Friday, July 27, 2007

Art Space Talk: Tanya Ziniewicz

In 2003, Tanya Ziniewicz earned a BFA in Drawing from the Cleveland Institute of Art- She then completed an MFA in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2006. I discovered Tanya's art while searching for artists to tag as 'Featured' on I was attracted to her focus on the overlooked details of life.

The accidental, overlooked, and underestimated details surrounding us are extremely precious to Tanya. Her work is about observations of subtleties in human nature, the vague shift between emergence and disappearance, and the interdependency of positive and negative space as they explain one another's existence.

Brian Sherwin: Tanya, you studied drawing at the Cleveland Institute of Art and printmaking at Rhode Island School of Design. Who were your mentors? Can you tell our readers about the art departments?

Tanya Ziniewicz: At the Cleveland Institute of Art, I did most of my work with Ralph Woehrman (drawing and printmaking), Holly Morrison (drawing and printmaking), and Alan Zimmerman (East Asian philosophy). I had a critique with Julian Stanczak once when he stopped by as a visiting artist - I noticed you posted an interview with him.

At the Rhode Island School of Design, I studied primarily under Andrew Raftery (printmaking), Nancy Friese (printmaking), Henry Ferreira (printmaking), and Yuriko Saito (aesthetics).

The Drawing department at CIA was fantastic in that it allowed me as much freedom and independence as I needed. I never felt pushed to fit anyone else's idea of what I should be doing, and as a result I feel like my work was able to mature in ways it wouldn't have otherwise. In addition, the foundation program at CIA was so excellent that I left feeling very confident about my life-drawing skills as well as my conceptual development.

I chose the Printmaking department at RISD for its openness to integrating different media and new ideas into the traditional methods of printmaking. Here too I appreciated the freedom I had to explore different media according to my individual interests.

The pace at RISD was very fast and indeed extremely challenging. I was exposed to a diverse range of artists, ideas, histories, etc. that made my time there a very rich experience.

BS: I really enjoyed the interview I had with Julian Stanczak . Can share more of your experience with Mr. Stanczak? How did the critique go?

TZ: I remember the critique being very fun. It was my mid-year critique in preparation for my BFA thesis defense, and his coming by to participate was a complete surprise, so I was a bit nervous. But it did go very well - at least I think he liked my work, and he told me something along the lines that my idea is worth pursuing, which is always encouraging to hear...

BS: Tanya, would you say that you search for the spiritual in your work? You've mentioned that you are a Gemini and that you draw inspiration from Taoism and other influences that involve natural energy.

TZ: I only mentioned the Gemini thing to be silly. I wouldn't necessarily say that I search for the spiritual in my work. I would say that many of my ideas are rooted in research I've done relating to East Asian philosophies, including Taoism.

BS: So... how long have you studied East Asian philosophies? Also, what other studies have found their way into your art?

TZ: My dad is a philosophy professor, and East Asian philosophical ideas have been present around me my whole life, but I started seriously getting into it while I was in college. I must have been 18 when I first started reading Lao Tzu and was able to really digest it.

More recently, as in the past couple of years, I've gotten into the writing of John Dewey. His work has been influential in helping me to solidify ideas about perceptions of time and experience.

BS: You have described yourself as people watcher in that you search for the subtleties in daily life. You also focus on the small details of daily living... the impression a stranger's body leaves on the seat of a chair, the bits of spit that fly from the mouth of someone who is in a lively conversation, the exchange of body heat between people standing in line at a grocery store... in that since you are a life watcher. How have these visuals- this study- given shape to your art? How has the visual documentation of daily life given you direction with your art?

TZ: I write a lot, and I take notes on things I see and/or think about. As I see different visual forms, such as spit bubbles or mold spores, I tend to develop new methods of mark-making based on those forms. I take notes on the way things disperse, grow, break, etc. The visual documentation of daily life has given me direction in that I find the subtleties in daily life to give depth to experiences in daily life.

