Finger Painting

In the early ‘90s, as a lark, Evans began experimenting with oils. Initially, she took a knife and dug into the gobs of paint on her husband’s palette and applied it to plywood. “I’d build a painting like I would build a sculpture,” she says. Evans played with the paint. “I had nothing to lose,” she explains. “In my mind, I was a sculptor.” But encouraged by Stone, she soon began to view herself as a painter. 

Today, Evans enjoys the commercial success that eluded her before. Her works, which sell for up to $18,000, are displayed in galleries in Atlanta, Boca Raton, Martha’s Vineyard, and New Orleans and at the New Orleans Museum of Art. 

Like the willful Boston University undergrad, she still bristles at artistic conventions. She attacks the canvas with brushes, knives, sticks, anything she can get her hands on - hands included. “If I don’t like it, I’ll take my hands and smush it. It’s all spontaneous. If I couldn’t paint that way, if I had to go by some sort of rules, I’d probably shoot myself,” she says. 

Evans says behind each of her paintings is a story. Recall her description of “Night Watch”: She loves to anthropomorphize things, especially houses. Windows become eyes; roofs, hair; a dab of red, a mouth. In “Goin’ to the Jazz Fest,” a house jauntily cruises across the waves into town. In “Smash Hit,” a pair of “totally whacked out” palm trees compare notes after the storm, she explains. “These guys are saying to each other: ‘What happened to you?’ ‘What happened to you?’ “ 

She spends a lot of time thinking about her titles. She says they usually come to her just before she finishes a work. They’re usually quirky and possess double, if not triple meanings. As angry as she may be feeling - be it about Katrina or global warming or the Iraq war - she insists that she’s an optimist. “I want to emote that life is good, that I want to see the beauty of things,” Evans says. “You can find joy if you look for it. You can find the terrible things too, but you shouldn’t dwell on them.” 

Carolyn Evans’s work is at the Danforth Museum, Framingham, through Oct. 19. 508-620-0050

Steve Maas, The Boston Globe