An Interview with an Artist, part 8

Partially  inspired by this blog and the direction it has taken, I’ve decided to team up with a great friend, art lover and PR Guru, Kaitlyn Siner to create a consortium of experienced art professionals and local business leaders to support “emerging” visual artists, collectively  forming The Arts PR Group.The Arts PR Group

We define emerging artists as “any individual, regardless of age or occupation who is fully committed to their craft.  Emerging may apply to artists in the early, mid, and late stages of their career, with some evidence of professional achievement.”

We are energized and inspired daily as we organize this privately funded (no federal or state assistance) nonprofit start-up to include a permanent flagship gallery site in Boston, a formal mentorship program (Shadow Program) with grant and fellowship opportunities among many new and unique initiatives for this important and critical collective of artists.

Kaitlyn and I have the passion, drive and the entrepreneurial prowess to commence our vision,but we need to continue to adopt and consult with key industry leaders to refine our objectives as we charge our mission forward. Your thoughts and ideas are welcomed.

Celebrating all visual artists, the interviews continue…

Best, Paul
Paul Shampine

Mara Safransky- You Don't Know What You Don't Know or Why You Know What You Know

When did you first discover your creative talents?

From a very early age I was encouraged to draw and paint. My parents placed a lot of importance on the creative process and always emphasized me finding a means through which to express myself. I was home-schooled with my sisters and our days were structured around reading, dancing, music, and art. Explaining it now, it sounds so bohemian and renegade, and I guess in a lot of ways it was. Still, I feel very lucky looking back, because no matter how much I yearned to have a “normal” life like other children, I discovered my love of art because of the environment I was raised in. To this day, drawing and painting give me a purpose and an outlet. Most days in my studio, I feel like my real work as an artist is getting back to that time in my childhood when my approach to my work was totally unselfconscious and as much about the process of creating as it is about the finished piece.

For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold.

My first piece was sold in 2000 through a small start-up gallery in Los Angeles. I was part of a group show and the buyer was visiting from Germany. Because the gallery owner made the sale, I never had contact with the collector. The sale made me feel grownup and legitimate as an artist because it meant someone bought my piece, not because they liked me, not because they knew me, but because the work spoke to them. Ironically, the experience ended up being memorable in more ways than one. Soon after the sale, the gallery went belly-up and I was never paid for the piece. It was a good lesson in the fact that art is a business, so having good contracts and being careful who you work with matters.

Who are your favorite artists?

While it may not be especially vogue to say, I derive the bulk of my inspiration from the painting that was happening in this country in the 1950’s and 60’s. So, to name a few of my heroes: Helen Frakenthaler, Hans Hoffman, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock.

Artist: Mara Safransky
Title: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know or Why You Know What You Know
Medium: Acrylic on canvas, 48×36 inches
Website: http: http://www.marasafransky.com

Batya-We Virtually Held Up the Sky, Made the Wind Move

When did you first discover your creative talents?

It was a natural thing to express through the arts ever since I can remember and it included stories, art and music. I used to draw on anything I could get my hands on, small drawings in hidden spots at home, chalk on the sidewalks, illustrate my desk in school and on the blackboard before the teacher came in.

For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold.

The first piece I sold was a drawing of a very long necked woman. I was a junior art counselor in a summer camp and on visiting day this couple saw it and asked me if they can have it. I said ok and they gave me a tip, but I was shocked at the amount.

Who are your favorite artists?

Too many to name all, these come to mind first: CaravaggioGoyaMagritte,VermeerIngresEdward Hopper,Caspar David FriedrichHenry Darger,Michal HeimanPeter DoigJeff Koons and Damien Hirst.Artist: Batya F. Kuncman
Title: We Virtually Held Up the Sky, Made the Wind Move
Medium: Oil on canvas 20×24 inches
Website: http://www.batya.ws

Vesna Jovanovic-TimekeeperWhen did you first discover your creative talents?

I guess I should first address the idea of talent, and how I perceive it. The concept of “talent” has always been a problematic one for me with regard to art.  In fact, I recently listened to a fantastic podcast episode that addresses this idea from various angles (it was a past episode of WNUR’s Radiolab). I think that some artists may be more or less talented in their craft (by that I mean how accurately they can execute something that they might envision or pursue), but that doesn’t say anything about their art, only their craft. On the other hand, I think that humans, by nature, all feel the need to create art. In other words, I don’t think that the word talent applies to art so much as to craft, or skill. Art is something that we all informally engage in: from how we move to how we interact with one another, cook our food, wear our clothes, etc. Art is something that we all experience and share with others all the time, and to judge it or evaluate it seems inappropriate to me. I never sought to evaluate my abilities before embarking on a specific project, but I do make a point of always working on and improving my crafting skills. I’ve just always been curious about the world around me; I’ve always felt the need to explore and create, regardless of my level of talent.

