Friday, October 26, 2007

Art Space Talk: Christian Rex van Minnen

I discovered the art of Christian Rex van Minnen while browsing the Featured Artist section on In Christian's work aspects of alchemy and automatism are linked together in the cognitive creative process. As he has stated, intention becomes line, line becomes shape, shape becomes form, and form becomes content. In his work Christian finds himself either suppressing or indulging his own desire to associate personal narrative to the raw visual information inherent in the material and process. Construction, destruction and reconstruction are symbiotic elements in the creative process allowing the image to fluctuate between abstraction and representation, truth and illusion, personal and archetypal.

Brian Sherwin: Christian, tell us about your educational background. Do you have formal training in art? Are you self-taught? Who were your instructors and how did they influence you?

Christian Rex van Minnen: I didn’t attend a formal ‘art school’ but I did have some great mentors along the way. My art teacher in high school, Tish McFee, was instrumental in helping me be direct and fearless with my artistic expression. More often than not art instructors sent me into a corner to do my work alone and I was used to this. I attended Regis University for my undergraduate degree which is a small, Jesuit liberal arts school in Colorado. I had a fairly holistic education, as is the nature of a liberal arts education, and dabbled in political science, biology, English and fine arts.

For most of my life I’ve been in denial about pursuing art as a career. I felt that my art, which I always practiced on my own, would be corrupted if I pursued formal training and professionalism of my passion. Moreover, I resented the so-called ‘art-world’ as it appeared fake, exclusive and more or less, inbred. The art department at Regis was really neglected by the rest of the school; however, I did meet some great teachers there who encouraged me to follow my vision. Overall, I have had great mentors and peers throughout my education but my technique and practice I can claim as my own.

BS: Christian, tell us about your early artistic influences and experiences. When did you decide to pursue art?

CVM: My earliest recollection of making art was when I was 4 or 5 drawing imagined animals on the little pieces of paper behind the pews at the Baptist church where my Dad was a minister. I was really influenced by nature and carried around with me illustrated field guides with pictures of amphibians, reptiles, birds and flowers. I continued to draw throughout primary school, mostly emulations of comic book anti-heroes and various life-forms and my drawing skill was often used as a kind of self-defense mechanism. At this point I was really influenced by the great illustrators of the comic book industry and horror movie legends like HR Giger, Wes Craven and Clive Barker. I found safety in horror in that facing these fears allowed me to deal with the other sources of fear and violence in my life at the time.

I was introduced to oil paint when I was 15 by my high school art teacher, Tish McFee, who is now collecting my work. My drawing skills translated well into oil paint and I have been using oils as my primary medium since. It wasn’t until after I graduated from Regis University and did some traveling that I decided to pursue a career in art. I received an artist’s residency at The Assembly in Denver in 2004 which really changed my perspective on professional arts, and artists for that matter.

The Assembly was a conglomeration of 3 galleries and about 20 studios in Denver’s Sante Fe Arts District. It was great to be working around other artists for the first time. Prior to this I never really was friends with other artists so it was a great experience to be around that kind of shared creativity and to experience criticism and exhibition for the first time. Most viewers, particularly in Denver where I began to exhibit, were simultaneously amazed and disgusted by my work. The people who are immediately attracted to my work and the most enthusiastic are generally my age or younger and usually can’t afford to buy them.

Up until recently I haven’t been very successful at selling my work so I have taken many different jobs to subsidize my career; art teacher, technologies teacher, used-building materials salesperson, recycled materials designer, set designer, etc., etc. In the past year my work has been getting a lot of national attention and finally the hard work and determination is starting to pay off.

BS: With that said, how would you say that your work has advanced since that time?

CVM: Conceptually, I have been attracted to the idea of the merging of abstraction and figuration. I have been influenced by many artists which include Wei Dong and Chinese Contemporary figurative painters, Gao Xingxian, George Condo, Odd Nerdrum and Inka Essenhigh, as well as film artists such as David Cronenberg and David Lynch. The artists that most interest me are those who render in great detail things that don’t exist or are unnameable.

On a technical level I have incorporated certain aspects of abstraction to make the painting more difficult; to make the physical information on the canvas initially hard to name and control while pulling it into form and, sometimes, content or social context. In this sense, the abstract figurative speaks to both the process and result and makes the act of painting sustainable.

It was in Gao Xingxian’s book Return to Painting that I first found a parallel between the counter intuitive process I was working with and his notion of the "abstract figurative." My understanding of the medium of oil paint itself has also changed dramatically. I became interested in alchemy and its relationship to paintings which lead me to one of the most influential books I’ve ever read: James Elkin’s What Painting Is. His work studies in detail the correlation between alchemical principles and the act and substance of oil painting. I have become much more aware of what I am working with and how they work within me.

My work has changed very little in the sense that I have always facilitated self-discovery through art and had a need to exercise my own fear and desires so they don’t manifest themselves in undesirable ways.

BS: Christian, is there anything else you would like to tell us about your background in regards to how your art has evolved?

CVM: There are many things that have influenced my art in the way it has evolved and I am only beginning to understand their significance years and years later. Violence has been a big influence. During my early childhood and teenage my life was saturated with violence, substance abuse, suicide and depression. Instead of trying to bury these feelings and memories I have continued to explore them in an effort to understand and control them.

Anatomy, physiology and biology have also been very strong influences and I have made an effort to understand biological form and function out of context, as one can understand lead or oxides outside the context of the periodic table. I have found parallels to this practice in both the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and the emerging science of biomimicry, which is also know has bionics or biomimetics.

BS: Christian, can you go into detail about your artistic process? How do you begin a piece? When do you know that a piece is finished?

CVM: My initial process is fairly violent and counter intuitive. It is similar to trying to play chess with yourself and making it interesting and self-revealing. I fill the ground with information that I can’t name or control. On a technical level, these are abstract under-paintings that are heavily textured and utilize physically strong and flexible pigments such as lead and earth-sourced pigments.
I usually work with anywhere from 3-7 canvases at a time so that I can allow for these under-paintings to dry while working on others. Because I am intentionally making the process of rendering figure difficult it is also beneficial to be working on several canvases at once as some pieces prove to be stale-mates for sometime. The goal of this first phase is to make the image obscure to myself, or abstract.
By continually adding marks, glazes and impasto, the image continues to fluctuate between abstraction and figuration, the truth of the paint film and the illusion of form. The goal is to render an image that is simultaneously abstract and controlled by form. I rarely achieve the abstract and figurative in singularity, however, the product of operating between these two poles is always interesting and satisfying to me.

BS: Christian, how does current world events influence your work? In other words, how does contemporary life impact your creative practice?

CVM: The characteristics of my psychological shadow are not different from those of our country’s; guilt, fear, anxiety, depression, spiritual apathy. Being an American is always on my mind. In some way the abstract figurative portraits show the psychological aspects of all Americans. I have basically eliminated most media from my life. I don’t watch TV, although I love film, and I rarely read the newspaper. It’s all bullshit and a waste of time and energy. I just try to live my life truthfully and make the lives of those around me better however I can.
The apocalypse has always existed in the tomorrow; the question is how you live in the face of constantly impending doom! This seems to be the mantra for our generation and our parents growing up under the constant threat of nuclear war. I am fascinated by the optimism that drives people despite everything that tells you your actions are futile. The emerging science of biomimcry is one example of great optimism and practicality that exists in the world today. This science is revolutionary in that it is solving design problems by using nature’s wisdom instead of imposing our science upon it.
BS: Tell us more about the philosophy behind your art. What motivates you to create?

CVM: It is the tool I have to understand myself and the world around me. Just as the vulture is built to find sustenance in putrefaction, my philosophy as an artist is that I can always yield positivity through exploration of darkness and mystery. I like David Cronenberg’s philosophy of why he makes art, which is to be direct in manifesting his innermost fear and desire so that he can know it and own up to it and not be afraid of it.

The philosophies of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung concerning every person’s hero journey and the psychological shadow are extremely important to me as a driving force and also something I feel I can communicate to my students and to the viewers of my art.

BS: Christian, why did you choose to work in the medium(s) that you use?

CVM: It was a natural evolution from drawing. I love the oneness of the paint film; its simultaneously homogeneous and yet diverse state. The oil paint film is to me the abyss and the field of pure potentiality.

BS: Christian, what is your studio like? Can you go into detail about your studio routine? Do you work in silence-- listen to music.

