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Caroline Absher in Burnaway

I first met Caroline Absher—by chance—at a nameless exhibition in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York City. The artwork was varied and the crowd even more so, yet this diverse bunch drifted decidedly towards one painting in particular: a scene of two women floating in glistening water, framed by flowing marks that ranged in appearance from brushstroke to wave. Newly graduated from Pratt Institute, Absher’s work already had the power to illuminate beauty, gesture to transformation, and inspire awe.

Skip a few years forward and South Carolina-born Absher has already exhibited her paintings all over the globe. I most recently met with Absher on the eve of her current exhibition at The Journal Gallery in New York City. She was putting the finishing touches on her latest body of work, a series driven by the idea of witnessing as it applies to both universal and individual experiences.


On this beautiful morning in early October, Absher threw open the door to her Williamsburg studio and ushered me in, beelining for the coffee machine by the doorway. “I know you don’t have much time, so let me get this going!” she exclaimed as she turned on the machine, proceeding to lead me swiftly into the studio. The walls were more canvas than wall and the palette more paint than palette; a family of houseplants lined the splattered windowsill. The paintings were full of mesmerizing figures wrapped in rich atmosphere, employing transparent washes and musical strokes to articulate epic natural phenomena and human wonder. While introducing me to each work and answering my questions, Absher was engaging yet pensive (when she pauses to choose her words, she seems to visit another realm). Her sage musings are always elevated by a youthful excitement. We went on to discuss looking inward in order to make a collective impact, painting challenges, and the power of a cosmic wink.