Friday, November 30, 2007

Art Space Talk: Alex Golden

Alex Golden attended William’s College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with majors in studio art and psychology in 2004. After graduating from Williams and working in Brooklyn as an artist’s assistant, Alex spent a year studying drawing and painting in Toronto, Ontario. He is currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at Hunter College in New York City and expects to graduate in December of 2008.

Though still in school, Alex has exhibited his work intermittently in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Toronto, and New York. He has recently been presented to the Master's program at Christie's as a promising emerging artist, and he was also included in a presentation on the range of contemporary images of the Annunciation at Saint Elizabeth’s College in Morristown, NJ. Alex’s work is in several private collections, including that of renowned collector, John Pigozzi.

Untitled, oil and archival inkjet on canvas mounted to panel, 43 x 57 inches, 2006

Brian Sherwin: Alex, I understand that you are currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at Hunter College in New York City. Have you enjoyed your studies at Hunter College? Who are your instructors and how have they influenced you?

Alex Golden: Yes, I have really enjoyed being at Hunter. It is a thriving artistic community, filled with smart individuals who are passionate about making art and/or contributing to the field. Not to mention that these are good people, and I have made a lot of good friends. The structure of the program, in my opinion, is pretty much unbeatable: When I came into the program, students were allowed four years to complete the degree (though it has since been lowered to three). That means four years of paying low, public school tuition on a per credit basis and being given a beautiful studio space in the middle of Manhattan for the entire time at no extra cost. Having such a long time to develop ideas and techniques allows artists to really explore their options, to take risks without the pressure of being thrust out into the much-less-forgiving commercial art world. It allows more exposure to the huge variety of artists that makes up the Hunter MFA community as well as to the art world community of New York.

I have had many great instructors at Hunter. Each one has influenced me in a very different way, as each one looks at and makes work in very different ways. I have worked with video artists, mixed media artists, color field painters, post-modern abstract painters and an academic figurative painter. Hunter requires that each MFA student work intensively with at least 6 different professors before choosing one of them to be a thesis advisor.

The Hell of the Present is His Kingdom at Last, oil and archival inkjet on canvas mounted to panel, 58 x 58 inches, 2007

BS: Alex, where else have you studied art? What can you tell us about those experiences?

AG: I did my undergraduate degree at Williams College, getting a B.A. with a double major in art and psychology. Williams was a great place to get my feet wet in my study of art. Because it is a liberal arts program, art was not my sole focus there, though over time, it certainly became my greatest interest. Williams encouraged its art majors to try different media and emphasized conceptual thinking over technique.

After Williams, I studied painting and drawing at the Toronto School of Art in Toronto, Ontario. I did a one-year independent studio program in order to get a portfolio together for grad school applications. It was basically independent work with the guidance of my advisor, painter, Gillian Illes. I also took a figure drawing and anatomy classes while I was there.

BS: I've read that you worked as an artist's assistant to Liza Johnson. What was that experience like? What did you learn from her?

AG: Liza Johnson was my video professor at Williams College (My thesis at Williams consisted of paintings, videos and photographs). I worked for Liza a few times a week for several months doing things like editing on Final Cut and helping her with some film shoots. I particularly enjoyed helping her with the shoots, as it exposed me to an entirely different realm of art making. It was a short lived experience, but one that I look back on fondly.

Index, oil and archival inkjet on canvas mounted to panel, 43 x 57 inches, 2006

BS: You have been a very active artist outside of the classroom-- having exhibited widely -- you were included in a presentation on the range of contemporary images of the Annunciation at Saint Elizabeth's College, your work can be found in several private collection, including that of renowned collector Jean Pigozzi, and you were recently presented to the Master's program at Christie's as a promising emerging artist. In you own words, how did you get to where you are today? Would you say that it takes a great deal of ambition to become a successful artist? Is it fate, luck, or simply the ability to endure?

AG: I definitely make an effort to stay active both in and out of my studio. That said, my top priority right now is my education and continuing to develop my work. I am not in a hurry to get myself out there too quickly, and I actually think that is apparent in my résumé. Every once in a while, I’ll submit slides or jpegs to something because it seems like my work might be a fit (hence, the presentation at St. Elizabeth’s). Also, being at Hunter provides tremendous exposure, particularly at the once-a-semester Open Studios. That is where I have sold some of my work, including to Jean Pigozzi, and that is where one of the Masters students from Christies saw my work.

Becoming a successful artist depends on your definition of "successful." If success is about having some people appreciate what you are doing, then I think it is mixture of dedication, hard work, and luck. If your definition of success includes widespread recognition and monetary stability, then get back to me in 30 years and I’ll let you know if that ever happened!