CVM: My studio is covered in plastic because it is an extra bedroom in my house; I’m like bubble-boy in there. I have had a studio outside my house but generally I paint at home. Perhaps this is why I am so meticulous and controlling with paint. Anyway, it is fairly clean, at least in comparison to Francis Bacon’s studio, and I try to maintain a sense of order and organization. I think this is important to me as my studio is often a reflection of my mental state.

I usually have two easels up side by side and five to ten canvases in progress hanging from the wall. I love music and listen to music constantly. I have this ancient 50 disc changer CD player that I fill with every sort of music so that in 20 minutes I might here tracks from Hank Williams, Chopin, Screeching Weasel, Art Tatem, Buck 65 and Aphex Twin. I like to have a massive diversity of sounds, helps to keep my mind fresh.

BS: What are you working on at this time?

CVM: Multiple projects. I am continuing my pursuit of the concept of the abstract-figurative using the conventions of portraiture. I also have a project that is an interactive triptych-cubed: nine canvases built into three equilateral triangles that stack upon one another to create a three sided vertically oriented triptych that the viewer can rotate and change into 81 different combinations. It’s very challenging and it will take me perhaps another year to complete.

I am also working on several masks including a monk-fish and the figure at the base of the Crucifixion from the famous Francis Bacon painting by the same name. There are other projects that I have been planning for some time but lack the technology and capital to develop, for now at least. I am going to put together a few grant applications for these projects.

BS: Do you have any upcoming exhibits? Where can our readers view your work?

CVM: I have a solo exhibition up now until the end of October at Brian Marki Gallery, Portland, OR, as a result of winning the National Artist Auditions. In November I’ll be showing at Limner Gallery’s juried show "A Show of Heads," in Hudson, NY, as well as a show juried by Brandon Fortune, Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery, at Gallery RFD in Swainsboro, GA. In December I’ll be a part of Copro Nason Gallery’s annual group show in Santa Monica, CA, and in February 2008 I’ll be showing at Roq La Rue, Seattle, WA, in their group show entitled "Animals."

BS: Christian, the internet is changing how we discover and view art. In your opinion, how have sites like empowered artists?

CVM: Hell yes! I think it’s fantastic. I embrace the art of self-promotion, and sites like this are certainly empowering to that end. I have met many incredible artists through this site that I would never have met or communicated with otherwise. I tend to be slightly introverted and would be hesitant to approach other artists in person but through this avenue it is quite easy and direct. I have had artists that I greatly admire contact me about my work featured on myartspace and have helped me get into some really great galleries.

BS: Finally, what are your goals as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

CVM: Besides just being happy, I would say that my number one goal as an artist is to make my artistic practice sustainable. I don’t want to burn out and I want to stay true to the core of my work: that this art, in whatever medium I choose, is facilitating self-discovery and self-realization and if I stay true to that it may help others in the same way.

I think that my current medium of oils is one that I want to master; however, I realize that limitations on space and capital have also limited my choice of mediums. I have ideas and concepts that I have been filing away until the day that I have the required space and funds to carry them out.

On a professional level, my goal is to make a consistent living and have everyday to paint or make stuff and work on ideas that require a lot of time and patience. I don’t want to develop ulcers by having to juggle 5 jobs, care for my family, and push my art career at the same time. As an artist I hope to be fearless in my entrance to the abyss, courageous in the face of the dragon, and humble on my return home.

You can learn more about Christian Rex van Minnen by visiting or You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Art Space Talk: Alysia Kaplan

Alysia Kaplan's Glass House Series is an exploration of the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Pavilion: specifically, his use of materials, geometry, sculpture and reflection to create multiple interpretations of space. By emphasizing individual elements within the Pavilion the intent is to make the viewer aware of how through the use of reflection; Mies expanded how one interacts physically and psychologically within the space.

Glass House #1, Archival Inkjet and Acrylic, 30"w x 22"h

Brian Sherwin: Alysia, what can you tell us about your educational background. Where did you study? Also, who were your mentors and how did they influence you?

Alysia Kaplan: I have a BFA in Commercial Illustrative Photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and an MFA in Print Media from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I would say my beginning photography Professor Gunther Cartwright was a big influence. He demanded a sense of rigor from his students, which created an intense environment, which seemed cruel at times, but prepared us for what was ahead. Peter Power and James Zanzi at SAIC both helped me find my voice and look at my pieces in a more physical light.

BS: Alysia, can you tell us about your early artistic influences and experiences. When did you decide to pursue art?

AK: I was actually planning on becoming a marine biologist. At the last minute I decided to pursue photography. At a young age I remember looking through my father’s camera viewfinder and feeling that the world was a different place from this vantage point. I really had little artistic experience prior to college and was overwhelmed in the beginning. I don’t think I started making work that was truly mine until after I graduated.

Glass House #5, Archival Inkjet and Acrylic, 30"w x 22"h
BS: With that said, how would you say that your work has advanced since that time?

AK: One always learns (or hopes to) over time. I do not know if advanced is the proper word. The work follows a trajectory based on my immediate interests and what medium seems appropriate. I like to think my work has matured, but I still have images I loved from before I knew what I was doing. With time I feel we become more focused and learn how to speak about our work in broader terms.

BS: Alysia, is there anything else you would like to tell us about your background in regards to how your art have evolved?

AK: Having a child changed my work and therefore me. It sounds cliché, but you start to see how your past affects you and therefore your work and so on. In the end it is rather circular. For me it is all about home or the lack thereof.

BS: Can you go into detail about your artistic process? How do you start a piece? When do you know that a piece is finished?

AK: Most art making feels subliminal to me. Sometimes I will read an article or a book and want to pursue a theme based on that reading. More often than not I just start working with images that feel for lack of a better word right at the moment. I usually do not realize what a piece is really about until I finish it. Which is to say there is nowhere left to go. Then it is usually ridiculously obvious.

Glass House #2, Archival Inkjet and Acrylic, 30"w x 22"h

BS: Alysia, you mentioned that having a child has changed you and the way that you work... how does current world events influence your work? Do the things you observe cause change as well? In other words, how does contemporary life impact your creative practice?

AK: I consider myself an observer of human nature. How we move within our immediate space and the broader impact that has on ourselves and our relationship to the environment is what interests me most at the moment.

BS: Alysia, tell us more about the philosophy behind your art. What motivates you to create?

AK: I do not have a grand philosophy. I make because I enjoy it. The process can be frustrating, but quite frankly I wouldn’t know how not to do it.

Glass House #3, Archival Inkjet and Acrylic, 30"w x 22"h

BS: Why did you choose to work in the medium(s) that you use?

AK: My need for immediate gratification draws me too photography, more specifically Polaroid film and cameras. I used to spend a great deal of time in the darkroom and enjoyed how an image could be manipulated. Print Media seemed like a natural progression as I take my images one step further away from where they originated. My photographs seemed a bit less precious at that point, which was a good thing. This allowed them to take on new forms and led to me making installations. I actually stopped taking photographs for a long time and just recently felt the need to shoot again.

BS: Alysia, what is your studio like? Can you go into detail about your studio routine? Do you work in silence-- listen to music. Can you describe the space you work in?

AK: If I am not taking or collecting photos I am usually working with them on the computer prior to making prints in the shop. I like to listen to music when I print-any and everything. If I have the space to myself early in the morning I enjoy the quiet. My studio is more of a staging and construction area and I like to use that time to think.

BS: With that said, what are you working on at this time?

AK: I am working on a series tentatively titled Affectionate Identity Desire, which is about our love affair with the objects in our homes, and how we can humanize these inanimate objects. I am giving them relationships of their own while playing with graphic form.

Glass House #4, Archival Inkjet and Acrylic, 30"w x 22"h

BS: Are you involved with any upcoming exhibits? Where can our readers view your work?

AK: I am in a group show coming up in November at Orleans St Gallery in St Charles, IL. Hopefully there will be more shows in the near future. Teaching has been a priority as of late. I also hope to have my website up soon.

BS: Alysia, the internet is changing how we discover and view art. In your opinion, how have sites like empowered artists?

AK: I enjoy the democratic nature of sites like myartspace. Not every one has the means to travel to see shows or the ability to get their work out to a larger audience. I feel this helps to level the playing field a bit and perhaps take away some of the intimidation people might feel about presenting their work.

BS: Finally, what are your goals as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

AK: A sense of peace for myself hopefully a place for people to question and explore.
You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Art Space Talk: Tamara Kostianovsky

Tamara Kostianovsky received a BFA from the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes ¨Prilidiano Pueyrredon¨, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA. Her work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States, at venues such as Exit Art, NY; The Armory Show, NY; Artists Space, NY, Slought Foundation, Philadelphia, PA; Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, PA; Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; Johnsonese Gallery, Chicago, IL.