I wanted to be an artist when I grew up, and recently I found out that my elementary school classmates to this day remember me as “the artist in class”. Early on I discovered that this is what I needed to do. I don’t think that any artist is fully satisfied with the outcome though. It can always be better, different, more “true”… This is in part what drives us. Maybe I shouldn’t speak for all artists. But this is what I feel.

For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold.

A big problem for artists is that our work is publicly perceived in a way that I believe is quite skewed. The general public seems to perceive artists as people who create products, instead of seeing visual art as part of the humanities and culture (neither a commodity nor a product, but an intellectual, or perhaps even more so experiential, pursuit).I do happen to sell my work – as many artists do in combination with several other sources of income, such as grants, teaching, residencies, etc. – but I think of being a visual artist as being a philosopher or a composer, not a manufacturer with products to sell.

An artist’s job is to create art and show it, not to sell it  – just as a composer’s job isn’t to sell compositions, and a philosopher’s job is not necessarily to write or sell books. These are sometimes unfortunate necessities that can only get in the way of the actual job, which is to create something and expose others to it.  To further elaborate on my point, some visual artists make work that simply cannot be sold (site-specific installations, time-based sculpture, sound video and performances with mixed media, new media, etc.) They rely on other sources of funding.  I just happen to sell my work because I can (and because I need to make room for more!) but I don’t see it as anything that should be memorable nor in any way admirable, or something to be proud of or even happy about; it is neither central nor necessary to being a successful artist.

I noticed that this general misconception about sales (especially in a capitalist society) causes many artists to quit because they feel as though it’s necessary to sell art in order to have some sort of validation, not realizing that this is not the case (especially in countries where artists are deemed important enough to be funded with regular paychecks from the government).

Having said all this… I cannot remember when I sold my first piece. It may have been a series of photographs that I sold back in my undergraduate years… Or there may have been a ceramic piece that I sold before that.

Who are your favorite artists?

I always enjoy viewing art without judging – just experiencing what others have to share and how they perceive the world, whether or not I agree with it. But there is some artwork that I feel an unusual kinship to.  Here’s a short list of artists whose work I really responded to, in no particular order: Lee Bontecou, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Marc Leuthold, Robert Turner (ceramist), Max Ernst, Caspar David Friedrich, Diane Arbus, ancient Egyptian reliefs and drawings, Lascaux cave paintings, Jean Tinguely, H.R. Giger, Gordon Matta-Clark, Katsushika Hokusai, Karl Blossfeldt, William Kentridge.

Artist: Vesna Jovanovic
Title: Timekeeper
Medium: Medical Scans, Watercolor, Ink, and Graphite, 84×34 inches

Website: http://www.vesnaonline.com

Agni Zotis and the Agni Gallery, Interview with an Artist

As most know, the Northeast has experienced below average temperatures and above average snowfall.  Normally not really an issue for me, but this year I’m heating my domicile with a wood stove.  Yes, it’s as nice as it sounds, but it has its challenges.

Glacial FruitThrough waist-deep snow, I trek to my studio, dig out the door that has been unopened since the Winter Solstice to fetch chains to strap to the wheels of a snow-locked 4WD sculpture/recycling/loan-to-friend/move-that-stuff/wood truck. Mixed emotions struck hard when I broke the seal to my sanctuary and moved past half sculptures, new-found rocks from the Fall and the scent of metal.  Yes, I can smell metal.

While relocating a 1/2 cord of wood from the edge of the property, movement and muscle use were reminiscent of those warm summer sculpting days.  Feeling Paul Shampinea bit of a void and some artistic melancholy, I hear muffled chimes from my Blackblerry.  It’s Agni Zotis.  We chat a bit about her interview and my artistic soul is lift again.  Thanks Agni.  The interviews continue…

Agni Zotis, NYC

When did you first discover your creative talents? I knew art was my thing when I was very young and I could express my self clearly through sketches at school.

For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold. At 19 I was commissioned to paint a mural in a kids room,  got $1500 for a couple of days and I loved the fact kids would be playing and sleeping under my heavenly sky.