Purple Ink, oil and archival inkjet on canvas mounted to panel, 43 x 57 inches, 2006

BS: Alex, let us discuss the philosophy and motives behind your work. Based on what I've read, you view yourself as an outsider who takes part in society rather than simply 'looking in', so to speak. You accept the truths-- the norms of society --even though you don't fully accept them. In a sense, you go through the motions-- you walk the walk -- throwing aside your inner questions and doubts in order to embrace outward meaning-- which often means nothing. Can you go into further detail about this-- why these ideas have become the focus of your work? Do correct me if I'm wrong in my interpretation.

AG: I never fully cast aside my questions and doubts about the systems of society, but I try to. I think my work is, at heart, ironic and critical, but I try to get in there and join in what I sometimes perceive to be the absurdity of various belief systems. It is an effort to understand the human propensity to find meaning and then to believe in it, often wholeheartedly and without doubt. Why do we subscribe to the norms that cultures generate for us, even when they seem outdated? Why are we seduced by celebrity and branding? How is it possible for ideological warfare to be waged in the 21st century?

These are the kinds of questions that inspire my work and which I try to answer not with a statement of fact, but with a reflection on experience. It is always a bit of a catch 22 to make critical work, as it implies that the author of the work is somehow exempt from the socio-cultural forces on which s/he is commenting. Though I do feel that my personal experience as a gay man gives me some distance from which to question culture, in no way do I think of myself as exempt or absolved from the human tendency to subscribe to cultural systems. So, my work is more of a reflection on this contradiction in myself, but more importantly, in people in general.
This inquiry seems especially important to me now, at a time when world conflict over belief systems is particularly salient. It is at times like these that belief systems simultaneously crumble under the weight of being challenged and also garner strength as people desperately attempt to preserve them. I try to address the experience of this paradox in light of its absurdity, its humor, and its tragedy.

untitled, oil and inkjet on canvas, 44 x 85 inches, 2006

untitled, oil and inkjet on canvas, 44 x 85 inches, 2006

BS: There seems to be a great deal of psychology buried within your work-- I suppose that can be said of all art --but with your work it seems to be reaching out from within-- pulling at anyone who cares to observe it for those qualities. How exactly has the study of psychology influenced you? By any chance, are you interested in the theories of Carl Jung?

AG: I agree that psychology is a big part of my work. The experience of the paradox I mentioned previously is mostly an existential one, but the psychological component of that is huge. I understand completely why you asked me if I’m interested in Jung, as it could be argued that my work is about how people define themselves, collectively and as individuals. Also, my work often depicts a human drama, one filled with the theatricality of archetypal characters, with a particular emphasis on the Self and the Shadow. That said, Jung is not someone I have thought about until you mentioned him. Looks like I have some reading to do ;)

BS: Past interviewers have noted your distance in that you refuse to answer certain questions or dodge specific topics. Would you say that you prefer that your work speak for you? Can viewers find traces of your inner secrets within your work? When viewed as a whole, do they embody the essence of who you are, who you desire to be, and who you fear becoming?

AG: I, too, like to get inside an artist’s head, just a little bit. But I like to be able to do that by looking at his or her work. While knowing something about an artist’s context can be an important tool for interpretation, knowing all the sensational details of an artist’s life is not always necessary.

phone series installation, oil on canvas and linen, each panel is 24 x 24", 2005-2006

BS: Alex, allow me to ask some questions about your artistic practice. In recent years you have utilized digital photographs and other aspects of photography and technology within the context of your painting practice. Some of these works involve oil paint used directly on digital photographs. However, in the past--based on what I've read --you worked predominately with oil on canvas. Why did you make the move toward different mediums within the context of your painting practice? Was this a sudden change?

AG: I have always been fascinated by photography, and I have always incorporated elements of photography into my paintings. I am interested in the photograph as an artifact of culture, an index of a specific place and time. Regardless of how savvy we get with the manipulation of photography, there is always an initial sense of reality and a suggestion of truth due to its photomechanical process. While the photographer’s decisions influence every picture taken, there is no escaping the sense of reality that comes from the knowledge that the object in a photograph is or was real. I am interested in pitting the sense of reality in a photograph against the more noticeable construction of the painted image. For this reason, I came to a point in my work where the logical next step seemed to be to incorporate the photograph itself into my paintings.

BS: Do you consider yourself a private person as far as creating art is concerned? Or do you openly seek interaction with others about your work? In other words, is your studio door closed or open when you are working?

AG: I shared a studio for two years before moving to a private one this past summer. So, by default, my studio door was always open…until recently. Now, I love being able to choose when I want feedback, and when I don’t. In general, I am pretty private until I get to a point in my work where I need some fresh eyes.

BS: What type of studio routine do you follow? Is your studio practice structured or do you work sporadically? How is that work ethic reflected within the context of your art?