Back to the Front, Towels and various articles of clothing belonging to the artist, embroidery floss, batting, metal chain.91 x 29 x 33", 2007

Brian Sherwin: Tamara, tell us about your educational background. Where did you study art?

Tamara Kostianovsky: I studied painting in Argentina -where I grew up- and later got an MFA in the United States at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

BS: Tamara, tell us about your early artistic influences and experiences. When did you decide to pursue art?

TK: I realized early on that I wanted to be an artist. My father is a doctor who used to exchange professional treatment for paintings with a small group of artists. At a very young age, I was exposed to studio visits which absolutely mesmerized me. I grew up surrounded by paintings and in contact with professional artists. As I teenager, I decided that I wanted to pursue art professionally.

Abnegation, Various articles of clothing belonging to the artist, embroidery floss, batting, armature wire, meat hook. 53½ x 49 x 27", 2007

BS: How would you say that your work has advanced since that time?

TK: More than anything, it was my experience of immigration to this country that made me reflect on what I wanted to say with my art. Once in the States, I went through what can be called an identity crises. Overnight, the context that used to define who I was suddenly disappeared. Also in the States, I became familiar with many art movements that I wasn't aware of before: the Feminist Art Movement and Arte Povera were major influences in my work.

BS: With that said, is there anything else you would like to tell us about your background in regards to how your art has evolved?

TK: A few months after my arrival to the United States in 2000, the Argentinean economy collapsed. This fact had an enormous influence in my life because I was planning to live for that first year in the States with some money that was coming from Argentina, but all of a sudden, those resources were not available. By then, I couldn't afford rent, let alone art supplies! My compulsion to create began utilizing those things that I had at hand. I worked with hair for a few years and more recently, I have been working with the clothes I had brought from Argentina. The material choice was born out of necessity but overtime it became a political statement to reuse domestic items to make artwork with instead of engaging in the consumerist system.

Unearthed, Various articles of clothing belonging to the artist, embroidery floss, batting, armature wire, meat hook. 74 x 26 x 17'', 2007

BS: Tamara, can you go into detail about your artistic process? How do you begin a piece? When do you know that a piece is finished?

TK: I usually have a vision of what I want my work to be about or look like. The rest is just submerging myself in a process that tries to transform that vision into something physical. It's hard for me to know when a work is finished. I'm a very anxious person and always feel that the work is done before it actually is. So I let my work sit around for a few weeks after I think it is finished and then go back to it and work on the areas that don't satisfy me.

BS: Aside from what you've already mentioned... how does current world events influence your work? In other words, how does contemporary life impact your creative practice?

TK: Recently, I have been interested in understanding how we processviolence culturally. The Unearthed series investigates more directlyour relationship to violent images. I am interested in speaking aboutviolence because it seems to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time: we are all familiar with the idea of war and crime, but ouremotional connection to violence is detached from its actual aftermath. I do not think that we would be at war if most people werefamiliar with the images of bodies dismembered after a bomb explodes.I don't think people would engage in violent acts if we were allcloser to the image of a knife slicing somebody's throat.

I've been using images of cows instead of those of people because Iwant to moderate the shock to avoid having the viewer be repulsed bythe imagery in the work. In this sense, a large part of my approachinvolves making violence appear aesthetic. I use beauty as a means topull the viewer into the work. By representing images of violence thatare censored out of our collective consciousness, I intend to connectpeople with the everyday reality of violence, hoping that new stepswill be taken to avoid it.

Second Skin, Various articles of clothing belonging to the artist, embroidery floss, batting, armature wire, meat hook. 60 x 29 x 12", 2007

BS: Tamara, tell us more about the philosophy behind your art...

TK: With this new series, my intent is to confront the audience with the real nature of violence, offering a context for reflecting about its uses and effects, for evaluating the vulnerability of our physical existences.

BS: Can you go into further detail about how the medium(s) that you use help to express your message?

TK: Speaking about violence without being confronted with the physical aspect of it crates a sense of disconnectedness, making violence appear abstract. Alternatively, I create sculptures using clothes or domestic items that most of us are familiar with. In using these materials for the creation of mutilated or dismembered bodies, I am attempting to connect the violent imagery that I am working with in conjunction to the sensitivity, the domesticity, and the desire that we experience with our clothing.

Motherland, Various articles of clothing belonging to the artist, embroidery floss, batting, armature wire, meat hook. 67 x 28 x 15", 2007

BS: Tamara, what is your studio like? Can you go into detail about your studio routine? Do you work in silence-- listen to music?

TK: I listen to the radio while I work, which eases the lonely part of making art. I like to work for long stretches of time, so about 3 times a week I am able to work for 9 or more hours in the studio without having other stuff interfering with my process. I like working with natural light so I start the day early and work until it's dark.

BS: What are you working on at this time?

TK: I'm working on another piece of this series and I'm also investigating making sculptures with real beef.

BS: Tamara, do you have an upcoming exhibit? Where can our readers view your work?

TK: I have two sculptures in the S-Files 007, El Museo del Barrio's 5th Biennial in New York. The exhibition will be up until January. My earlier work can be found at

Detail of Unearthed

BS: Tamara, the internet is changing how we discover and view art. In your opinion, how have sites like empowered you as an artist?

TK: My experience with the site has been wonderful because it brought my work closer to a community or art people who have very positively received my work.

BS: Finally, what are your goals as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

TK: I hope my work can translate some issues of our time into a visual experience that is moving and can enable us to reflect on our everyday choices.

You can learn more about Tamara Kostianovsky by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Monday, October 22, 2007

Art Space Talk: Jessie Joo

Jessie Joo is an artist originally from Seoul, Korea. Jessie has studied the structure of the metaphysical and material side of reality extensively-- which has led the artist to depict them as an individual universe with its own mechanism. Most of Jessie Joo's works are water color paintings, however the artist also creates oil paintings and installations. Jessie is especially interested in capturing ephemeral moments of our lives.

Brian Sherwin: Jessie, tell us about your educational background. Do you have formal training in art? If so, who were your instructors and how did they influence you?

Jessie Joo: I earned a BFA and MFA at the School of Visual Arts in NY. Although I studied at the SVA for 6 years, my academic training came from high school years in Korea. In my college years I had good teachers like Donald Kuspit, Paul Waldman, Gary Stephan and many others, but without Silas Rhodes I couldn’t have finished my education. One of my many influences came from a lecture by Donald Kuspit about the Sensation in art. It is just a small portion and it would be hard to name every influence because every single bit of influence made good and profound impact on me whether I fully realize it or not.

BS: Tell us about your early artistic influences and experiences. When did you decide to pursue art?

JJ: I attended a Kindergarten with a good art program, my interest started growing from that moment and the winter of my last year in middle school I decided to become a painter. I can not mention any artistic influences and experiences, but everything was built up gradually over an extended period of time; my parents devotion to God and Neighbor throughout their life, my art teachers, Masters in art, faith, friends, difficult years in High School, etc. But finally I considered myself an artist upon finishing graduate school.
BS: Jessie, with that said, how would you say that your work has advanced since that time?

JJ: I’ve gotten older and my art has matured with me. I don’t see anything as being really advanced, some part of it becames more sophisticated in regards to mastering medium. But as a whole I start seeing white hairs in my black hairs, an increase in wrinkles, trying hard to control my bear belly. I try to work out to keep them in shape.

BS: Jessie, is there anything else you would like to tell us about your background in regards to how your art has evolved?

JJ: I will put it this way, I try not to evolve into a money-maker, but reality makes it extremely hard.

BS: Jessie, can you go into detail about your artistic process? How do you begin a piece? When do you know that a piece is finished?

JJ: I lay down an ink drop, any form, when the drop leaves me, I have no longer control over it. I wait until where the image leads, and then I start adding my opinion and response with my brush to it.

For me there are two kinds of artists, one believes he completed his work, the other hopes to finish and struggle, but never complete. I remember Robert Motherwell in his interview. The interviewer asked him 'did you ever make any masterpiece?', to which Motherwell responded that maybe he did but he didn’t know, he probably went away without knowing it, or maybe there are none.
BS: Jessie, how does current world events influence your work? In other words, how does contemporary life impact your creative practice?

JJ: I am pretty much saddened by most of them, but facing the reality of my own gives me enough trouble-- just look at the life of Van Gogh. I try as much as I can to avoid a similar life. After all, art is about another struggle within me, I think contemporary life has less of an impact in my art-- if you meant it as surrounding.

BS: Jessie, tell us more about the philosophy behind your art. What motivates you to create?

