The Architecture of The Earth: Carol Short's Art

An Interview with Carol Short, AFCA
As presented on

The Architecture of The Earth: Carol Short's Art by Lorette C. Luzajic

Carol Short is an artist who explores geology with her beautiful art. She studied art at Kwantlen College, White Rock Summer School of the Arts, and the Vancouver Academy of Art. Her work has appeared on the cover of Geoscientist magazine, inside Oilweek magazine, and in numerous art shows. Now she talks with the Idea Museum about her unusual inspirations for her art.


1. How did you jump into an artistic interpretation of geology after working physically in it? Are you still involved in field work?

My earlier career with Mobil Oil in Calgary was as secretary in the Exploration Dept, specifically with land and mineral rights acquisitions, but also in association with the geologists. Later, as secretary in the executive offices of the mining giant Cominco in Vancouver, I was exposed to the many facets of that industry. I took geology courses at the University of Calgary and became fascinated with the history, structure and beauty of the inner earth. After several years of painting standard imagery in a fairly representational way, I started venturing into semi-abstract territory, looking for my own identity as an artist. I began with large linear impressions of strata. Then a light bulb went on and shells and fossils found their way into my works, celebrating ancient seas, reefs and beaches. The geometry of ammonites led me to mathematical studies of the Golden Mean - opening up an entirely new world of the dynamic composition of everything in the natural world.

2. What sorts of materials are your "mixed-media"? How do you get this very realistic, earth and rock effect?

Texture is a very interesting tactile component of my work and I attempt to convey the impression of ancient rocks and minerals using a variety of media. I generally use masonite as a support and build up layers with different types of wallboard compound and textured gels. Sometimes I incorporate real fossils or skeletonized leaves, or build up ammonite shapes with many layers, thus creating a three-dimensional effect. I use acrylic paints and love the richness of metallics.

3. What is the artist's role in environmental 'salvation"? Can artists effect change? Do you believe your work simply showcases the beauty of the earth, or that it actually impacts change?

Many artists today are dedicated to saving the earth and, through images of beauty, destruction or social statement, reminding the public of the fragility of the world today. This is seen in every art form, film, literature, sculpture, installation art, fine art etc.
Because my work is so unique, it generally draws the viewer in for a closer study of my philosophy. I hope that my two ongoing series, "Connections", depicting geological strata and referring to the interconnectedness of all things, and "Interior Design" referring to the fossilized history of the earth, will inspire people to really appreciate and look after the beauty that Mother Nature has provided.

4. How did you land a gig with Geoscientist magazine? Do you find that unconventional, science related fields are more responsive than art circles? Do you feel you "fit in" to art circles? Do you care to?

Because geologists in Calgary have been very interested in my work, I was keen to reach a wider audience, and therefore sent my website to several geological societies. Geoscientist (UK) has nearly10, 000 members, so I was very pleased when they showcased my paintings on the covers of this year's Annual Report and Financial Statements. As well, Geoscience Canada has featured a painting on the cover of their September issue. My first exposure to this industry was in an article in Oilweek magazine a couple of years ago.

I am also closely aligned with the Federation of Canadian Artists where I have had several exhibitions. Much time is spent with artist friends discussing the many variables and possibilities of art, as well as attending as many exhibitions as possible; however, my creation process is strictly done alone.


5. Is it important to bridge the boundaries of art and science? What is actually the difference between the two? How do they merge, and where will they always be separate?

It is said that art is a science and science is an art, and one can be applied to the other. For example, in deconstructing a Golden Rectangle or any geometric form (math), compositional components are revealed to the artist. Conceptualizing complex ideas and communicating them to others is as necessary in science as in art. Einstein said, "I'm enough of an artist to freely draw upon my imagination". However, artists strive to be completely unique and scientists focus on repetition in proof of theory.


From Dr. Ted Nield, Editor of Geoscientist Magazine (UK):

"I believe that the CP Snow "two cultures" theory has been well and truly exploded in recent years. Sure, there are people who know only about arts and others who know only about science. But these are not the people who
matter in this context. Most people, who are themselves neither artists nor scientists, have a much broader view. They recognize that both arts and science are different ways of coming to terms with and explaining the universe, and that each has its place. Science tells you things that are practically useful about the reality that makes things work. It asks "how".

But it cannot ask "why". Nor can it describe the experience of being alive and conscious of one's mortality.

Human beings have a need to make sense of their existence and their surroundings. Some will be content with what science can tell them. But most will not be, and will seek meanings in other ways, ways that communicate in languages that do not convey, like science, only factual information. The nature of existence for a human being is different from that of a bug, or a stone. Arts seek to describe that state, and to convey the artist's insight into it. This is more than science can do. One is not lesser, nor greater than the other. They are, wholly and every sense,

6. Do you have positive feelings about the future of the earth or do you believe we are almost finished our destruction of her?


Although it can be easy to be cynical about the earth's future, awareness of environmental issues cannot escape anyone today and every day more is done to help preserve and protect the earth; however, it is not nearly enough and we must be continually reminded of our duty to be environmentally responsible. Countries, cities, corporations and individuals must continue to work together to find ways to do this.

7. What do you anticipate doing in the future?

Well, I have a couple of dreams. One of my mentors is Maya Lin, artist and architect of many public works of art. Her incredible sensitivity to the interaction of people and the environment has inspired me to start planning large-scale public art projects. I would also love to collaborate with an architectural team in the design of a natural history museum, where the building with its unique form would appear to have just been discovered in the earth.