AG: I go to the studio 5 – 6 days per week in the mornings and I work as a private tutor in the afternoons and evenings. Oh, and I do go to classes a few times per week as well. I definitely have periods of intense work in the studio followed by periods that are less productive. A lot of my recent work is extremely time consuming and labor intensive, so once I get on a role with a piece or two, I am usually quite productive. When I’m in between pieces or series, I often have long periods of research and planning.

BS: What are the preliminary steps that you take when thinking about a new piece? Do you keep a sketch journal?

AG: I start with either an idea or an image and work from there. I always make a sketch, often upwards of ten sketches, using Photoshop before I commit to something bigger. I have a whole file of sketches for projects that never happened.

Homage to F.G.T., oil and archival inkjet print on photo paper mounted on Sintra, 22 x 40 inches, 2007

BS: Alex, what are you working on at this time? Also, do you have any exhibits planned for 2008?

AG: I am working on a couple of things. First, I am working on a photographic portrait that is a hybrid of Tammy Faye and myself. It will be an archival inkjet print with some gold leafing in the style of Christian Icon painting. This may be the start of a series, depending on how it turns out. Second, I am making an large (7 feet tall) mixed media version of The Assumption of Tammy Faye.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to tell our readers about your art?

AG: No, I think we covered it!

You can learn more about Alex Golden by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Art Space News: Russian Art Boom at Sotheby's

"Bluebells", an avant-garde piece by Natalia Goncharova and the most valuable work sold.

Over the past two days Sotheby's in London sold 79.8 million dollars worth of Russian art. The work included Orthodox icons, Russian paintings, works in porcelain and Faberge works. The large some of money set a record as being the most successful sale of Russian art to date. The record was formerly held by Christie's International-- which broke the record in 2006.

Sotheby's record breaking Russian art sale is due in part to the growing economy in Russia-- where there has been an annual 15 percent increase in millionaires each year since the late 1990s. Many of Russia's wealthiest feel that it is their duty to buy pieces of their national heritage. This growth in wealth and nationalism has caused Russian art prices to skyrocket. You can learn more about Sotheby's by visiting the Sotheby's website:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Art Space Talk: James Robert Ford

James Robert Ford is a contemporary British mixed media and installation artist. James attended Goldsmiths College, London. His artwork is often based around social interaction and include elements of game play, participation, communication and humor, and is recognizable in form by its heavy use of the Internet as a means of creating, displaying and promoting artworks.

I am not a fridge, Fridge door, magnetic letters, 52 x 80 x 11 cm, 2007

Brian Sherwin: James, you studied at Goldsmiths College. Who were your instructors at that time? Where else have you studied art?

James Robert Ford: When I was at Goldsmiths my tutors included Gerard Hemsworth, Jemima Stehli, Milly Thompson and Andy Harper, among others. I also studied at Nottingham Trent Uni for my BA and Winchester School of Art for my Foundation.

BS: James, it has been said that your work is concerned with the loss of innocence and the "endearment of the loser". Would you like to add to that description?

JRF: Those terms are based around the notion of replaying childhood past-times, pursuits and obsessions. Endearment of the loser infers that we should feel compassion towards the "losers" of society but also acknowledge that everyone is a bit of a loser. We all have a hobby or interest that we do not openly talk about for fear of ridicule. I openly display my regressive interests in my art and hope that the "loser" aspect of collecting toy cars, filming my cat or jumping around a house will allow the viewer to get past the pretension barrier of art and see the work in a new light.

BS: James, can you go into more detail about why you infuse your work with humor and a sense of play? Would you say that people need to remember that art can be fun and serious at the same time?

JRF: Exactly - as I was saying before, there needs to be a way into the art for the audience. Be that collective memories, humour, playfulness or some other connection. This "key" is very important. Without a way to unlock the door to a piece of art, you can't begin to see all the other levels it may be operating on.

BS: I understand that you made a British version of the General Lee... can you tell us about that? How did you create it and what was the motive behind it?

JRF: The piece was called "General Carbuncle" and it was an assemblage sculpture - 4,500 toy cars glued to a 2nd hand Ford Capri, made to look like the General Lee car. This work was 3 years in the making, way before there was any talk of a Dukes of Hazzard film. It took a long time to build because of problems with finding the right Capri, storing it, sourcing and buying all the toy cars, receiving donated toy cars and applying for funding. At the time (and still now) I was annoyed that American TV seemed to be wanting our successful British comedy shows but re-casting them and re-scripting them for an American audience. Shows like Absolutely Fabulous, The Office, etc. So I wanted to make a clumsy (as Americans stereotype the British as bumbling idiots) British version of an American screen symbol. Hence the General Lee and all it's accompanying non political correctness.

Six Degrees of Smoking, social interaction, web project, 2005-present

BS: James, some of your other works have involved Bond film plot structure, tracking the lives of lost cigarette lighters... can you discuss a few of these works and the motives behind them?