JJ: I like to borrow the words from two people-- Victor Hugo and Gao Xingjian:

"Music expresses that which can not be said and on which it is impossible to be silent."

"Painting starts where words fail or are inadequate in expressing what one wants to express.."

Me, I am not good at anything else. Art is what I am good at.

BS: Jessie, why did you choose to work in the medium(s) that you use?

JJ: You have it wrong... it goes the other way around-- the mediums choose me. As long as they give me enough work to do, I go on.

BS: Jessie, what is your studio like? Can you go into detail about your studio routine? Do you work in silence-- listen to music.

JJ: My studio has many different kinds of art, in terms of style and Genre. I pray a bit and read news on the Internet and then decide which art I’ll see to. Then the struggle begins, is it too simple?

I grew up listening to classical music and Gospel. Most of the time I listen to them while I confront my art, but I think it has nothing to do with my art. It all depends on what kind of mood I am in. Often the music fails to change my mood, but a good meeting between me and my art makes a difference.

BS: Jessie, what are you working on at this time?

JJ: Landscape painting, I’ve got to feed my family. But in my head I am working on a big drawing from the Head series and Horn series.

BS: Are you involved with any upcoming exhibits? Where can our readers view your work?

JJ: I recently moved to NC from NY and I'm in the process of looking for a place to exhibit. You can always check in on and search ‘Jessie Joo’.

BS: The internet is changing how we discover and view art. In your opinion, how have sites like empowered artists?

JJ: It helped me to see who is out there and what kind of art is out there, but artwork needs to be seen in person. The Internet gives us information, but you cannot feel the soul of the artist through it.

BS: Finally, what are your goals as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

JJ: One day I wish I could complete my art, and say to my son, " See, I finished."

You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Art Space Talk: Dean McDowell

Dean McDowell was born, lives and works in County Down. Graduating with honors in graphic design, he worked within the graphics industry for several years before moving into the field of fine art. McDowell’s almost surreal portraits of people draws influence from expressionism. Using color, line and space he plays with the mood of each painting, creating an atmosphere of emotion typified by bold expression of color and light. Influenced by everything from the Renaissance to the current underground art movement in the States, he incorporates a dark yet mischievous insight into our emotions.

An Autumn Shimmer by Dean McDowell

Brian Sherwin: Dean, tell us about your educational background. Do you have formal training in art? Can you tell us about those early years?

Dean McDowell: At the susceptible age of 14 I was given some very bad advice by my schools career advisor, basically he told me, ‘Son, there is no future in art’. At that point I felt like I’d been kicked in the groin by the system, art was always the one thing I seemingly excelled at. After that advice I started gearing my education towards graphic design, studying what I needed to get into college and subsequently achieving a degree in graphics. All through that time I kept art in the background, I would take courses here and there, sit in on art lectures, any spare time was devoted to art in one way or another.

BS: Dean, can you go into further detail about your early artistic influences and experiences. Also, when did you decide to pursue art?

DM: Growing up in a village in Northern Ireland my early artistic influences were few and far between, in fact they came every Friday. My father worked in a large town and every week I would plague him to bring me the latest US comics. Needless to say, I was totally mesmerized by the artwork, I would draw each panel copying the styles of these American comic artists who I knew so little about. It was really from those initial comics my early style was formed.
Constantly Within by Dean McDowell

BS: With that said, how would you say that your work has advanced since that time?

DM: Comics opened my eyes to so many different art forms and I really started to look beyond the artwork and more at the artists. I would be trying to develop my own artistic style, yet be studying everyone from Da Vinci to Giger.

BS: Dean, can you go into detail about your artistic process? How do you begin a piece? Can you tell us about the progression of one of your paintings?

DM: My work is very intuitive, I have no set plan when I begin a painting, just a vague idea of the mood and tone I want to achieve. I’ll prep either a board or canvas, scribble a very rough impression of that idea and start building it from there. A painting could take a week, month or even a year, it’s all about being in that creative frame of mind.
Something Alluding to Secrecy by Dean McDowell

BS: Dean, how does current world events influence your art?

DM: Although current world events may have an influence on my art, the situation within my own country has influenced me a lot more. Growing up in Northern Ireland in the dark days of the ‘troubles’, it was hard not to be affected by events. Both sides of the divide went through so much pain and suffering, it seemed to be an endless cycle of hate. I guess most people who live here were affected one way or another and I really feel that sorrow is now embedded within my psyche.

BS: Dean, tell us more about the philosophy behind your art. What motivates you to create?

DM: To see the differing reactions people take from an image or painting is quite an amazing thing, one silent image can say so much. I’m fascinated by that range of diverse reaction, even more so by people’s inner emotions. We seem to mask our true thoughts, rarely letting our facial armor slip. It’s amazing what we keep hidden inside.
BS: Why did you choose to work in the medium(s) that you use?

DM: I dabble in most mediums but my preference is for acrylics. I find them so versatile and have even adapted my style because of them. Working acrylics a lot like oils, I can really build a painting, layering, distorting. Yet when mood and needs change you can almost use them as watercolours on that same painting.
Truth Behind the Smile by Dean McDowell

BS: Dean, what is your studio like? Do you follow any form of routine?

DM: ‘Organized Chaos’ is a much overused term but I can’t think of a better description of my studio. Because I work on numerous paintings at once, things get pretty chaotic, having a routine in that situation is well nigh impossible. The one thing I do religiously each day I go into the studio, before anything else, is put on music. I don’t even know what to begin to explain how important it is.

BS: Speaking of your studio, what are you working on at this time?

DM: I am currently working on two groups of paintings with working titles ‘Children of Men’ and ‘Dark Thoughts’. Both sets are very dark, moody and larger than my current work. Besides that I’ve been working with a couple of bands, which is really exciting. The guys have given me a lot of artistic freedom so there is some pretty interesting stuff coming from that. I’ve also got a side project I’ve been working on with a friend from the States, its animation based artwork so really different to my normal stuff, but I’m really enjoying it.

BS: Do you have an upcoming exhibits? Where can our readers view your work?

DM: I’ve just finished my last solo exhibition for 07 but I have a UK spring/summer show coming up in 08. Apart from that I’m in talks about a US show, but as yet nothing has been set in stone. Because I don’t print my works it limits me to only a couple of shows per year but keep checking my website, myartspace or myspace for details of the shows.

Misery Loves Company by Dean McDowell

BS: In regards to your website, myartspace, and myspace-- the internet is changing how we discover and view art. In your opinion, how has the internet empowered artists?

DM: The internet has become an integral part of my day and I feel it’s such an important tool for rural based artists. Although I now live in a city, Northern Ireland is such a small country with a limited art market, it’s very important for me to highlight my art online. And of course, it also gives me the freedom to view the emerging and named underground US scene. With so many fantastic artists coming through, as well as the established names, I have my own personal viewing gallery at my fingertips. As much as I’d love to see lots of these artists work in the flesh, I just couldn’t afford the weekly plane trips.

BS: Finally, what are your goals as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

DM: What does any artist really want to accomplish? Art is a very personal thing for me, I probably destroy as much art as I produce and you know I’d be happy with just one piece I liked. Don’t think that’s ever going to happen...

You can learn more about Dean McDowell by visiting the following page-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Art Space Opinions: Kirsten Anderson on Pop Surrealism

Kirsten Anderson is the owner and curator of Roq La Rue Gallery ( Kirsten opened Roq La Rue gallery in 1998 in reaction to the Northwest’s lack of alternative art spaces. Fueled by a devotion to the rapidly growing Lowbrow/Pop Surrealism art movement, the gallery quickly gained notoriety, and respect, as one of only a handful of galleries (at the time) willing to show the work. As a bonus, an enthusiastic community of collectors responded quickly to the gallery’s eclectic mix of artists, whose outlaw sensibilities and counter-cultural subject matter was rendered with undeniable ability and vision. I would like to thank Kirsten for giving her opinion about the following issue.

Brian Sherwin: Kirsten, there has been some debate about the connection between Lowbrow art and Pop Surrealism. Many combine the two as one movement of art while others state that the two are unique art movements that simply share common ground. As someone who has been very involved in these scenes, what is your opinion about their connection? Are they one in the same or should they be seen as two different movements?

Kirsten Anderson: Well- as far as I know I'm one of the few who have stated they believe that there are two different things going on... I think Lowbrow begot Pop Surrealism in a lot of ways. When I first got involved with this movement a decade ago it was called "Lowbrow". That term was used by Robert Williams to describe his own work and the work of the artists who sort of orbited him. It was meant tongue-in-cheek, but also it stayed in usage because it unapologetically stated that this art was not trying to appeal to overly academic art critics. At the time, I think people involved knew something big was happening but the prospect of this work (with the exception of Robert Williams) ever appearing in museums or scholarly treatises seemed very remote. Now that is very different, this whole scene has become a whole different animal so to speak.

