Carol Inez Charney Takes on Censorship | Secondhand Smoke

Carol Inez Charney, Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez, chromogenic print laminated and mounted to panel, available in three sizes

The colorful curls and wisps of smoke in Carol Inez Charney’s newest series are sophisticated and elegant while being rich with metaphor. The series, Secondhand Smoke, highlights the dangers of cultural censorship, the limiting of individualism and artistic expression. Book burnings and the destruction of artwork have been an all too common practice in both modern and historic eras, public demonstrations meant to show the power of authoritarian governments. However, the pieces in Secondhand Smoke seem to remind us that such censorship can sneak in; can whisper and spread like rumors, creeping in around the edges, as smoke can.

Secondhand Smoke also poignantly considers the dichotomy between artistic expression and the proliferation of falsified information – as well as the resulting political division. But the pieces speak softly; Charney was inspired to create work both beautiful and reflective, in a way providing respite from the world while at the same time holding a mirror up to it.

Carol Inez Charney, The Handmaid's Tale: A Graphic Novel, by Margaret Atwood, chromogenic print laminated and mounted to panel, available in three sizes

The images in Secondhand Smoke share their titles with literary works that have, at points throughout recent history, been banned or burned by governmental entities seeking to silence individual voices; says Charney, “Incinerating intellectual, creative and critical thought has harmful reverberating effects on society, just as second hand smoke does for all of us. It’s about maintaining control of individuals by censoring the ideas necessary to evolve: suppressing enlightenment and creative freedom.”

Known for her characteristically eloquent photographic abstractions, Charney here utilizes a more ethereal approach. “Ultimately smoke represents aftermath—what remains of provocative of ideas. Secondhand Smoke is a cautionary tale of the growing threats facing artistic expression around the world.”

Charney received a BA in painting from the University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, and an MFA in Photography from San Jose State University, San Jose, CA. She has shown her work at galleries across the country, and in museums such as the Museum of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, CA; San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA; and the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, Berkeley, CA. She has received numerous awards, and her photographs are part of collections including the AT&T Art Collection, New York, NY; Microsoft Art Collection, Redmond, WA; Reese Witherspoon's Art Collection, Los Angeles, CA; and the Escalette Permanent Collection of Art at Chapman University, Irvine, CA.

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