JFR: A lot of ideas in my work come from childhood experiences or everyday peculiarities. For the lighter project, I noted that I was constantly be asked by fellow smokers if they could borrow my lighter (because they had lost theirs). I would then sometimes forget to ask for it back, and hence loose my own. One day in Italy I lent my lighter to a girl from Finland who was flying home the next day. I never got it back and this got me thinking - I'd traveled with a lighter from England to Italy, and now the lighter was on it's way to Finland, all through getting passed on between smokers. So I set up a website and labeled up 250 lighters with instructions for the smoker to photograph themselves with the lighter, email or text the photo to me and then pass it on, to see where the lighters all ended up. Inevitably, many of the lighters never made it past the first person and were instantly lost down the back of a sofa or dropped in the street on a night out. I remember one instance in particular where I received an email from a participant in the project saying he wouldn't be passing the lighter on as he wanted to keep hold of it in case I became famous and he could sell it!
9 Rotating Rainbow Cranes, Animated screensaver

BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give us any details?

JRF: At the moment I'm working toward a group show in January and my first solo show in London in May. It's at a relatively new gallery called FERREIRA PROJECTS in Shoreditch ( I'm producing a whole new body of work based around Origami cranes. It's a progression from the paper folding I've used in my work in the past - for example Homage to a Crap Capri was a 1/4 size replica of a Ford Capri folded from one sheet of cardboard, and Fortune Tower was an online animation based on the Fortune Teller object that you used to make and play with your friends at school. It's the mystery of these folded objects that intrigues me - even if you are given a folded crane, a car or a fortune teller, you won't be able to figure out how to make it unless you are shown.
Homage to a crap Capri, cardboard, resin, paint, 107 x 32 x 38 cm, 2007

BS: James, from what I've read you expect participation from people who view your work. Due to this you often utilize the Internet as a way to 'connect' people to your work. Would you say that you draw inspiration from viewer activity? Does the opinions of viewers give you a sense of energy that you take into the next piece?

JRF: The Internet is a great way to connect and interact with viewers of the work. Testament to this was the House Gymnastics project that I did back in 2002 that is still ticking over in the background. Created out of boredom from being jobless, myself and Spencer Harrison started to literally climb the walls of our house. We began to create positions and give them names. We'd show people at parties and they'd want to see more so we set up a website. Friends would tell their friends about it and soon we were getting images of strangers performing the moves we'd invented and even creating new ones, which we published online. This site turned into a cult hit and spored a TV pilot, a published book and some art exhibitions. Audience input and effective collaboration does create a lot of energy because it shows that people are interested in the work and their involvement enhances the art.
House Gymnastics, performance, photography, publication, sculpture, website, 2002-present

BS: James, how important of a role do you think the Internet will play in the lives of artists from this point on? Most people tend to feel that the Internet empowers artists... do you think it can harm artists as well? What is your opinion?

JRF: It's definitely empowered me and a lot of my generation of artists - we were graduating when the Internet first started being used for arts promotion so it was new, exciting and untapped. It can harm artists in the way that nowadays almost every artist has a website or online profile. It's harder for the viewer and potential buyers to filter through the drudge. Not saying that my work is better than drudge, but if someone thought it was good they'd have to sift through a lot of other artists' profiles to get to mine. And this process can be overwhelming for the viewer - take for example the Saatchi gallery website. A great idea that has allowed thousands of artist to exhibit there work online. But trying to find something "good" is like picking through a massive tin of Quality Street for the last elusive Strawberry Cream.

BS: What other thoughts do you have about technology and art?

JRF: Technology can enhance art but it can also be detrimental to it. "New media" art (I despise that term) can become too hung up on how new and clever it is. New methods and outputs for artistic practice need to be married with creativity and great ideas.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to tell us about your work?

JRF: The work I'm making now is some of the best I've made. Initially I started folding paper cranes as a way to escape - Origami to me was like what playing chess was to Duchamp, although I never intended to retire at this point.
You can learn more about James Robert Ford by visiting his website-- You can take part in his blog project by visiting You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Art Space Talk: Lynn Digby

Lynn Digby describes herself as a contemporary realist. Much of her work is focused on the search for harmony in complexity-- realism serves as her vehicle. Awareness of the paint surface and tactile qualities of brush and canvas are key to her approach. Lynn explains that she wants her paintings to obviously be what they are without being overly derivative, photographic, or formulaic.

Sharpie Chic, oil on canvas, 20" x 16"

Brian Sherwin: Lynn, tell us about your early years-- your early artistic influences?

Lynn Digby: I think I’ve always drawn. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making art. As a child, I remember looking at wonderful art from the National Gallery, and various collections from all over the world in books at my aunt’s house. I remember being just transfixed at the paintings, and wanting to paint.

BS: Lynn, where did you study? Can you tell us about that experience?