In the late 90's the scene was small and mostly confined to Southern California. Juxtapoz magazine was in circulation and really helped shape what was starting coalesce as a "movement". Juxtapoz focused on figurative and narrative art with a big dose of cartoony freak appeal, but they also celebrated artists who were outstandingly technically proficient, whether that meant an underground cartoonist or someone like Mati Klarwein or Ernst Fuchs. Being unshackled from what everyone else thought was pretty liberating and allowed a lot of room for artists to work within. Out of this scene came artists like Mark Ryden, Camille Rose Garcia, Glenn Barr, Liz McGrath, Shag, Tod Schorr, and Tim Biskup- all of whom are wildly different yet share some undefinable something that links them. That undefinability has been the main problem with "naming" this scene.

When I wrote "Pop Surrealism", which was the first survey of this new art scene in 2004, I was originally going to call it "Lowbrow". Several of the artists I had asked to be in the book were keen on the project but no longer wanted to be called "Lowbrow", to them it sounded denigrating, which made sense as many of these artists were transcending the rough and tumble work Lowbrow had first started as and was becoming more refined. So I had to come up with another title... which took me six months to do. I latched onto "Pop Surrealism" through Kenny Scharf... I think he coined the term to describe his own work, and I thought it was the closest umbrella term I could think of. After that the term started to become used as a name for this scene, although people still use Lowbrow also, since that was the original name.

To me- Lowbrow art is what the scene originally started as... work that stayed true to it's more "working class roots" more or less, and focused on the fetishization of counter-cultural icons (such as hot rods, surfing, rock n roll, monsters, drugs, ect). I find this work to be more transgressive, provocative and very non-polite... it has a purity underneath because it was never intended to be anything other than what the artist was responding to in his or her life. I can't see this type of work ever truly being accepted by the "high" world. To understand more of the genesis of where Lowbrow came from I recommend reading Larry Reid's essay in Pop Surrealism.

As time went on and interest and inspiration of this art started to grow, new artists began to appear and they often brought a more "refined" sensibility to the genre. Also- the artists who'd been working in the scene started to grow and explore as well. A good example of this is someone like Mark Ryden being so quickly embraced. Artists started working with more fantastical imagery and the work started to become more dream-like and surreal, and personal. The work started to become more "beautiful" and have more palatable imagery. To me, this new form of work is "Pop Surrealism"- I would use Ryden, Marion Peck, Alex Gross, and Eric White as examples of what I'm talking about. If you compare their work with artists who I would put in the "Lowbrow" genre like Anthony Ausgang, the Pizz, XNO, Van Arno, and Shag you can see that they are very different.

So to me there is a division, but a very fluid division. Now with street art infiltrating the scene you have even more fluidity, with artists like Jeff Soto rising to prominence within the genre, who can cross back and forth between Pop Surrealism and Street Art easily. Also- Juxtapoz has seemingly morphed itself into a street art magazine and I think that causes the lines to blur further. Collectors who buy Shag might also buy Anthony Micallef.

Lastly, there has been an implosion of new galleries who show this kind of work but who might not have a real understanding of how this scene originated. They are just showing stuff they like, which is fine, but now anyone can be a "pop surrealist" artist these days. I'm not even sure that the term has any real meaning anymore. The galleries (myself included) will show Audrey Kawasaki or people like Jonathan Viner... they are not "Pop Surrealism" nor "Lowbrow"- they are just very good contemporary figurative art, but they still fall into that scene.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Art Space Talk: Christine Peterson

Christine Peterson's art is an expression of personal experiences that have devastated, antagonized, and encouraged her. Christine is fascinated by simple yet beautiful forms, especially those found in nature.The use of abstracted forms allow the viewer to connect with the work without preconceptions. By abstracting a simple shape, Christine is able to create complexity through color, texture and light. Christine has stated that she wants to continue to portray interesting, passionate, disquieting, and beautiful moments of human life.

Colors Behind Your Eyes Series- Behind Your Eyes, relief on Mulberry, 25" x 34", 2007

Brian Sherwin: Christine, tell us about your educational background. Do you have formal training in art? If so, who were your instructors and how did they influence you?

Christine Peterson: I have a BFA in fine arts from Iowa State University. After graduating from ISU, I realized that I wanted to continue to specifically study painting, and I am currently enrolled at Savannah College of Art and Design as a painting major.

BS: Christine, tell us about your early artistic influences and experiences. When did you decide to pursue art?

CP: I have always known that I wanted to be an artist. As a child, I would go to the public library and find any book I could on the great masters- Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Boticelli. I don't think I fully realized that I wanted to seriously persue being a studio artist until a few years ago. I spent my final semester at ISU studying abroad in Rome, and being there opened my eyes to the potential of truly great art. Since then I have devoted myself fully to creating. I am most influenced by artists who can capture devastation and beauty all at the same time. Anselm Kiefer and Edvard Munch are two of my biggest influences.
Bloom series- Medusa, relief on kitakata, 20" x 39", 2007

BS: With that said, how would you say that your art has advanced since that time?

CP: My work has evolved quite a bit even over the past year. Originally, my work was very figurative. I created countless self portraits and used my likeness as a catalyst to express whatever emotions I wanted to portray in my pieces. Most of the issues I dealt with in my work were of a personal nature. I created many pieces that referenced my feelings or emotions.

Lately, I have become interested in a broader sense of human interaction, or lack thereof. Some of the most beautiful times in our lives come from a human connection, and some of the most horrific times come when we feel as if we are all alone.

My current body of work has progressed in a more abstract direction. I still use bold color and texture to convey a point, but have removed the figure. I feel that by abstracting, a broader audience can relate to and find their own meaning with in a piece.
Smack Series- Two, relief on Mulberry, 25" x 34", 2007

BS: Can you go into detail about your artistic process? How do you begin a piece? When do you know that a piece is finished?

CP: I carry a sketchbook with me constantly and usually begin in there to create small compositions. I am inspired by the most minuscule things. Situations around me, a line in a book or the glimpse of beauty will ignite something within me to let me know that "its time." Once I decide exactly where I want the idea to go, I will begin working on a piece. More often than not, I have no idea what the end result will look like. I have a basic idea, but the final piece is usually completely different from what I intended.

I will usually get to a point within a piece where I am completely frustrated and will be dumbfounded as far as where to go. It can be extremely discouraging, but I know that eventually the piece will just speak to me and tell me where I need to go.

I am not sure how I know when a piece is complete. Some pieces never seem done; I will constantly question if I could work something out more. With others, I will get to a point where I step back and just know its finished.

BS: Christine, how does current world events influence your work? In other words, how does contemporary life impact your creative practice?

CP: I feel contemporary life impacts my work because I deal so much with human interaction. In so many ways, we are moving farther and farther from one another. We send emails instead of speaking, we text someone before we will pick up the phone and call. It seems as though everyone wants to be heard, but no one is willing to listen. We are all standing side by side but just out of each others reach.
Bloom series- Passive Drifter, relief on kitakata, 20" x 39", 2007

BS: With that said, tell us more about the philosophy behind your art. What motivates you to create?

CP: My work has always been a way for me to speak when I feel I don't have the words. Anytime I feel that something needs to be said, I somehow find a way to express it through my art.

BS: Why did you choose to work in the medium(s) that you use?

CP: I have always loved painting, especially in oil. There is a fluidity and peace that I find when I am painting that I cant find anywhere else. Recently I have begun printmaking. One of the things that attracted me to printmaking is the process itself. Carving the block, inking, using the press, all of these components are extremely methodical and soothing. I also love the idea that you never know exactly what you are going to get until you lift your paper off of the press- its fantastic!

Bloom series- No Backbone, relief on kitakata, 20" x 39", 2007

BS: Christine, what is your studio like? Can you go into detail about your studio routine? Do you work in silence-- listen to music.

CP: As a starving college artist, my studio is any area in my apartment that I can clear a space. I try to keep it contained to one area where I can leave my inspirations, studies, etc. I love to work at odd hours, especially in the middle of the night or early morning. It is comforting to feel you are the only one up and about. I absolutely have to listen to music when I work. There is no specific artist or genre- anything that will motivate and inspire me with the piece I am working on.

BS: What are you working on at this time?

CP: I am currently working on a series of paintings that convey lack of human interaction through abstracted oceanic forms.

