Saturday, August 10, 2013

Three Women Sculptors - True Artists with Some Engineering Expertise on the Side

Maryl marvels at the magnitude of their sculptures

Nathalie Decoster                                     Carol Friedmann                                    Carolyn Palmer 
So do these three women look like engineers to you?  I had the occasion to experience eye-opening work of two female sculptors on my recent trip to France and a similar encounter with another in our own neck of the woods. Nathalie Decoster who works in Paris sculpts figures in bronze - although she is beginning to work with other materials – that represent man confronting time and nature. Gloria Friedmann, originally from Germany who also works in France, is a sculptor, painter, photographer and videographer who interprets man against nature, culture and humanity. Carolyn Palmer is a New York portrait artist who creates life-size bronze busts and statues. As I walked around and admired their art pieces it occurred to me that these are also engineering feats and that artists need to know some sciences along with their arts. You may remember the media frenzy Lawrence Summers, then President of Harvard, set off when inferring that innate differences between the genders may be the reason so few women scientists make it to the top.  I'm not looking to open up that debate but maybe we're not measuring female aptitude in the right places.  Anyway, just take a look at these sculptures for yourselves and enjoy their magnitude and beauty. 

Nathalie Decoster


Decoster's current work at Alain Ducasse's Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle in France

Decoster's work at the Mandarin Oriental in Macau
After some schooling in art, Nathalie Decoster trained with a mentor who taught her most of what she needed to know.  Sculpture has always been her first love.  Her work is installed all over the world.  Nathalie was particularly moved in 2001 to be invited by Alain Ducasse to stay at L'Abbaye de la Celle, a place for her of delicate pleasure and tranquility.  It is here where she installed La Condition Humaine, that parallels the life of mankind and that of nature. 

Gloria Friedmann

Gloria Friedman's work at the Maeght Museum, Saint-Paul de Vence, France
Gloria Friedmann's Play-Back d'Eden exhibition of older and mostly newer works at the Maeght Foundation explore man's rootless with nature and the violent history at the beginning of the last century.  Gloria was trained in film and then became a self taught photographer before exploring sculpture, painting and installations.

Carolyn Palmer


Carolyn Friedman's Bronze Statue, Thomas Jefferson

After finishing college Carolyn Palmer went on to study art extensively throughout Europe before returning to upstate New York.  Aside from her private collection work, her public commissions can be seen at the Sanford/Orlando Airport of the Wright Brothers and in the lobby of the Jefferson Center in Syracuse, N.Y.  of Thomas Jefferson himself.   She has just completed busts of Eleanor and F.D. Roosevelt for the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park of which she talks about in a recent interview.  She is currently working on a life size park scene of Vice President Joe Biden and Govenor Robert Casey for their hometown of Scranton, Pa.

Art is technical as well as creative 

Dartmouth University celebrated the 50th anniversary of their Hopkins Center for the Arts and asked nine of their engineering students (mostly women) to describe how they bring art and engineering together.   They concluded it's ideas plus inspirations processed logically and creatively at the same time.  The American Association of University Women published a 2010 report, aptly titled Why So Few?,  that disclosed that it's stereotyping and cultural biases that impede women from choosing and advancing in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.  Sculptors can be considered artists or engineers, can be males or females, but it's their own sensibilities and skills reflected in the art that transcends all else in the end.         

Upon exiting the Maeght Foundation you encounter a fountain by Pol Bury that I found rather mesmerizing.  The artist had a very dramatic, varied yet successful career.  I took note that Pol actually scored higher in his science classes than those in art but it's his art that lives on.  I saw both in this tranquilizing sculpture.

(Gloria Friedman sculpture photos by Svetlana Blasucci)


  1. And what about Thea Alvin who makes stone structures in Vermont? Her work not only requires physical strength, it definitely is feat of engineering to create and build her self-supporting arches. Read about her here:

    Oh, and Maryl, anytime you want to take a field trip to Vermont to find her work, let me know. I'm in!

    1. Hi Judith, Thanks for the link to Thea Alvin. I truly appreciate her work having tried to build a low stone wall for my garden! Amazing. And thanks for the invite too. New England in the fall is always nice!

  2. I love sculptures and particularly like Nathalie's work. Thank you for introducing me to them.

    1. I'm sure you've been to the Maeght museum and if you haven't gotten to l'Abbaye de la Celle, treat your self to an Alain Ducasse meal at the restaurant and a walk around the gardens and sculptures. Enjoy.


  3. Ursula von Rydingsvard, Emilie Benes Brzezinski and Magdalena Abakanowicz are three more amazing sculptors. Emilie and Magdalena 's works are at the Grounds for Sculpture

  4. Just a little info to pass on. If you can find the original copy of THE OBSTACLE RACE by Germaine Greer,it is a treasure. All about women painters through the ages. A wonderful book for anyone interested in art.

    1. Thanks Donna. Just checked it out on Amazon. Makes you think of all the female artists we never got to know and appreciate.