LD: I went to college and graduated from Mount Union College, majoring in art education. I have never "studied" studio art as such. I am self-taught for the most part.
Pierced Portrait, oil on canvas, 16" x 12"

BS: Lynn, you have stated that realism serves as your vehicle in discovering harmony and complexity. You went on to say that you do not want your work to be overly derivative, photographic, or formulaic. Can you go into further detail about your goal in painting? The direction you have taken?

LD: I had decided a long time ago not to be overly worried about what was "in style" or what particular movement was the current rage. That never made sense because I feel that making art is personal and relevant only in the context of my personal view. My personal view is, of course, influenced by my exposure to art and to my environment. But other than that influence, I can’t jump on bandwagons and still make art that is authentic to me. So, my interests have led me to want to communicate a kind of richness that I see in a way that facilitates that message.

I have worked with abstract, non-objective pieces in the past (trying to be novel and relevant to what was considered modern and cutting edge, I suppose), but they have left me unhappy because they can’t quite get to the essence of what I am trying to convey. I understand this approach, but it’s not a vehicle of any use for my work now.

Working with realism is risky because there is so much of it out there that IS derivative, a copy of something better left as a photograph. But for me, the photograph is the beginning only. I use it to give me information that allows me to overlay a sort of ordered saturation. I start with an idea, and use conceptual sketches, photos and direct observation to get me where I need to go.

I think this is what is misunderstood in good photo-realist art, too. I’m not a photo-realist myself, but I know some darn fine ones, and the reason they are, is that they take the image and make it both hyper-real and personal at the same time. They create little worlds within the outwardly detailed world of the photo. They give it MORE.

I try to do the same thing. I like the idea of using a classical painting approach that has proven its immediacy and effectiveness over centuries. I feel no need to reinvent the wheel, or create a new artistic language, because this one resonates with me and serves my needs. I find it exciting to take the well- established language and use it to say what I want to say today. The use of photographic references is a stepping-stone to the concept I’ve envisioned for the painting. I make and manipulate many photographs to give me what I need for my basic idea. Then, the photographs are used as jumping off points to help me achieve my goal for the work. In some ways it’s cool not to worry too much about the process, too. I am really not process driven. I’m concept driven, I suppose. I want the product to stand on its own and the process to take a back seat.
In Your Face, oil on canvas, 11" x 14"

BS: Lynn, you have also stated that you look for serenity and stillness within chaos. You must admit that to some degree we live in chaotic times... how is this reflected in your portraits? While conveying this chaos... how do you find calm?

LD: I love to take absolute chaos of texture, color, form and movement and delve into this, but at the same time, find a sense of unity and calm that keeps it all together. I think this has to do with ordering values carefully as much as anything. But I am also trying to achieve an overall sense of quiet, of focus.

I’m struggling with this all the time. I want there to be another more hidden layer of emotion. I guess I’m looking for a kind of spiritual thing. It frustrates me constantly! People are endlessly complex and in motion, but there is always an essence that isn’t. It’s the constant. I want that to be what presents itself through the outward embellishments and decorations people display.

BS: Lynn, you do not attempt to glamorize the subjects of your portraits... in a sense, you focus on capturing the authentic person that you see. Do you see this as a critical practice? Are you looking for the outward or inner flaws of the individual?

LD: I guess I come from the place of really liking people. I enjoy seeing how people decorate themselves, but I tend to look past the outward "stuff" and want to meet the person within. I find people with interesting features, well, more interesting. I don’t see flaws, as such. People are people, and usually quite interesting and attractive, despite not having perfect features. I’d like to think that the fact that I like my subjects comes through. I don’t glamorize because there is no need, and it’s inherently dishonest to do so. Instead, I try to give an honest, but sympathetic presentation of the real person. (It just occurred to me that I wouldn’t want to paint someone I didn’t like…something to consider!)

I just see no point in negativity or derision for their own sakes. The path can be walked between cynicism and sugarcoated glamorization. The unembellished truth of a person’s appearance is far more interesting to me.

BS: People often hide aspects of themselves while in public. Do you try to convey this in your work? Are these portraits a study in psychology?

LD: I don’t think so. I am just trying to convey who these people are to me, their personality, and their liveliness. I sometimes choose subjects that have outward extreme body decorations, because we tend to stare at those and not get past them. I find it interesting to try to get past all that and make the center of interest something else.

BS: Would you say that they are an exploration of spirituality?

LD: I think so, more and more. Recently, I became aware of symbolist Gail Potocki’s work, and her work has become a major influence in my way of thinking approaches for new work. I like the idea of subliminal, and symbolic elements within the work used to convey a deeper layer of meaning.

BS: Lynn, can you tell us about your studio practice? Do you follow a routine?

LD: Routine? What’s that? I am a total failure at work ethic. It’s my Achilles’ heel. I am trying to force myself to work within a routine, because I know I need that, but so far, I’m all over the place.

BS: In regards to painting-- what is the medium that you prefer the most?