BS: Do you have any upcoming exhibits? Where can our readers view your work?

CP: I don't have any upcoming exhibits, but my work is on display in a few locations around Savannah, Georgia.
Colors Behind Your Eyes Series- Behind Your Eyes II, relief on Mulberry, 25" x 34", 2007

BS: Christine, the Internet is changing how we discover and view art. In your opinion, how have sites like empowered artists?

CP: Myartspace has been one of the best tools for me in getting my work to people who would otherwise have never seen it. It is also an amazing support and networking tool. Artists are able to interact with each other and anyone who is interested in their work through an avenue that has never been available before. Of course, there is nothing like seeing a work of art in person, but the Internet provides people the opportunity to discover and see things they normally may not be able to see.

BS: Finally, what are your goals as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

CP: My ultimate goal is to always produce and show my art. I want to continue to capture amazing, horrific and beautiful moments in life, as well as give a voice to someone else. I also want for people to look at my work and respond to it in some way. Whether you hate it or love it, I hope never to be overlooked.
I'd like to thank Christine for taking the time to answer my questions. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Friday, October 19, 2007

Art Space Talk: Mickey Smith

Mickey Smith was born in 1972 in Duluth, Minnesota and received a B.A. in Photography from Moorhead State University in 1994. Images from her Volume series have shown in galleries and museums throughout the United States and are included in the collections of the Weisman Art Museum and Fidelity Corporate Art Collection. Smith is the current recipient of the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Photography and a Forecast Public Art Affairs grant.

Volume series- Blood, 2006

Brian Sherwin: Mickey, I observed your art during Art Chicago. How did the exhibit go for you? Are you planning to take part in any other major art exhibits in the near future?

Mickey Smith: Art Chicago was my first fair. I wasn’t able to make it, but I heard reports that the show was strong this year and the Volume work received a bit of attention. It was great from that perspective.

The McKnight Photography Fellowship exhibition closed last week, in my mind a major exhibition wrapped in a great deal of pressure. Before the show opened, more than once was asked, "So what did you do with the all that money?" Toward the end of October Dean Kessmann and I will show at Ellen Curlee Gallery in Saint Louis.

BS: You attended Moorhead State University. Can you tell us about the photography department there? Who were your mentors at the time? Have you worked with instructors outside of college?

MS: There were two very different photography departments at MSU. I worked primarily in the art department, working with D.B. MacRaven, but spent time in mass communications across campus working with Wayne Gudmundson. The most influential person I have worked with is Harry Mattison, he truly changed my life and continues to be a creative force, even though we really have very little contact.
Volume series- Cancer, 2006

BS: Why did you decide to concentrate on photography? Also... who has influenced your work?

MS: My sixth grade teacher told my mother to get me a camera. Mr. Tolar was a huge influence, recognizing it would be an outlet with a lot going in a complex little 10 year-old world. Although I’ve worked primarily with photography to date, a shift is on the horizon. I’m not attached to the camera and I am terrible at the technical side.

At the moment I am reading books on Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ed Rushca, Carrie Mae Weems, and Duane Michaels. They have been influential for a long while, but I’m just now beginning to study their work, hoping to glean insight about why I keep coming back to word and image.

BS: You are known for exploring history, knowledge, and a sense of place in your subtly evocative photographs of book spines. These spines often contain a single word or a small group of words that provoke thoughts of strength and weakness in the viewer. Can you explain why you decided to use books and words as a vehicle for your art? It seems as if you desire the viewer to create his or her own story around the words... is that so?

MS: Initially I was interested in the subject matter because it was such an oddity to be back in the stacks after being strapped to a computer for a decade. I had forgotten about the quiet sacred quality of the public library. Anything seems possible when shrouded with such vast amounts of information. The types of volumes I am drawn to are soon to be a thing of the past.

The books, specifically the spines, become a concrete and valued delivery mechanism for the words. I’m interested in what they become when photographed. I am interested in the bindery clerk in Minnesota that decides to bind BLOOD in red and the clerk in New York that binds the same title in blue.

One the greatest unexpected pleasures that has come from this project is that people seem to make a very personal connection to a word, or to curating their own series of words.
Volume series- Critique + Curator, 2007
BS: Mickey, this might be a silly question, but how do you decide which words to focus on?

MS: The way I select the titles is by walking through a dizzying amount of stacks. Literally, I get sick to my stomach while looking. Since I strictly use ambient light, so I don’t even bother going down dark aisles because I don’t want to come across a title that I love that will be impossible to photograph. In need to see the object, it is impossible to search online. The titles have to have the right combination of word, color, placement, and resonance.

BS: You had a successful 10-year career as an arts administrator before moving back to the other side of the proverbial desk to become a full time artist. How has knowing the business side of art helped you in your career as an artist? Any suggestions as to what emerging artists should look out for in the gallery scene?

MS: Two different issues. The gallery scene is an entirely different beast. I’m still learning how to look out for myself, so I can’t impart much wisdom. Students coming out of the MFA programs are likely better prepared than I am for the contemporary art world.

The variations between segments in the art world are stark. As an administrator, I specialized in international exchange, grant making and programming for public and non-profit arts organizations. When I worked for those organizations I thought I had a strong grasp on what it was like to be a working artist... In retrospect I had no clue what it would be like, even though I was still making a bit of work on the side. Being an artist is about a million times more stressful, more rewarding and random. Often I feel incredibly vulnerable, which was never the case on the other side of the desk.

Volume series- Detail, 2007

BS: You've stated that the switch from arts administrator to artist was like switching political parties. Can you go into further detail about this?

MS: I used to be a member of the party with the (perceived) power.

BS: Mickey, in the past it was hard for women to 'make it' as an artist, but it was especially hard for women working on the business side of art. Based on your experience, do you think that holds true today? Or is there more of a gender balance within the context of the contemporary art world?

MS: I do not find it to be true on the business side. Women are quickly filling leadership positions. The gender balance is about to tip as the first generation of arts administrators from the 1970’s approach retirement. It seems the majority of twenty-something arts administrators now getting degrees in arts administration tend to be women.

My experience with gender related issues has been more complex since I’ve started working as an artist. When I arrived at my first big meeting in Chelsea, the dealer walked around the corner, looked at me blankly for a long time (meanwhile I’m panicking - oh shit, I’m here at the wrong time, wrong place, he already hates my work…) and finally exclaimed, "Oh my god, you’re a woman!" I find it fascinating. Because of the scale and nature of the work people are often surprised to learn I am a woman. Another dealer in Dumbo told me once he figured out I was a woman it made him question weather I had an "underlying feminist manifesto." I could go on here about more negative experiences but there is no point really… I have absolutely no tolerance for funders, administrators or curators that take advantage of any artist. Recently I’ve become more involved in advocacy for individual artists.

The bigger question in the contemporary art world is ageism. Apparently I’m on the cusp of the issue at the ripe old age of 35.

Volume series- Continuum, 2007

BS: You mentioned a new project when I first contacted you. The project is called Unaccompanied Minor. Can you tell our readers about this project? What are your motives behind it?

MS: Millions of children travel between their divorced parents by foot, car, bus, train, and airplane. Some carry their suitcases next door, others board planes and fly thousands of miles. I was one of those children for over a decade. My mode of transportation was a Greyhound bus, the distance between stations 150 miles.

Unaccompanied Minor is the working title for this project I’ve been thinking about and occasionally working for twenty years or so... Once I start I’m afraid it will consume me completely. My motives are to remove the stigma of divorce for kids, turn attention to kids versus parents, make transit between homes a more creative and magical time, create a document, a community, a true and open conversation for the kids. At times I’m not sure if it will be an art project, a business, or both. It’s overwhelming.

BS: Can you share some more of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

MS: In 2001, I heard an artist tell an audience of arts administrators, "A little voice inside of me said, if you do not do this, the best parts of you will die and the rest wouldn’t be worth much." I recognized that voice inside. It still resonates to the core.

BS: What about your studio practice? Can you describe your average studio session? How do you map out what you are going to capture?

MS: At the moment my studio practice isn’t in the studio. I create everything on location and bring it back to the studio. I set aside big chunks of time that are quite far apart to make images on site, in the libraries. One of my goals lately has been to be a bit more prolific in studio. When I have an idea I tend to think about it for a long before actually making the piece. The flip side of the slow process is that there are few surprises and the final work looks exactly as I intend.

Volume series- Today + Tomorrow, 2007

BS: Mickey, do you have any suggestions for photographers who are just starting out?

