During an interview with Buffalo Rising, Carrianne Hendrickson described herself as "a young woman, living in an economically strapped area, hustling as much inventory as I can."
But there is much more to Hendrickson, just like there is much more to Buffalo. There is hope there, there is passion, and there is the fascination with the idea of never giving up - she never gives up on herself, and she never gives up on anyone else.
Hendrickson smiled when she recounted how she got her start in the art world. "I used to doodle - a lot - in 4th grade... I'd make these paper tattoos, and my friends would stick them on their arms." It wasn't long before she realized she could start charging for her designs. For ten cents a pop, her classmates could walk the aisles of the school with a little more verve.
This verve also took root in Hendrickson. In high school, she explored all types of media, even involving herself in various singing groups. "I eventually went 'John Lennon' on them, and took off to pursue my own art," she said with a coy smile (rolling her eyes a bit, remembering that juvenile parting). But that parting was a watershed moment for her, really, as her focus then shifted to sculpture, the art form she marvelously crafts in her Buffalo studio today.
You can also find Hendrickson's work all over the city, and all over the nation - from California, to New York City, and even Kalamazoo (MI), to name just a few. Her art has certainly had its travels. "I was driving down Lincoln Parkway recently, and I saw one of my sculptures in an apartment window. I couldn't help but slow down. I guess my art is all over the city, or here and there, but I never know where it all ends up."
It's easy to imagine her sculptures slipping off in the middle of the night, "hustling" for bus tickets and moving around town. Her work has a defining sense of animism about it, a suggested energy that makes each piece feel somewhat spirited, quaintly alive.
In her piece "The Temptation of Laura," the theatrical-masked creatures and the subject, Laura, draw the gasping attention from the viewer. But after a while, it's the roots of the tree upon which Laura sits that seem even more sinister: twisted and still, they appear like they might begin to writhe at any moment - they may slither, like snakes.
This combination of Innocence and Darkness is a common theme in Hendrickson's work. "My work does have innocent and dark undertones. I like to think it is a symbolic reflection of the human condition as being both good and evil, and thick with all of its many dark and mysterious facets."
That same animism is readily apparent in "The Aviator," which contains an empowerment and strength that immediately transfers to the viewer. Much more than a simple depiction of a female pilot, it exudes a defining vitality - that energy common to her work - from behind its goggles and face.
Besides figurative sculpture, she has created a line of ornaments and teapots. While the function of each helps increase her popular sales, each piece, no matter how small, always contains her verve, a bit of animism, and a shadow of mystery.
"I've learned to cater to what people are looking for, and keep my prices affordable (for this area). I can't say that I sell a great deal at every show, sometimes it can be a very slow day, and that's frustrating." Again, coyness flashed over her expression before continuing, "But, on just a couple occasions, I found something that I could do about that."
Hendrickson knows that not everyone in the Rust Belt can afford art. Some people attend the shows just to have a look, to see what is outside their living rooms. "Recently I remember a show I did at a church at Christmas in the Elmwood Village. The show was delightful, but slow for sales. Then an intriguing family strode in. In a young woman's arms was held a child so wrapped and bundled the face was hardly visible - she was struggling to hold this child - you could tell she was down on her luck. The young woman was accompanied by her mother, and two young children - they lit up the drab show with their boisterous personalities and brazen charm. The young woman kept coming over to my booth and praising the work, saying she would like my website so she could buy some work when she had money, and then I sprung! I gave her a piece of art, something she picked out when I asked her what she was interested in... but later, as they were leaving - her mother whispered in my ear 'You have just made my daughter smile...I have not seen her smile for real in years.'"
Hendrickson is, indeed, one of the people of this city that make it one of the biggest cities in the US - when considering its sizeable talent, and especially its heart. "I did it because I have always liked giving. I like to know someone who came to me a little beaten down by life walked away for a moment, for that moment a little happier, a little more hopeful."
Just as Buffalo's art community is very supportive during the tough times, so is Hendrickson of her city. While living on the West Side for fourteen years, she recounted leaving a piece of her art on a table, curbside.
"There was this man who would come by every garbage day, with a shopping cart, collecting cans. Then, one day, he comes across this table I had put out, and the piece of sculpture. I was watching from behind the curtain as he picked up the piece, turned it around, and took it in for a minute, maybe two. Then his eyes just lit up. It was just very special."
"What happened to those pieces? Those somewhat lost pieces?" she mused. Well, one of them has hustled on over to Lincoln Parkway, for starters.
Meanwhile, collectors can find her art at the Burchfield Penny Gallery Shop, and at Wild Things on Lexington Avenue. She may also be contacted through her website, where she takes orders for commissions and other acquisition requests.
Maybe she would even agree to do another one of those ten-cent tattoos.