LD: I love oil paint. I’ve only worked for 3 years in this medium, so I’m really still learning the basics of it, but it’s sumptuous and sticky, and so buttery to blend. And I love the rich color, too. I used to do a lot of watercolor, and the transition to oil was remarkably easy. I am pretty sure I’ll never look back.
The Red Dress, oil on canvas, 24" x 12"
BS: Can you discuss some more of your influences? What artists or art movements have inspired you?

LD: Historic artists that have influenced me deeply are: Vermeer, Sargent, Carravagio, Velasquez, and Rembrandt to name only a few. As I mentioned before, recently Gail Potocki’s work has made me very excited. But some other living artists whose work I love (I can’t name them all. There are so many!) are Alex Kanevsky, Sean Cheetham, Jeremy Lipking, Hanjo Schmidt, Marti Jones Dixon, Nahem Shoa, Rose Fremuth-Frazier, and many others. One of the wonderful things about networking online is that I have been able to "meet" some of these people and discuss art with them. This is an amazing and tremendously useful thing!

BS: What is your goal as an artist? What do you hope to achieve with your work?

LD: I want to be able to communicate something that is beneath the surface, I suppose. It’s hard to find words to describe, I’m afraid. It’s like an underlying buzz of something else that lies just below the surface of the senses. Something not visible, really, but present. I didn’t say that very well.

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

LD: I think I’d like to say that I am comfortable with having a small voice. I don’t think my work will ever set the art world on fire, but to me, this isn’t what making art is about. I am really happy to pursue my own ideas and play with their expression in paint. My wish is that people who see them enjoy them, and that some of what I am trying to do is made clear. That’s about it, I guess.
You can learn more about Lynn Digby by visiting the following page-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Art Space Talk: Sylvia Sleigh

Sylvia Sleigh is considered by many to be a living legend of the art world. Her work has graced the pages of important art publications and can be found in several college text books. Sylvia inspired a generation of artists by making some of the first major cracks in the 'glass ceiling' of the art world. Sylvia explains that her paintings stress the equality of men and women-- they portray man and woman as thoughtful and intelligent by capturing a sense of dignity and humanism. These works emphasize love and joy.

Sylvia made her mark in the 1970s when she painted a series of works reversing stereotypical artistic themes involving nude figures. Sylvia's paintings depicted naked men in poses usually associated with women. Some of these paintings directly alluded to existing works, such as her gender-reversed version of Ingres's The Turkish Bath-- the reclining man in her version is her husband, Laurence Alloway. Philip Golub Reclining alludes similarly to the Rokeby Venus by Velazquez. However, other works equalize the roles of men and women, such as the 1976 Concert Champetre, in which all of the figures are nude, unlike its similarly composed namesake by Titian, in which only the women are nude.

Situation Group Portrait by Sylvia Sleigh

Brian Sherwin: Sylvia, can you tell our readers about your early years? Can you recall any experiences from your childhood that influenced your decision to pursue art as an adult? Did any of your family members influence you?

Sylvia Sleigh: My mother, Katherine Miller, commonly known as Kitty, has been a tremendous influence on me all my life. She created a beautiful bed sitting room in a large room at the top of my Grandmother’s house with fascinating books of European paintings & fine art magazines with beautiful color illustrations. (The color illustrations were unusual at this time, because of the expense – so, this was even more precious.) She read me French fairy tales and the Iliad and The Odyssey. She was also a great story teller.

My mother went to South Africa when I was nine and came back five years later. Prior to her departure to South Africa, mother sold all the books and furniture in large room. She left me with a kind and loving governess, Frances Simmonds, a clergyman’s daughter who taught me water colors. We lived in Hove in Sussex, England. And in those days the country was only walking distance away. We were close to the The Downs, so we picked wild flowers and painted them when we came home. Unfortunately she did not stay very long as grandma sent her away. She often sent people away when I was fond of them.

Soon after my mother returned from Africa she went to live in the extreme southeast corner of France -Les Alpes Maritimes. In a small walled town called Vence in the mountains.Vence is famous for being home to artists, sculptors and painters, including Matisse, who painted my half sister. There I painted my first landscapes. My mother gave me my first box of oil paints when I was 14 years old with a palate, canvas and brushes. The first thing that I painted was from my imagination, the head of a young woman with long brown hair in tears. There I painted my first landscapes in watercolors and oils.

Just before I went to Brighton School of Art when I was just 17, my school friend Frances Kirkhope and I took some lessons from an elderly RA (Royal Academician) who was a talented portrait painter and when we went to France to stay with mother we painted portraits of each other (on different canvas) reclining in evening dresses. Which I was very pleased with at the time. On another occasion I painted a portrait of my step father (head and shoulders) Joseph Canceda.
Maureen Conner and Paul Rosano: Venus and Mars by Sylvia Sleigh

BS: Sylvia, I've read that you were still living in Europe during WWII. How did those years impact you as a person and as an artist?