MS: If you know you are supposed to be an artist, be an artist or photographer. Don’t get distracted. Make it your first priority. If you’re not sure, or don’t think you have the drive plus talent, go try something else.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

MS: Not at the moment, I hope my work says most of what I need to say… Thank you so much for the opportunity to consider your questions Brian.
You can learn more about Mickey Smith by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Art Space Talk: Carina Traberg

Carina Traberg was born in Denmark in 1978. She began her BA education in 1999 at The Funen Academy of Fine Art where she studied for five years under the tutelage of professors Jesper Christiansen and Anette Abrahamson. In 2002 Traberg undertook an independent study period in Istanbul where she was heavily inspired by the modern architecture and culture and achieved two solo exhibitions. For this she was awarded the Carlsberg 2002 travel grant. After graduating in 2004, Traberg worked in Aarhus where she was accepted into the 2005 censored Easter Exhibition. Her works was well received and offers for further exhibitions were taken up. Since 2005 she has been based in London where she participated in several shows and art fairs and has received commissions for private collectors in England and Poland. In 2006 Traberg completed a Postgraduate Diploma at Chelsea College of Art and Design.

Cityscape installation, Photos on cardboard, various sizes, 2003-4

Brian Sherwin: Carina, can you tell us about your youth? Can you recall some of your first experiences with visual art and how they helped you on the path you are on today?

Carina Traberg: I have always made things since I was very young. It was always some object that had a function, like a machine that little balls would move through, a skateboard or a pillow that had ears. And I always had some plan for something that I wanted to make, which I found very exiting. That hasn’t changed for me.

BS: Carina, you studied at The Funen Academy of Fine Art for five years... who were your mentors during that time?

CT: For the first two years I had a brilliant professor who is a Danish Painter, Jesper Christiansen. He’d come round to the studio space every two weeks and look at the work and had a very subtle and humorous way of teaching. I have figured out that he actually knew what was going on and could see a direction, in which the work was going, but would only give little hints and let his students figure everything out themselves. He also really impressed me by that fact that he spent five years painting white chairs on white canvas.

Changing House, Acrylic on canvas, 40x45 cm, 2007

BS: Carina, in 2002 you undertook an independent study period in Istanbul. Can you tell us about your experience there? What mark did Istanbul leave on you, so to speak?

CT: I went to Istanbul and fell in love, basically. So I moved there to be with my partner and set myself up in a lovely studio, where I enjoyed being able to be away from college. I began painting completely different paintings, influenced by the city, the colours and light, and the change of lifestyle. It all sounds very romantic, and it was.

BS: Carina, your practice is primarily based on painting. However, your work does not deal with the essence of painting, but rather with the conceptual matter and the use of material. Can you tell us more about your painting practice and the thoughts behind it?

CT: I have never been particularly interested in "real" paintings, the textures and gestures of it. I enjoy painting and I use it as a medium to create images. I always use masking tape to mark of a field before I begin to paint it to create a flat hard-edged surface. I like making the paint look as flat as possible mostly to contrast the strong perspectives that I often use. Sometimes I paint with other materials than paint, like cardboard or electrical tape, not as shortcuts but to give other surfaces to the work.

Industrial Space 1, Acrylic on canvas, 110x130 cm, 2002

BS: Carina, what artists have inspired you?

CT: Inspiration for ideas and new work often come to me when I am away from an art context and in general I am more inspired by other things and situations. I like to visit big cities and always feel refreshed and full of ideas coming back from one. But to mention some artists whose work I admire; Julian Opie, Sarah Morris, Mondrian, Thomas Demand and Ugo Rondinone.

BS: Carina, I understand that you are also a musician. How does your music relate to your visual art? Are they linked?

CT: I have recently discovered music making as basically a new medium, that I really enjoy. I see my music as an integral part of my practice and it has helped me open up some aspects of my approach to painting. I have also found that this music art is much more functional than a painting can be. I can listen to my music anywhere and whilst doing other things, and to round everything off, I even listen to it when I paint.

Windows, Acrylic on canvas, 40x45 cm, 2007

BS: Can you go into further detail about your personal philosophy on art?

CT: I like creating another world with my art, both when I make it and for the viewer to enter. The art that I look at is art that alter the world and not just imitate or replicate it.

BS: Carina, why do you prefer to work in series?

CT: When I have an idea and begin a new subject or thought, I never feel satisfied with making just the one piece of work. I don’t think that it gives a full picture or exploration of the subject and I am always interested in seeing what happens if I try again.

Industrial Space 3, Acrylic on canvas, 110x130 cm, 2002

BS: Carina, what group exhibitions have you been involved with?

CT: The most interesting group show that I did was just after finishing my Postgraduate Diploma in London last year, where everyone turned up with a piece of work that had to be installed into a context that the curators wanted to be different to a normal group show. So we all spent five days building an independent structure out of scrap wood in the space to connect the works. We were not allowed to use the walls, so we had to rethink ways of displaying the work. I ended up making a box for my painting so that it could only be seen through small slits.

BS: Carina, tell us about your studio. Where do you work? Do you follow a routine or do you work in a sporadic manner? Tell us about your studio practice.

CT: I have a studio now in East London, which is a open plan place with other people around. I don’t have a set way or method of working and I don’t go everyday if I don’t know what I am going to do there. At the moment I am very antisocial when I work, I have my headphones on and enjoy being lost to the world.

BS: Finally, what are your goals as an artist? What do you hope to accomplish?

CT: I try to take it one step at a time in terms of exhibitions. I would like to be able to continue to have fun and enjoy making my work, which I really am at the moment.
You can learn more about Carina Traberg and her art by visiting the following page-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Monday, October 15, 2007

Art Space Talk: Anne Neely

Anne Neely's art is about nature. However, like nature, Anne's paintings reveal more than one can observe with just a single glance. Under the layers of daily shifts and changes that go on in the natural world there is something more-- something that is foreboding. Her painting language is one of inquiry, working through her imagination as a conduit to the world she perceives.

Anne's paintings convey multiple perspectives-- the chaotic elements of a distant storm-- while embracing the essence of plentiful fields. In a sense, her paintings pay homage to the earth. However, under the layers of her painterly technique one can also discover the many layers of the physical body, with veins and cells connecting us to the earth. With these imaginative landscapes Anne explores the double-sided edge of beauty and the human condition.

Anne's work can be found in several public and corporate collections-- including, The Smithsonian and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Floe, 56 x 72", oil on linen, 2006

Brian Sherwin: Anne, can you recall your early years as an artist? Where did you study? Who were your mentors?

Anne Neely: One of my first visits to a museum in New York was the Frick and I fell in love with Rembrandt because his portraits always followed me around and, at the time, I imagined he was alive within them! I knew I wanted to make an object that was alive like that in paint. The power of a live object, the concept being opposites by nature, intrigued me.

I remember in my teens going to the library and copying De Vinci drawings. Even though I was fascinated by the figure, it was Nature that I drew as it surrounded me and captured all of my attention. I lived across the street from a farm in a rural area and was given lots of freedom to roam and that became the basis for my love of and attachment to Nature as a life force and a reference point for my life. Although art was my passion, I didn't go to Art School or specialize because I had other passions too and, at the time, a liberal arts education satisfied those interests. I have never regretted that decision.

Several people in my life have been an influence, but to name a few. William Holst was a very inspirational teacher at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH, who had studied with Hans Hoffman, and taught me about space and structure in a painting. Later on at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. Kenneth Daley introduced me to Printmaking and opened a door into another world of expression that I have used throughout my painting life as a way to clarify or begin a new body of work.

Lethe, 55 x 70", oil on linen, 2005–06

BS: Anne, you are have instructed art at: Maine College of Art, Art Institute of Boston, Milton Academy... and several other educational institutions. Can you tell our readers about your academic philosophy? How do you instruct your students?

AN: Observation is probably the most important skill a student can acquire. I use the word "acquire" because observation is a life-long process of learning how to see and there are several ways to observe. When you are young you "acquire" it, and with diligence you can become a master of both the seen and the unseen, which gives you a lot of freedom.
I teach to the individual and guide them to find their "creative center". Oddly the word "creative" implies something that is beyond knowing which is the opposite of center, being at the middle point and implying awareness of both sides. But I mean exactly that. There can be a core within one’s self that is as personal as a face and as big as the universe. It is the perspective of the self that sits in the middle within the context of an expansive universe. Once a student has discovered something from this place, he/she can develop it in any media. In that moment there is a declaration of self recognition and it’s the beginning of the marriage between wonder and knowledge.
I also tell my painting students they need to be bold when they begin because, the more they paint, the more they know and the more decisions there are to make that go way beyond what they are painting.
BS: How did you find balance between being an art educator and a professional artist creating personal works?
AN: Teaching keeps me honest because each day I talk about what art is, or what seeing is, or drawing, or painting and it lingers when I am in the studio. When I am painting and I reach the moment when I am on the verge of discovery, it is, among other things, fieldwork for teaching. They both compliment each other in my life because each career requires me to always to be in the present and asks a lot of me.

