Carol Miller Frost
By Timothy App

In front of me is a seemingly vast field of nondescript
atmospheric, color divided vertically--sometimes into halves, but also into thirds or quarters, and always roughly, not by objective measure, but most certainly by eye. One band will gently relinquish its border to another as it doubles or triples or quadruples. In one of these locales, an ovoid gathering of searching contour lines circumnavigates to generate a corporeal presence that uncannily pre-figures, in some primal way, my own body, standing to address the painting. This bodily presence in the painting is at once secure in its placement and then vulnerable in its uneasy disposition. With this veritable and necessary tension, there is no easy balance, no final resolution, but only the inevitable dilemma of my own uneasiness, my own vulnerability. Here is a painting by Carol Miller Frost.

This ability of Frost to elicit empathy through her work is the hallmark of a humanistic studio practice that characterizes her work, as well as that of many from her generation. We found ourselves in the latter part of the 20th centuary suspended between the energized subjectivity of Abstract Expressionist painting and the cool, reductive mandates of Minimalism. How to find one's way in this seeming contradiction of expressive opposites had been the overriding critical question behind our work, and it has continued to be for Frost's paintings and drawings for more than twenty years. On the one hand, she admires the espressive conciseness of Barnett Newmann's "Zips," which in their reductive simplicity, are loaded wth emotive presence. She is keenly tuned into the embodiement implicit in his work, regarding it as a bridge to her own concerns. In the Minimalist work of Donld Judd, another artist whose work she has studied, Frost looks beyond the strict, measured sturctures of his "specific objects" to the near transcendent experience she has in the presence of his work. From this dialogue with these two major movements in American Art she has forged a personal vision for a kind of painting that speaks eloquently at the nexus of seemingly antithetical positions. How can a form, Frost postulates, be simultaneously expressive and reductive?

Frost's penchant for muted color, for tertiary and grayed down hues characterizes much of her oeuvre. It functions both as a pretext for the drawing and as an immutable expressive agent. This color is difficult to name or to place, and it seems to emanate from black, the proverbial absence of color, or light. This liminal state in which the color emerges out of blackness is for Frost a life-affirming condition through which the spirit of the body, rather than its mere corporeality, is expressed to the fullest. These subduds colors, then, are alive and warm, felt rather than deduced, intimate and receptive, vulnerable, and open to the exhilaration of uncertainty.

In the face of a culture that is more and more popularized, in which materiality is valued above all else, and in which the latest technological gadget has us mesmerized, these works might seem anachronistic or even out of touch with "reality." After all, they turn their backs on the exterior world and focus instead on the hand, the body and the spirit through the simple act of painting, and in doing so they espouse an alternative way of engaging our humaness. Frost chooses this more humble way of working, as many in her generation--myself included--did and still do, not as a protest, but rather as a way of living, of working, and of being in this high tech world. For this sentient observer, these paintings are subtle, yet powerful reminders not only of our warm and embodied existence, but simultaneously of our own fragile and dubious mortality. And they are here, confronting us in the present, here for all of us to ponder.