Thursday, May 28, 2009

Art Space Talk: Resa Blatman (Part 1)

Through her art Resa Blatman attempts to show nature at odds with itself by playing with the contradictions of emptiness versus fullness, lush versus barren, and rapture versus displeasure. In her paintings, the berries, linear loops, and tiny dots represent an abundance of embryos, eggs, and seeds. Heaps are an important element: these berries, loops, tiny dots, and sometimes creatures accumulate in piles and mounds and represent the bounty of femininity and ripeness.

Beauty and the Beasties by Resa Blatman

Brian Sherwin: Resa, what can you tell us about your academic background concerning art? Did you study art formally? Tell us about your art studies in general-- any influential instructors?

Resa Blatman: I have a lot of art school experience under my belt. After high school, I went to the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, where I majored in “fine arts.” That meant I had a well-rounded art education doing everything from etching to stone sculpture. After Ringling, I moved to New York for a couple of years, where I had several jobs and painted during my free time. Then I left for Florence, Italy, where I studied at the Studio Art Centers International (SACI) for one year and lived in Florence for another two years, with a side excursion to London for seven months.

At SACI I spent my time painting, primarily portraits. I had a memorable learning experience, particularly with portrait painter and teacher Manfredi, who taught me to see a person’s character and exaggerate it in order to make the portrait look like the model. The director of SACI, Jules Maidoff, was instrumental in helping me move paint around
more freely and with more confidence.

After my year at SACI, I worked for a mask-maker named Agostino Dessi, who owns a little mask shop called “Alice” in the center of Florence. This job let me stay in Italy for two more years. Agostino taught me the craft of mask-making, and skills related to selling artwork, which were very useful to me later on.

I then moved back to the United States and settled in Boston, where I’ve been ever since. My art education might have ended there, but after a few years of making and selling masks, paper jewelry, and portraits, making a very meager living, I decided to go back to school for a BFA in graphic design. I enrolled at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and with my previous credits, I was able to get through the design program in two years and receive my degree. During this time and the following years to come, I had essentially given up on painting.

My work got stuck and stodgy -- I couldn’t think of what to paint next and it seemed that my desire to paint had come to an end -- it was no longer a productive or fulfilling relationship. Studying graphic design was a welcome change for me, and on reflection, I believe it was one of the best career choices I’ve ever made. It taught me new skills (especially computer skills) and gave me confidence to start my own business. I made a good living while still doing work that was creative and enjoyable.

My small design business flourished and won awards, and I had many steady clients. But after 9/11 the economy was in trouble -- the work dried up and I sat around wondering what to do next. I had been teaching graphic design part-time at MassArt since 1997 and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d go back to school for my MFA (but this time I’d get the degree in painting), so that I could teach full-time and revive my old love for painting. But, because I hadn’t been painting for nearly 10 years, my portfolio was weak and I was rejected from the few local grad schools that I applied to (my husband was working full-time, which meant we couldn’t move and I had to apply to schools in, or near to, Boston).

Then I learned about the one-year post-baccalaureate program at Brandeis University, which I was accepted to, and my relationship to painting renewed itself. I learned so much, mostly from my peers, and also from the terrific visiting artist and instructor from New York, Charles Spurrier, who opened my mind and eyes to contemporary, conceptual art. My previous art education had rarely examined the contemporary art world; instead it highlighted Michelangelo to Picasso with the impressionists sprinkled in between.

The following year I applied to the same local grad programs as I had previously, was accepted by three of them, and chose Boston University. My experience there was mixed; being the oldest student made me stand out, but not always in the way I intended. Nevertheless, I worked diligently in the mostly studio-based program, which was one of the toughest educational experiences of my life. Despite the difficult crits and the personal and artistic challenges, I’m extremely grateful for my graduate school experience -- my work continually evolved and my painting skills and conceptual abilities
improved enormously.

I was in a class with highly talented peers and the painter and instructor John Walker, and they taught me more about painting than I could ever have imagined. By the time I was near the end of the grad program I realized that I no longer wanted to teach full-time; rather, I wanted to paint full-time again. I decided then that I would supplement my painting career with graphic design, allowing me to pursue both fields and take advantage of my design skills to enhance my paintings. I graduated from BU in 2006.
Coitus by Resa Blatman

BS: Tell us more about yourself. At what point did you gain an interest in creating visual art in the first place?

RB: This may sound a bit clich├ęd, but when I was a small child the grownups around me would ask, “What do you want to be when you grown up?” And I would consistently say “I want to be a artist.” Eventually, I learned to say it correctly but my desire never changed. No matter what other things I tried, or waters I tested, I always knew I would be an artist.

Aphrodite's Garden by Resa Blatman

BS: Can you tell us about your art? Give us some insight into the thoughts behind your art.

RB: As you might imagine with so many different art school experiences, and a lot of years in between, my work was initially quite different from the way it is now. That said, I notice some things in my current work that harken back to my childhood drawings and paintings, and the tight painting I did in my 20s. While we can’t help but be influenced
by our peers and historical and contemporary artists, and the time in which we live, I believe some things about us never change. Our work and our lives move in circles that we continually begin and end. The ideas I have, and use now, in my work are often ideas that I thought about years ago -- these ideas never really leave, but crop up here and there when they become useful to me.

My current work is about fertility, abundance, sensuality, and an over-the-top beauty. The paintings combine decorative patterns with flora and fauna. The cut-edge surfaces are an extension of the painting itself, allowing the work to feel as if it is growing out of control.

To read Part 2 of my interview with Resa Blatman click, HERE

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
Myartspace Blog on Twitter

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