SS: I was not in Europe during the war. I was in Brighton, England. At the age of 23 I had a Shop, I made hats, coats and dresses. I moved in-land during the war. So, there was no real impact. I just could not do anything. I moved back to Brighton a few months later as we realized that England would not be invaded and we would be secure. I lived in a beautiful coast guard cottage. I did not reopen my shop. I did paint during this time.

I married my first husband Michael Greenwood in November 1941 and reluctantly I moved to London with him. I met Michael while I attended school at Brighton School of Art. Back in London, if there was an air raid warning I would put on my tin hat and with one of my neighbors, we kept watch in the streets for the "doodle bug" or the Vergeltungswaffe, The V-1, German guided missile.

Lawrence Alloway with Bowtie by Sylvia Sleigh

BS: Sylvia, why did you decide to move to the States? Did you feel any sort of isolation upon arriving? Can you recall any of your first experiences in the United States? How did that influence you as an artist?

SS: I did not really decide to move to the States. Lawrence Alloway, my husband, was offered a job teaching Modern Art history at Bennington College, Vermont. As he was badly in need of work he was delighted and honored to go. He was offered a year and had always wanted to go. He had his wish in 1958 he had a Foreign Leader Grant and for a month traveled all over the states and visited Bennington because Clement Greenberg told him Betty Parsons was driving to Bennington the next day where there was a show of Barnet Newman.

When he arrived he met the chairmen of the Art Department, Gene Gossens and the faculty. We had met Clement Greenberg in England and he came to see us when he arrived. As the visit was only a school year. I did not mind. I had not wanted to come to America. I asked Lawrence to be sure to come from home in a year. I was very lonely at first as Lawrence was teaching or in his office most of the day and I did not know anyone. But I did do a lot of painting. It had a beautiful landscape. I soon got to know people by painting portraits of the art faculty. We also were friendly with the drama faculty as one of the other new members was as new as we were. He was the playwright in residence.

By the time the year was up I was very happy in the States and did not want to come home. The art scene was particularly exciting and we were especially friendly with Barnet Newman and Alex Lieberman who were encouraging and interested in my work. I felt very stimulated and eager to do large paintings! I even got some useful advice from Clement Greenburg!

The Turkish Bath by Sylvia Sleigh

BS: Sylvia, in the 1970s you painted a series of works that reversed stereotypical artistic themes by featuring naked mean in poses that are traditionally associated with women. Some directly alluded to existing works, such as your gender-reversed version of Ingres's The Turkish Bath. Some of your other works, such as Concert Champetre, equalize the roles of men and women by displaying the entire figures nude. I'm certain that you have been asked countless times about the motive behind these works-- however, can you recall anything about them that you may not have shared before?

SS: Although I think that through the Ages in most countries women have been treated rather badly it is important not to hate men – they are here to stay! Throughout my career I have found many kind and helpful men, including my second husband. I think we need to explain our position. I asked Lawrence when we were courting if he thought I am inferior to the most stupid and unpleasant men you can think of you ought not be with me.

BS: As you know, the art world has been faced with gender related issues. At one time the art world was very male-dominated. However, it would seem that the art world has been more equal than ever before in recent years. Would you agree with that statement? Or do feel that there is more that needs to be done to even the playing field, so to speak? What changes have you noticed? What changes still need to be made?

SS: I do think things have improved for women in general there are many more women in Government, in law and corporate jobs, but its very difficult in the art world for women to find a gallery.
Philip Golub Reclining by Sylvia Sleigh

BS: Sylvia, I've read that when you were an art student you were told that you had no talent by an instructor. Obviously you have a great deal of talent-- having received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Do you have any words of encouragement for art students who are degraded by their instructors or peers? Perhaps you have some words of wisdom for art students in general?

SS: I can only say that one has to be very single minded, if not obstinate and think that just doing the work is important though one does really need some encouragement. However one usually has something one needs, to express which gives one great satisfaction and there is a pleasure of knowing other artists.

BS: Sylvia, you mentioned that it is difficult in the art world for women to find a gallery. Do you think this will change in the near future? In your opinion, what steps can men and women take together to improve upon this?

SS: Although I think many men can be censored for their bad attitude and bad treatment of women. I have found a number of men understanding and helpful. I think we should explain to them our many difficulties and try to help them to understand that equality would really be helpful to them too. A real partnership would strengthen both genders and save men the trouble of trying to be superior. They need to feel secure then they would not feel threatened. Mother and teachers could help there.
Annunciation by Sylvia Sleigh

BS: Sylvia, what is your view on the art star mentality that seems to have taken over the art world-- young artists earning thousands of dollars for their work straight out of art school with little to no reputation to warrant that price? Many of these artists are driven into obscurity after their moment of instant fame has passed. In regards to the business side of art... is this practice damaging to the art world as a whole? Should young artists be wary of instant success?

