Five Quarantines

Caroline Carlsmith

May 5 – June 14, 2021

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Flynn Fine Art is excited to announce our first digital presentation in partnership with Artsy, Five Quarantines, by Caroline Carlsmith. Opening simultaneously with Frieze New York and running through June 14, 2021, Five Quarantines features five exquisite drawings of forty echinoderms each. Rendered in a multitude of bright, tactile inks, each of these works was drawn over forty days spent in isolation as a meditation on how we might regenerate where we have been painfully separated from each other and parts of ourselves.

Echinoderms are a phylum of generally pentaradial sea creatures including starfish, sea lilies, brittle stars, urchins, basket stars, feather stars, and sea cucumbers. Many of these animals are capable of autotomy, or self-severing, and regenerating parts of themselves that have been lost. As a visual artist and writer, Carlsmith explores how humans use systems of knowledge to push past bodily boundaries and engage with the dream of life beyond death. Locked away in her studio during the first US outbreak of coronavirus, she became fascinated with how these otherwise rare traits are widespread in echinoderms.

With her proximity to the havoc of COVID-19 (Queens, NY, where the artist is located, was a hotspot that spring), Carlsmith purposefully chose joyful inks in fluorescent, sparkling, metallic, opaque and translucent bodies and laid them over a gold base on a deep blue background, a play on the motif of painted vaults depicting stars in the night sky. The artist decided to make “quarantines” of echinoderms – forty echinoderms in an echo of the historical number of days in a quarantine – as a way to mark the time. When Carlsmith began to look into echinoderms more closely, she also fell in love with the language scientists use to describe them. Because the bodies of echinoderms are so alien in comparison to vertebrates, the names are rich with complex visual metaphors. “Reading a description of an echinoderm can feel like reading a poem,” the artist relates, “Looking at them can feel that way too – the simple abundance and variety of forms is staggering, and the fact that they are living expands my sense of what that means.”

Five Quarantines will be presented for forty days in celebration of the vaccine and in tribute to those who are still suffering globally from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. To support on-going efforts to regenerate as individuals and communities, a percentage of each sale will be donated to pandemic relief in Queens.


Caroline Carlsmith (American, b. 1987) studied at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University. Recent exhibitions include Rutgers University’s Camden Center for the Arts (Camden, NJ); Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum (San Antonio, TX); Flux Factory (Queens, NY); Monaco (St. Louis, MO); Julius Caesar (Chicago, IL). Public events include “Forever and Always” at BRIC and airing on Brooklyn Free Speech TV (Brooklyn, NY); “Mimosa pudica,” from becoming-Botanicals (Madison, WI); “GOOD ▵ CHEAP ▵ FAST” at Comfort Station (Chicago, IL); and, “Jericho Labyrinths” at Monaco (St. Louis, MO). Selected articles have appeared in/been published by Objet-a Creative Studio, Chicago Artist Writers, The Transatlantic Walt Whitman Association, Working—Knowledge, and Medium Cool. Carlsmith has been an artist-in-residence at Vermont Studio Center, ACRE, SÍM Residency, SOMA and BRIC, and awarded the BRIC Media Arts Fellowship, two Research in the Arts Grants from Northwestern University, and CAAP Grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

© flynn fine art 2021