In the heading of Carol Bass’ Instagram page are two words: “Art” and “Curious.” This limited descriptor initially seems too basic for the multifaceted artist, designer, business owner, and author. And yet, art and curiosity are what keep Bass’ apparently endless well of creativity bubbling up—the constant flow spilling onto panels with bold strokes of brilliant color.
Bass recently returned to Maine following several years in her native South Carolina, and her voice still holds a hint of southern drawl. She raised her now-grown children here, and after a time “back home” in the south, felt the irresistible pull so many have experienced to this place of long winters, hardy people, and natural beauty. “I never felt so wild and free as in Maine,” she says. She now paints in a modest timber frame house she and her husband built in a field in Pownal, which offers views as inspiring to Bass as any from Maine’s famous coastline.
“We have this clear view of the sky all around,” she says. “The movement of the trees is just like a bunch of brushes moving in the wind. In the summer the field is full of Queen Anne’s Lace, and there’s a breeze almost constantly. There’s always movement.”
Movement is a common thread in her paintings and sculpture. Swaths of color swirl, snake, and collide; shapes come together and then seem to break apart. “It’s all about energy,” she says. “I think that is the story. Because it’s how I feel—vibrations—vibrations are energy. I don’t have to go paint the sky.”
For Bass, the creative process begins with gathering her materials—choosing the jewel-like colors she loves, “getting the right brushes, and making a mark—just one mark,” she says. “Each brush stroke … it’s like improvisational painting. It’s like jazz. You paint one thing, and it leads to another, and that leads to another.”
Looking at Bass’ art—and her wide, unselfconscious grin—two other words that come to mind are “exuberance” and “joy.” Now in her early 70s and challenged by multiple sclerosis, Bass and her art remain unfettered by tradition, yet deeply connected to a larger truth. “I do believe painting is a spiritual phenomenon, a flow,” she says. “And that creating energy is a clear connection to God, like praying.”