Abstract Figurative Sculptor

Carol C. Griffin

Carol Griffin is a Direct Carver of contemporary sculpture.
"Mango and Leaf" Detail. Alabaster. 7" x 24" x 8". 2006.

Carol Griffin is a Direct Carver of contemporary sculpture. The mediums she uses are natural wood and stone. Her specialty is carving abstract figurative sculptures, which are often female nudes.

A personal pursuit for Carol is to depict the beauty of ethnic diversity, which she incorporates into her art practice. This is exemplified by her limestone sculpture No Lye, a celebration of naturally coarse hair and a nod to her African American roots.

Because of Carol’s respect for all cultures as well as her own, she has sought to create figures that celebrate the diversity of people with a range of emotions: strength, pride, vulnerability, etc. This desire continues to fuel her work.


"Oriata" Abstract Figurative Sculpture
"Oriata." Carrara marble. 17" x 8" x 7". 2013.

What is Abstract Figurative Sculpture?

Abstract Contemporary Sculpture

In the Western world from the Renaissance until the mid-nineteenth century, art tended to portray the natural world faithfully. Influenced by improvements made in science and technology by the end of the nineteenth century, some artists began to create art that had no visual reference to real objects or people. Abstract art came into being.

An artist can abstract, or interpret, objects from real life in such a way that the object is still recognizable – the art is figurative, yet abstracted.

In Carol’s abstract figurative art, many of the figures are recognizably human, though carved through the filter of her own interpretation. Ideas for these abstract human figures come from real life, drawings, past experiences, and pure imagination.

Wood Carvings

Abstract Contemporary Sculpture

Beginning in 1999, Carol carved stone exclusively for over ten years before beginning to carve wood. She finds that even though stone is generally a heavier and harder material than wood, wood is the more challenging medium because of its grain patterns. Since 2010, she has worked closely with her mentor, the acclaimed master sculptor Lorrie Goulet. Goulet taught at the Art Students League in New York City and introduced Carol to direct carving and abstract figurative sculpture. She continues to pass on her 70+ years of stone- and wood-carving experience to Carol.  

A defining feature of her wood carvings is the integration of the grain of the wood with the flow of the forms of her pieces, one of the special techniques taught to her by Goulet. She never sands her wood pieces, but rather uses tools to work the surfaces. She believes that this keeps the pieces “alive.”

Carol prefers the subtractive nature of carving to other types of sculpture precisely because it is subtractive. 

I work as a direct carver because it’s a very creative way for me to work.  Direct carving means I do not use any models of what I intend to carve.  Rather than having a clear idea of what I want a finished piece to look like, I allow the stone or wood to suggest and direct what I do as I work with it.

Carol C. Griffin

Still Life Drawings

As long as she can remember, Carol has loved viewing still lifes, which are paintings or drawings of objects arranged in a composition. There is something about their tranquil beauty that appeals to her. She began to create her own still life drawings in 2015 as a complement to her sculptural art.

For many years, she has been markedly drawn to the shapes and colors of fresh produce, often using it as the basis for centerpieces in her home. In her still lifes, she focuses on their rounded, sensual shapes and views them as being evocative of human figures.  

Carol often imagines her subjects as dancing, something she finds easy to do given the quirkiness of their shapes. She uses pastel, conte, and colored pencils to create these drawings. 

Occasionally, “just for fun,” she enjoys carving still lifes in addition to drawing them. Her naturalistic alabaster and marble sculptures are the first of what she envisions as an eventual collection of stone carving “still lifes.”

Carol often incorporates subtle hints of the Far East in her work. She developed a passion for Asian art while studying Japanese culture in college, and enjoys including Asian artifacts in her still lifes.

"Red Pepper" Still Life By Carol Griffin
"Red Pepper". Conte crayon on paper. 18" x 24". 2015.
Artist headshot

About Carol

Photo: Tomasz Howard

From an early age in Cleveland, Ohio, Carol wanted to carve figures in stone. 

Carol finds that New York City, her home since 1989, has provided a supportive environment for artistic expression. Her technique and style have been greatly enhanced by her apprenticeship with the aforementioned Lorrie Goulet. Carol strongly supports the centuries-old tradition of a younger artist maturing under the tutelage of a master. The subtleties and nuances she has gleaned from this association have been tremendously rewarding and beneficial for her.

Carol’s abstract figurative sculptures and still lifes reflect a personal vision of beauty that exists in the diversity of people and nature.

Carol, her husband Gil, and their dog Tuffy live in New York City.

I loved to roll in my hands the cool, hard gravel from the driveway of my elementary school.  I loved the color and feel of the travertine inlays of my grandmother’s coffee tables.  Stone still has a powerful, spiritual effect on me.

Carol C. Griffin


Read Carol’s Blog, learn more about her process, and see works as they’re being created.


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