reveal hints of figuration, quickly sold out at the Independent Art Fair
in May. She could easily rest on her creative laurels, as emerging collectors continue to clamor for her work, with comparisons to the likes of Cecily Brown and Joan Mitchell. But Carney encounters each blank canvas as a chance to embrace her practice anew. “I feel that my source materials are always changing,” she explains. “When I start a painting, I’m searching for what it is that I’m interested in, which gives me the freedom to bring in many different elements. The direction will change in the middle of the process, and I like that layering and collage of influences.”

Still, clear historical rigor pervades her technique. Raised in rural Minnesota, the eldest of six siblings, Carney always considered drawing an integral part of her life. But she studied fashion at the Rhode Island School of Design and worked as a womenswear designer, initially wary of the art market, before returning for an MFA in painting from the New York Studio School. “I’m using these tools that I see in Baroque and Renaissance paintings,” she says. “I’m trying to capture some sort of spatial and formal elements of the composition: the balance, the movement, the act of forces. But it’s also more personal. My paintings are about my family and what I’m doing in my life.”

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2023 Fall Issue under the headline “Personal Details.”