Visual Artist Candy Carver On Dealing JoyMay 17, 2022
Season 1: Episode 14
In the fourteenth episode of Hey Awesome Girl with Tivi Jones, you’ll meet Candy Carver, a visual artist in Durham, North Carolina focused on creating intentional joy through her art.
Visual artist Candy Carver is a North Carolina native, who spent her formative years in Elkhart, Indiana, where she developed her abstract creativity, working primarily with acrylic and various surfaces from canvas to vinyl to buildings. She creates vibrant texture pieces that touch the soul and inspire viewers. Her work can be found throughout the Southeastern United States and continues to gain recognition. Candy says she specializes in “joy dealing.”
She came to this realization during the pandemic, which she says was like a masterclass for all the things she was practicing before like self-reflection and mindfulness. Candy was able to delve deeper into an emotional understanding of herself.
“Happiness is different than joy. Joy is an internal thing that you can tap into. It’s like a reservoir that is filled adequately and you can pull from,” Candy says.
During the pandemic, people needed things to look forward to, even Amazon packages brought excitement. So, Candy created a 4-inch by 4-inch painting series titled “Silver Linings” and shipped it to people. All the paintings had some silver in them. “I wanted to create something with a long-lasting effect that has a good message for you to look forward to,” Candy says. Creating the series was fun for her and she wanted to do something to positively influence people emotionally.
In this episode, Candy Carver talks to Tivi Jones about her artistic journey, asking for help, overcoming fears, and the subtleties of being a Black creative.
Candy has been making art since she was in second grade. During the summers of elementary school, while other kids were playing outside, she was taking art classes. In ninth grade, she started painting and was also drawing until graduating from high school. In college, her major was Elementary Education and Teaching so art took a back seat. But in 2012, Candy was again making more art and that’s when she realized art is like meditation. “A lot of people think that meditation is about closing your eyes and not moving; however, meditation is a place where your mind feels clear,” she says.
For Candy, making art is a place to relax and have fun. “I did not write a five-year plan for my artistic journey; I did not leave my 9-5 job purposefully to be an artist. My life got to be my life because it was supposed to be that way, I guess.” One day someone asked her— “hey, I really like your art, can I buy some?” Someone else said her art made them feel good and that’s how she started creating full-time.
Candy compares her art to sunshine in a jar.
“If you could fill up a bottle of sunshine and give it to somebody and they can use it when they need it, that’s what making art feels like. That made everything feel like home, where I was supposed to be.”
One thing that helps Candy balance her business and creative side is asking for help. “Learning to ask for help doesn’t make you weak. It makes you less stressed,” she says. Candy doesn’t plan artwork, it’s an intuitive process, and it flows naturally. She says she’s learned a lot from her work and tries to apply those lessons to her personal life.
In 2020, she took two months off work. She told her clients if they needed something, to get it before this date, or pay a deposit and get it after the date. She was practicing saying no in her work life and it was scary because we think– ‘this won’t last forever, don’t turn down money, what’re you going to do later?’
“In saying no, I realized the things, projects, people, interactions, and opportunities I was supposed to have understood, appreciated, and worked with the space that I gave them. The ones that didn't just weren’t for me. And that's it,” Candy says.
Saying no in her work life, allowed her to more easily say no to people in her personal life and set stronger boundaries.
Candy loves being around people, though, and working in arbitrary places. “I was notorious back in the day for showing up with my canvas to a barbeque,” she laughs. During COVID-19, she had to be more intentional about social interactions and that made her feel lonely.
In 2013, Candy used to have a “fear list,” which included things that made her feel uncomfortable, such as singing karaoke or going to the movies by herself. In execution of those things, she learned that feeling uncomfortable didn’t mean it was bad. And usually, she says, doing something she was afraid of, did not go as bad as she thought it would. “The worst outcome I recall was when I went to see a movie by myself and left during it because I just couldn’t do it,” she says.
This reminds Tivi of Why Buddhism is True, a book by Robert Wright about meditation and how our brains are built to keep us alive, not necessarily to keep us happy. “So I think a lot of times when we think about things that we are afraid of, it’s based on our primitive brain’s fear of dying, and a lot of these things in our modern world that we are afraid of will not cause us to die,” Tivi says.
Candy agrees– “Once you realize that you can retrain your brain, you’re like ‘holy shit, wait a minute, I can make lots of cool things happen for me.’”