Green River, 64 x 84", oil on canvas, 2006

BS: Anne, your art has been featured in ARTnews, The Boston Globe, The New Art Examiner, The New York Times and several other publications. How do you feel when you have been chosen for publication? Do you see it as a sign of success or would you rather just get back to painting?

AN: Having my work written about gives me some documentation of the moment that I’ve exhibited a group of paintings and set forth an idea to the wider public. It can fix my show in time and space so "some news" is definitely better than no news. But, in the end, the studio is where the action is.

BS: In regards to art world success, would you say that some artists get caught up in the moment after major accomplishments... be it features in publications or prestigious awards? I've known artists-- especially younger artists-- who get caught up in the moment and trapped by the 'art star' mentality. This often causes their work to suffer. How do you remain humble and why do you think so many others lose sight of their work?

AN: Have you ever heard of the saying "one can never be famous enough"? I took that saying to heart many years ago and it freed me up from being caught up in the art world. Being an artist has to be about doing the best work I can because that is all I really have and that’s the big equalizer among all artists. I think artists begin to lose sight of their work when they take themselves too seriously as personalities.

Down River, 55 x 70", oil on linen, 2005–06

BS: Anne, at the core you are a painters painter, so to speak. You are interested in the physicality of paint-- how it can be moved, shaped, or in some cases... provoked. When did you develop this interest (or should I say love?) for paint and how it can be utilized to form expressions of your thoughts?

AN: When I was young I fell in love with the expression of painting. I could make the paint do something and control its’ movement. Painting felt immediate and fast. Now, having lived longer, made more paintings and looked more, I think painting is very hard and gets harder every year. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I continue to do it.
Painting is challenging because I am always learning a visual language. Each time I paint now I am making movement at the hands of the paint, so to speak, just the opposite of my early experience. When problems come up I have to find the chink in the painting wall that will allow me continue to work from that place. In that moment the mark or what I call "the touch" of the paint can guide me and, if I am patient, I might even find my way out of the mess.
Sometimes it takes only days but other times, months or years. I am constantly surprised and grateful for any discovery of new ways to say things in paint. I feel that to paint is to find the presence of the painting and that is really finding out who I am, what I think and what I perceive. I have been consistently amazed at the versatility of paint and, as my work evolves I find myself experimenting more and more with palette and brush.

BS: Anne, you have stated that you seek the visual equivalent of the 'life force' in your paintings. In that, you offer the viewer an alternative vision of the world as seen through your imagination. Can you go into further detail about the world you have created for viewers? What do you hope people find when observing your art?

AN: Aside from the title, my paintings provide a door, for the viewer to enter through Nature. That door usually is some recognizable reference. Then the painting has become a conduit to the heart of the painting and it is in that moment that the viewer is drawn into the presence of the painting or moves on. In those few seconds, hopefully the viewer finds the life force/energy in my work that he/she is hungry for and chooses to linger. It is that energy which sparks the viewer’s imagination and enables them to travel, traverse or go into the painting. I think deep down, all artists want a connection between the viewer’s energy and the energy in the painting. It’s such a visceral, almost physical experience.

Crossing, 45 x 60", oil on canvas, 2005

BS: Your landscapes, or 'places' as you suggest, often appear to be beautiful on the surface. However, further investigation reveals a world that captures a sense of horror or despair. Do these images reflect our reality in that they convey the double-edged sword of life, so to speak? Tell us more about this... about the psychology of your art.

AN: I live in a time that is reflected in what I do as a painter. I don’t think I can disregard the complexity of our present world; in fact, I search in my paintings, for a peaceful passage or a beautiful moment that can be an affirmation of life within all the chaos. So its important to me to straddle the edge of beauty knowing that it stands so closely to darkness. At best I want to convey an appreciation of life amidst a sense of foreboding.

I paint to make meaning, to find meaning or get lost in it, to figure things out (only momentarily), by asking questions while learning how to read the language of space and color. All of these things are part of the process of being in the studio and choosing painting as a life partner. Painting is about exploring an idea through making something and building, changing and transforming forms and space until the magic happens and you begin to see life staring back at you. Each artist has his/her own voyage to this place, the heart of the painting, whether it is working from observation or from imagination. What I know is that there is a merging of what is inside and what is outside and that’s what comes out on the canvas.

BS: Anne, I read that you recently shifted from creating vertical paintings to working on horizontal surfaces. Why did you make this change? Also, how has it helped you create your vision?

AN: I think of vertical orientation as the figure and horizontal as the landscape. Up until recently I was fascinated the relationship between the self and the universe, the life cycle and things seen and unseen ascending into the cosmos. Now that I am dealing with more grounded issues like weather and water it seems to be a natural progression to move onto the horizontal plane where I can paint earth and water from my various strata of memory.

Rill, 24 x 32", oil on linen, 2006

BS: Anne, I've read that your influences range from the art of Piet Mondrian’s floral works to the spontaneous handling of paint by Abstract Expressionists-- such as Joan Mitchell. Can you confirm these influences? Also, who else has influenced your work?

AN: I respond very physically to the bold strokes and color of Joan Mitchell and even though her work is very different from mine, I feel her as a kindred spirit because she is always in the present with her work while she makes it. Piet Mondrians’s floral works are so tender while at the same time being emotional. I think those qualities in an artwork are rare and I admire them.
There are so many ways an artist can be influenced. I love seeing the usual suspects like Goya, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Cezanne, Van Gogh and Matisse because, each time I look at them, they teach me what great art can be and how to recognize it. If they had something specific that I wanted I would not hesitate to take from their vision, knowing that the instant I took in the lesson and really "owned it," the lesson would be absorbed, transformed and interpreted into my vision. That is why I tell my students to borrow whatever they want. All contemporary artists owe a debt to the artists who have come before them. We stand on their shoulders holding their accumulated knowledge and experience.
I am reading Matisse the Master right now and author Hilary Spurling refers to a moment during the war (1917) when Matisse talks to a younger artist, Severini, telling him how he has "finally solved the problem of how to dominate and reveal reality through a process of abstraction." What artist hasn’t struggled with that one! It’s a classic problem to even voice let alone act on it: Think about Philip Guston and his struggle.
Although I have been following Anslem Kiefer’s work for a while and loved the expansive quality of it, I was simply taken aback by the grandness of his vision and the use of multiple materials at his recent Monumenta exhibition this summer in the Grand Palais in Paris. It left me so inspired and hopeful about art being in the world and making a difference.

I am influenced by poets, their poems, and reading essays about their process. They paint with words. Recently deceased poet, Stanley Kunitz has some wonderful things to say about poems in his book The Wild Braid and in the following excerpt I could have easily substituted the word painting for poem. It’s from the section called "no maker": " After a certain period, the poem seems to have no maker at all. Poems gather their own momentum and you feel they’re moving on their own. You are part of the world in which they are born and come to maturity, but they have an identity beyond the person to whom they are confiding because the poem doesn’t really belong to anyone, it belongs to a great tradition…"

What the Weather Brings, 24 x 32", oil on linen, 2006

BS: Anne, what are you working on at this time? Also, do you have an upcoming exhibitions?

AN: I just had a show at the Lohin Geduld gallery in New York called "What the weather brings" and I have more to say on that topic so I am currently continuing some of the ideas which has led to focus more specifically on water, the conduit for life. I will be having a show in October of 2008 in Boston at the Alpha Gallery and in the spring of 2009 at Lohin Geduld in New York.
BS: Where can our readers view your art?
AN: My work can be found on my web site, on,, or

BS: Anne, do you have any advice for young painters? Any suggestions about work ethic or the business side of art?

AN: I would say keep painting and believe in what you do. Lead a full and enriching life that you can incorporate into your art because no matter what ideas you are concentrating on, the work will still, in some measure, reveal your life.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the art world?

AN: If I can make something like an object or an idea come alive and have its own presence in a painting, then I will have achieved my childhood dream. I know that I am here on the planet to make art that reminds us of the world we live in. The art world might overlap it’s vision with mine or not, but that’s out of my control. So I continue to do what I do and am grateful to have the opportunity to do it.

You can learn more about Anne Neely by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interview by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin