It is truly an inspirational experience when art touches your soul. This is the case with the landscape art of Cyndy Carstens, who has her studio and gallery in the Arts District of Old Town Scottsdale. Her paintings flow with a colorful luminosity that showcases our beautiful desert skies. The brilliant color palettes she uses for her artwork reflect the personal experiences and struggles she has gone through in her life. Her paintings are thought provoking, visually stunning and represent some of many reasons that people come to Arizona to enjoy our soaring skies and breathtaking sunsets. With every new painting, viewers experience the Arizona landscape and life through the lens of Carstens.
Carstens has had her gallery in the Arts District for five years and has embraced the climate and culture of the unique area. Her sophisticated works are certainly thought provoking now, but the earliest inspirations of her creative endeavors sprung forth at the early age of six. “When I was little, I was very sick,” says Carstens. “Back then, there weren’t cartoons. I was too young to read, so coloring books were my companions. For Christmas, my parents bought me a little easel with adjustable legs, allowing it to be setup over my lap in bed. I just started playing around with paints, pastels and crayons. My mom gave one of my paintings to a neighbor. She liked it so well she entered it into a competition. To my surprise, I won – a full summer scholarship to The Minneapolis Art Institute.” That important little easel now graces the corner of Carstens’ Scottsdale gallery imploring viewers to inquire more about its whimsical presence. “I never wanted to be anything other than an artist. I can’t even imagine being anything else,” she adds.
As she grew, Carstens continued to enjoy art and took formal training beginning with a scholarship to The Wichita Art Association after high school. “My parents - bless their hearts, the only exposure they ever had to the art world was Andy Warhol,” explains Carstens. “Reputation-wise he was known for parties and drugs. They thought that was the art world. They didn’t know. They had never been to an art museum or art exhibition of any kind. They fervently did not want me to be an artist. I’ve been slightly angry at Andy Warhol ever since.” Carstens did eventually attend three different universities across the Midwest and finally Arizona State University.
Carstens initially pursued her art in a way that she could make a living, serving as a graphic designer. She then went to work for a medical center as a graphic illustrator and typesetter. From there, she owned a graphic design studio for a decade and finally moved to the Valley to become an art director at an advertising agency. “It turns out I’m a better entrepreneur than I am an employee,” laughs Carstens. Eventually, she started a mural business, painting for private homeowners and commercial businesses enjoying much success. “I returned to the university while continuing to paint murals full time with the intent to stimulate and challenge my art making,” she remarked, “That is, until my Mom became very ill.” As a full-time caregiver to her mother, Carstens continued to paint and draw, eventually amassing a large body of work in her home. After a year of recovery time after her mother passed, she considered what steps to take next and opening her own gallery was a natural career progression.
“These paintings are really about inspiring hope - sharing stories in the art – allowing each person to create their own narrative while encouraging a sense of optimism,” says Carstens. “These pieces come from a lot of heartache and yet they don’t look sad. I make the conscious decision not to be sad every single day. I choose to see the world as a beautiful place even though there is a lot of ugliness.” Carstens’ son was diagnosed with a severe disease in 2013 and continues to battle valiantly. Although his prognosis is not stellar, Carstens explains that the color palette of her landscapes have brightened and intensified with his illness, perhaps in a renewed sense of hope, love and inspiration.
Many of her paintings feature bold geometric shapes incorporated into broad, sweeping vistas of Southwestern skies. Additionally, trees and cacti in select portions of her paintings are incorporated almost as a “drawing” that seamlessly combines with the skies and landscape, but is transparent, so as not to detract from the vast feel of the sky. Carstens also offers giclees (museum quality limited edition prints) of her paintings. In a unique twist, she applies additional paint to make each giclee individual from one another – a one-of-a-kind.
“The skies are my favorite thing and the skies represent promise. It is not easy to forget the torture of watching someone you love fade away. It teaches you a lot about who you are and what you can manage,” finishes Carstens. From her perspective, the horizons have shifted to the element that ties all of her paintings together - the vast sky, blazing in brilliant shades of love and hope.
In addition to having fans and collectors, locally, nationally and internationally, Carstens has also been recognized with numerous awards and recognitions, including:
Carstens Studio and Gallery is located at 7077 Main St., #5 in Scottsdale, AZ 85251. For additional information, visit www.cyndycarstens.com or call (480) 946-3217.