Standing in line at the grocery store, for instance, is far more interesting if you try to imagine where exactly the body heat from the person standing behind you is crossing over into your personal space, and what shape and color it would be if you could see it.

BS: Tanya, you have stated that each example of your work represents a stage of growth that is essential to the development of future work. In a sense, you view your work as an organic unit- one piece flows into the next- a life chain. Can you go into further detail about these thoughts... about the philosophy that goes into your work?

TZ: In life, we constantly build on a collection of experiences. Each new experience lends new meaning to experiences we may have had ten years ago, and the things we have experienced ten years ago help shape our understanding of what is happening to us now. That is sort of the idea behind my work.

Old ideas spark new ideas, and between the old and new there are all kinds of idea branches growing out of every new project that comes up. Some of those branches end up extending back to the old ideas, and some grow out to develop into new clusters of projects.

Printmaking is conducive to this kind of development because you begin with a matrix and have the option of continually testing variables and recording changes as they occur. Does that make sense?

BS: Do you feel that most people miss out on the small details of life? How does your work serve as a reminder that we should be more observant of the world around us?

TZ: There are too many small details of life for anyone to possibly catch all of them. Those small details wouldn't be nearly as precious if we were entirely aware of them. I wouldn't say that my work serves as a reminder that we should be more observant of the world around us. I would say that my work pays little tributes to the small details of life, and that it excites me when, after seeing my work, people take an extra moment to look closely at something they might not have looked at as closely before. That excites me because it means someone is experiencing a memorable moment out of a thing they might not have ordinarily noticed.

BS: Are you working on any projects at this time? When do you plan to reveal new work?

TZ: I'm currently working on new ways of documentation. Many of my projects work best when viewers can experience them from varying distances - from far away to very close. I am currently investigating ways to document my new drawings with photography and video in such a way as to demonstrate the ideal viewing experience. Ideally, this documentation then becomes an extension of the drawing and a piece that can be exhibited along with the drawing.

BS: In regards to documentation... do you plan to utilize the internet in that pursuit? It seems that now- more than ever- artists have the ability to expose viewers to their work in ways that artists of the recent past would have only dreamed of.

TZ: Yes, I do. It's funny you ask, because that topic is one that I've been thinking about a lot recently. Printmaking and drawing are two examples of many media that are going through the same thing, and they are the two I can talk about first-hand. Both are tactile and intimate by nature. Both contain so many subtleties that need to be examined in close proximity, in person.

My work is extremely subtle, and sometimes really important aspects of my pieces disappear during the documentation process. Basically, it is a difficult task to translate subtle work to a digital language that is removed from tangibility. However, art is a form of communication, therefore the object of making art is for me to make my ideas accessible as many people as possible.

Currently, the internet is a fast, wide-reaching communication tool, which means I need to figure out the best ways to adapt my work to this virtual space. Not to abandon gallery showings and in-person viewings by any means, as those are vital experiences, but simply to work with this new means of communication that has opened up in the past several years.

BS: Speaking of technology and art... do you feel that the internet is changing the world of art? As in... does it seem as if artists have more control over their careers since they are able to create large networks of supporters on sites like,,, and so on?

TZ: Yes, the internet is changing the world of art in that people now have access to an unbelievable amount of information - emerging artists, networking, ideas, research. In a way it seems like we have more control over our careers because so many people can access our work, or even simply remember our names.

The cynic in me wonders if the ease of access to large networks of supporters somehow waters down the authenticity of appreciation. Does online appreciation begin to numb the desire for tactility? But the optimist in me asserts that we can balance the virtual with the tangible.

We can utilize the internet as a form of publicity, and that publicity enables us to draw people out to our gallery shows and studios.

BS: Finally, where do you see your work going in the future?

TZ: It keeps growing! I'm making plans to start some wall and floor installations soon, and I'm excited about the possibilities of documentation that will come with working in large spaces.

You can learn more about Tanya by visiting her site: -you can observe one of her galleries below:

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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