Who are your favorite artists? In my youth I was interested in Bosch, Caravaggio, Picasso, Dali, Pollock and now Marina A since her performance at the MOMA.

Looking for love in all the wrong places-Agni Zotis“Looking for love in all the wrong places” is one of my favorite paintings.  Can you give some personal perspective on this piece?Looking for love in all the wrong places” is the first painting from a series called “Exploration of Love” in 2004-05 exploring the emotions of falling in love. this painting examines the need for a lover to devour, engulf their loved one consumed by passion. Falling in love is a feeding frenzy of the soul.

What drew you to Byzantine Iconography? Interested in mysticism in art of ancient worlds, after graduating Hunter in 1993,  I apprenticed with a Serbian monk Makarios, in church in Astoria NYC where I learned Byzantine Iconography and fresco painting using ancient techniques.  All artists should have technique and the ability to paint what they wish without technical limitations. I chose one of the oldest as it has been around for 2000 years, I still use similar methods with pigments, gold leafs and layering, I just make it contemporary and relevant to now, modernize traditions.

Recalling your international travels, what three countries had the most influence on your work and why?

1). NYC because I grew up, live and always have my studios here, the rhythm and vibe of my city is an essential part of my thought process, influences and work.

2). Greece because it’s my roots, I’m interested in philosophy, mythology, movement of knowledge within a culture.

3).  India because it showed me life and death in one spectrum.  I learned about mortality and immortality, living and process of it. It’s where I touched lepers, broke bread with tribal and dined with kings alike.

What’s the history of the Agni Gallery? Agni Gallery was an organic evolution of my world in a special spot in the LES community. Ginsberg lived upstairs when he wrote the Howl, a storefront, transparent, raw with a sign reading “RATED R FOR RANDOM”  Both an exhibition space and my studio, I painted bodies of work with my doorsAgni Zotis open, spilling into the NYC street.  It was a creative underground hot spot for artists, intellectuals, poets, musicians from local and international, established and emerging, an important cultural movement in the art world, allowing people to connect (this is before Facebook and the virtual movement). I hosted and curated many exhibitions and events, giving opportunity to showcase artists, lots of process, I learned and lots and lots of fun. The Factory as some called it. Now I m involved with various projects in other spaces in NYC and internationally. Agni Gallery is a constantly evolving processes in progress and I work with great people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purification-Agni Zotis

Purification

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite gallery? I don’t have a favorite gallery although I like some much more than others.

Favorite museum? My favorite museum is RMA, I love the vibe in there.

If you were to give a room full of emerging artists one bit of advice, what would that be? To all artists, be honest and work from your depths.

If you were to receive an “Artist of the Year Award,” who would be the first person you would thank and why? I thank my mom and son, my greatest supporters and critics, keeping me in the light of what is real.

Agni’s Website: http://www.agnizotis.com

Caillebotte v. Renoir – Super Impressionist Sunday, Interview with an Artist, part 7

The Milwaukee Art Museum (Packers) and the Carnegie Museum of Art (Steelers) go head-to-head or frame-to-frame this Super Bowl Sunday as they wager (temporary loan) one of their prize impressionist possessions – Milwaulkee’s Caillebotte, Boating on the Yerres v. Carnegie’s Renoir, Bathers with Crab.
Milwaukee Art MuseumThe new tradition, started by last year’s Indianapolis “Colts” Museum of Art and the NewCarnegie Museum of Art Orleans “Saints” Museum of Art, finished with E. John Bullard leaving with  Joseph Turner’s “The Fifth Plague of Egypt” under his arm.  The win marked 37 years for Bullard, Museum Director of NOMA, as he retired that year to be succeeded by first round draft pick, Susan Taylor from Princeton University (no relation to NFL Hall of famer Lawrence Taylor).
Where’s my money? Renoir, who definitely has a better ground game, comes from a working class family (Steeler Country) and started his trade in a porcelain factory before going to art school. Ultimately becoming friends, Caillebotte hails from upper-class Parisian and is a bit more flashy and a Realist.  How will all this translate in Texas? Someone is definitely getting wet and I believe the term is “ender.”  The interviews continue….
Meg Dwyer, Chicago, IL
Meg Dwyer - PeppersWhen did you first discover your creative talents? I have been creating for as long as I can remember.  Not unlike many little girls, my first love as a child was horses; I was fascinated with their beauty and, beginning around the age of four, spent hours upon hours attempting to capture their form and movement on paper in pencil, paint and marker.  This was how I first discovered that I loved to draw, and I haven’t ever stopped.  From that early age, art became a very important part of my identity – it was both a means to connect with other people as well as to set myself apart.  It became the means by which I communicate what I find beautiful and significant.
For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold. What stands out to me even more than the sale is the very moment I was first asked, “How much?”  The question came at a show which was one of my first opportunities to display my work publicly, and I hadn’t yet even considered selling.  I enjoy watching and listening to other people as they view my work, and I was contentedly focused on doing so when the “How much?” question snapped me to a shocked (and flattered) attention.  I knew that my art held a great deal of meaning for me personally, but I was unprepared for the idea that it might be meaningful enough to someone else that they would want to keep it in their space.  This concept added a new layer of purpose and wonder to creating art.  That moment will stay with me forever.
Who are your favorite artists? I am fascinated by Chuck Close, Paul Gauguin, Rene Magritte, Grant Wood, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, and Peter Blume.
Artist: Meg Dwyer
Title: Peppers
Medium: Oil on gessoed panel, 18×24 inches
Website: http://www.megdwyer.com/