She says that people have this idea that by a certain age they need to have everything figured out, and have all the right answers, but she thinks that’s impossible because change is constant and we need to adapt to it. She remembers how people started reaching out to her, asking to do public artwork or artwork in their homes or in spaces that weren’t on canvases. She had never done anything like that before. Candy was overwhelmed the first dozen times she accepted a new project but now she’s confident taking on challenges and learning along the way.
“I have complete and total faith in my ability to figure out almost anything. And it’s not because I'm an all-knowing being– it’s because I’m good at figuring things out and sometimes that means asking for help, doing research, or pulling from your knowledge base. You just realize after a while that you can do a whole lot of shit that you didn’t know you could do.”
At the end of the day, Candy says, “perfection is about perception.” It’s about how you view yourself and your work or how you think other people are going to judge you for who you are and what you do.
Candy references Brene Brown’s Rising Strong book and how we tell ourselves all kinds of stories we believe other people think about us. “And the biggest secret is usually it’s not even about you,” Candy says. “People are usually acting based on what’s going on with them and their experiences, but you’re thinking it’s something about you. So we are all walking around with some level of insecurity thinking that somebody sees it, that they know what we are thinking, and they usually don’t.”
Tivi adds– “Even if you're in a relationship and someone intentionally does something to harm you, that is still never about you.”
Candy’s new art series is titled “Joy by Any Means” because she says as aggressively as we battle for social justice or an increase in our paycheck, we should be as intentional about our own internal joy and happiness. “This series is reflective of who I am more than anything else, and I know that sounds obvious but even in art there are ideas that you’re expected to focus on as a Black woman artist,” Candy says. Even if her art is about joy, some people want to see the pain in it. “They just assume – you Blacks are all about the struggle,” Candy says. “I call it “struggle porn.”
She brings up how the art world tries to put her in a box just because she’s a Black woman creative.
“You gotta be making something that’s political. It’s just assumed. Me breathing air is political. So I don’t need to do anything else,” Candy says.
She says, unfortunately, most galleries, nonprofit organizations, and museums are run by white people. “I don’t know if it’s intentional, they want to understand us, but unfortunately, sometimes that looks like some kind of weird white gaze voyeurism because they’re only familiar with certain types of Black stories.”
Candy says she’s received emails or been asked questions during interviews that add words to her mouth, for example, they ask– “so what is your art about; are you an activist?”
“Why are they asking you if you are an activist?” Tivi wonders.
“I guess because that’s what you’re supposed to do as a Black creative– talk about the struggle all the time,” Candy says. “They’re always asking me to tell them about the hard stuff or what’s the pain here? And I’m like, ‘it’s not about pain, ma’am.”
She says that people expect Black creatives to make art about the painful things they had to go through. “Think about the movies that get a lot of funding that tell Black stories – they don't have money for a Black romantic comedy, but damn they're gonna make a second Color Purple.”
She thinks this kind of perception stems from the fact that a lot of white people don’t know many Black people. “Their engagement is limited so their ideas come from what’s presented to them. And then they walk into the world with inaccurate ideas about Black people,” she says.
Candy points out that Black artists who talk about their struggles make more money. “So then I’m just like ‘damn, I could do that – let me see if it works.’ But then what do I do if it works? There’s no way to go back then.”
“Does that pigeon-hole you?” Tivi asks.
“It can. And then you’re stuck making trauma porn for money,” she says.
“What does that do to your artist spirit?”
“It’s not healthy,” Candy says. “What you think about affects your life. So what does it do to you to tell sad stories about what and who you are over and over again? It can’t be good and it can’t feel good. We all deserve more joy. And I don’t mean just Black people– everybody. Joy is all I got.” ✨
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Every week Tivi interviews amazing Boss Babes in tech, medicine, law, entrepreneurship, entertainment, parenting, and more about their lives, goals, and how every day, they are working to add more Pleasure, Ease, and Abundance in their orbit.
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Demi Vitkute is a Media Manager & Producer at Hey Awesome. She’s a passionate storyteller, fashion aficionado + crazy cat mom trying to change the world. She’s a journalist, editor, and media consultant. Demi is the founder of The Urban Watch Magazine and has written for The Washington Post, Inside Hook, and Promo Magazine, among others. You can follow her on IG and Twitter @demiivit.