Joyce McCarten makes layered abstract paintings that are metaphors for the unpredictable nature of life. She uses a personal language of form, gesture and color in oil paint to allow the unpredictable to emerge.
McCarten is an avid traveler, especially to the hidden places in third world countries. She visits those places that only health workers and missionaries dare to enter. Her visit to the west African country of Niger, 15 years ago, had great impact on her life and art and she has chosen to make this the inspiration for her recent work.
She went to Niger to visit and take supplies to a missionary family living in the bush town of Tahoua. They introduced her to the Woddabe-Fulani people, one of the last nomadic people groups in the world. The bush desert and the nearby towns and markets appeared to be from an ancient world. The desert was green after a brief season of rain, yet there were no bushes in the bush. There was a donkey parking lot, huge wooden spools for bed frames and goats that were prized possessions. The people were beautiful; the men shaved their foreheads to enhance their beauty and the women piled their hair low on their foreheads. The colors of the robes brightened the drab, drough-ridden landscape.
Many of the places McCarten visited are no long accessible to the Western world. Political ramifications have come to the bush desert of Niger. Missionary friends have moved to a larger city in a district where there is less danger. Many of the Woddabe people have moved to the cities because the desert could no longer support their goat herds. Change comes, even for desert nomads.
The way we embrace change is an important subject for McCarten. Whether we rail against it or welcome it, change comes. Though we try, we cannot predict all the changes that will come in our personal or corporate lives. In her painting process, McCarten allows the colors and shapes to change to improve their relationships with one another. During the painting process, the unpredictable often shows up and she is surprised and challenged. Allowing changes to her paintings has given McCarten an idea about how to welcome unpredictable changes throughout her own life.