Shelley Laffal, Silver Spring, MD
Shelley Laffal - goin bananas
When did you first discover your creative talents? My “ah ha !!” Art moment came to me in Kindergarden. The assignment was to color in the line a picture of the Thanksgiving turkey.  We were given crayons and paper and as I started to to color the turkey I found myself blending layers upon layered of browns, oranges ,yellows, reds and blacks, I got so focused on the coloring that long after all the other students had finished I was still furiously coloring away, layer upon layer. Until the teacher informed me the class was over.  I realized that I had this need to make the turkey as real as it would taste.
For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold. The first painting I sold was a mural , for restaurant. The owner had me commission several murals for his chain of restaurants.
Who are your favorite artists? The artists that have most moved and influenced my work: Frida Kahlo, Paula Rego, Botero, Alice Neel.
Artist: Shelley Laffal
Title: Goin bananas
Medium: Oil on canvas, 56×45 inches
Website:http://www.shelleylaffal.com
Hesther van Doornum, Vlijmen, The Netherlands
Hesther van Doornum - OverseeWhen did you first discover your creative talents? I discovered my creative talents at primary school. I discovered – actually my drawing teacher did – that I could draw anything I saw. She stimulated and motivated me in a great way.
For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold. The first piece of work I sold was at college, to a teacher. That is when I noticed people were happy to pay for my paintings. This gave me confidence and made it easier for me to approach galleries after graduating. The first few years after graduation I had difficulties parting from my paintings. It was not until I started to make more paintings (my own stock was growing) that I could ‘leave’ (sell) them.
Who are your favorite artists? I enjoy the work of many painters and sculptors. I love to look at their work to find there unique fingerprint. To discover how the works are made, their struggles and their own uniquelyfound solutions. I think the paintings of Francis Bacon are very interesting because of their compositions. He kept experimenting until he found the right proportion between shapes, colors and depth. Also the voids are just as important as de forms and figures themselves. I also find the drawings of Camille Claudel very touching.
Artist: Hesther van Doornum
Title: Oversee
Medium: Acrylic on canvas, 100×120 cm
Website: http://www.hesthervandoornum.nl

Kesha Bruce, US and France
Kesha Bruce-THAT THEY MIGHT BE LOVELYWhen did you first discover your creative talents? Well to be honest I was a late bloomer.  I didn’t really get serious about art until I was a teenager. I was never particularly interested in drawing or painting, but I took a jewelry-making class and fell in love with the physicality of it. I think some of that translates into the way I paint.
For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold. When I was first starting out my art career I sold a few small paintings here and there to friends and family of course.  But I made my first big sale when I was in grad school at Hunter College in New York City.  During an open studio a guy kinda wandered in, looked at a piece and within a few minutes asked me for a price.  I quoted his a price based off what I needed to pay my rent that month.  He didn’t blink an eye.  He bought the piece and then took me out to lunch at a fantastically chic restaurant to celebrate.  To say the least, I was thrilled.
Who are your favorite artists? I’m not much for hero worship.  Most of the artists that inspire me are contemporary artists that I have met and admire. Artists I’m watching right now: Stacia YeapanisJane ZweibelCharlie Grosso
Artist: Kesha Bruce
Title: THAT THEY MIGHT BE LOVELY
Medium: Archival Pigment Print, 20×27 inches
Website: http://www.keshabruce.com Blog: http://www.keshabrucestudio.com