SS: Some things in the 60s were similar to today’s situation, but on a much smaller scale. I am sure the galleries love to have 50% of the large sums of money the students earn. I hope some are female. Any artist having instant success should enjoy it! Remembering at the same time that the situation is so momentary it is not to be depended on.
A.I.R Group Portrait by Sylvia Sleigh

BS: Sylvia, when all is said and done... what do you hope that future generations gain from your art?

SS: A friend of mine asked me to say in two words what my work was about and was very Surprised when I said, "Love and Joy". I have always felt so strongly that there are so many wonderful things to enjoy we could all have a happy and satisfying life. But of course with global warming and the horrible political scene who knows. In 2003 I decided that I needed a motto well mottoes are usually in Latin which gives them Grandeur & prestige. So, I chose a line from an old time popular song "Remember you’re the one who can fill the world with sunshine." A kind friend translated it into Latin: "Tene memoria tu es quisdam quie mundum cum luce solis compiere potes."
You can learn more about Sylvia Sleigh by visiting her website-- Information about Sylvia can also be found on the I-20 Gallery website-- A huge thanks goes to Douglas John for helping during the interview process. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Friday, November 23, 2007

Art Space Talk: Sonya Sklaroff

Sonya Sklaroff is inspired by the urban landscape. From her studio in SoHo she captures the energy and character of New York City. Her paintings frequently include water towers, fire escapes, street lamps, and other seemingly mundane elements of the NYC infrastructure. However, these structures are just one aspect of her paintings-- at the core of her work is a strong interest in abstraction. Sonya challenges herself with different methods of composition, contrasting elements of light and dark, complementarycolors, and negative space.

School Bus in Times Square, oil on panel, 36x48

Brian Sherwin: Sonya, you studied at Rhode Island School of Design and Parsons School of Design. Can you tell us about these experiences? Who were your instructors? What kind of student were you?

Sonya Sklaroff: Studying at RISD was an amazing experience. I was surrounded by students who were so similar to me: dedicated and creative artists who enjoyed working in the studio all day and all night. The Freshman Foundation program was one of the most challenging and best years of my life; I was forced to use new materials and think in a whole new way. I carved a rock, made a paper mache tree installation, learned to bind a book, learned to use a glue gun, and sculpted in foam core.

During my junior year I concentrated on painting portraits. Of all the instructors who supported and influenced my work, one to single out is David Frazer. He was positive and energetic; we keep in touch and he continues to be an inspiration. Additionally Susan Vander Closter, my literature professor, opened up a whole new world for me with books by Nobakov, Wharton, Gogol, Stendhal, and so many others. I remember working on a portrait in painting class, and when the model would take a break, I’d whip out and read a page or two of Virginia Woolf!

I had already spent a few years as a professional artist by the time I did my graduate work at the Parsons School of Design. The best aspect of Parsons was the visiting faculty: each week I’d have a different well-known artist in my studio to critique my work. One of the highlights was having Faith Ringgold as a graduate critic. Her encouragement and her insights had a great influence on me.
Five Water Towers at Dusk, oil on panel, 30x30

BS: Sonya, in regards to the European Honors Program in Rome, Italy... can you tell us about RISD's selection process? How did your experience in Rome influence you as an artist?

SS: RISD selected 25 students to attend the one-year program in Rome. Candidates were required to have excellent grades and also have written recommendations from RISD faculty. In Providence, I had focused my junior year on portraiture. But during my senior year in Rome, I was fascinated by the architecture and the daily life in Italy. After a while, I set aside my portrait painting and instead opted to go out and draw in my sketchbook all day long. I drew the buildings, the people in the piazzas, sculptures, the cafes, and churches. I still look back at these sketchbooks. I realized during my year in Rome that I needed to explore and record the outside world, transferring a larger space onto a canvas.

BS: Sonya, you have stated that the urban landscape inspires you-- have you always had a love for it? Why does it touch you?

SS: The urban landscape supplies me with an excuse to play with light and shadow, complementary color, and composition. I never tire of New York City because it continually provides me with new images depending on the time of day, the weather, and my mood. The city has an intense intermingling of light and darkness, and the architecture creates a wide variety of negative space shapes like you don’t really find anywhere else.
Three Water Towers and Red Sky, oil on panel, 30x30

BS: Sonya, would you like to discuss how you mesh a realistic or representational approach with an abstract perspective? Your work is not simply about buildings and the NYC infrastructure... tell us what is at the core of these works...

SS: Even though my paintings are derived from life, I focus on abstract ideas. Composition is the most important element to my paintings. I may start a painting and if it is not working, then I may add or subtract something to enhance the composition. In this way I am not relying solely on realism. I also will not remain true to life when I’m working on the color. If a sky is a warm tone, I may change it to red. If a building is sunlit, I may exaggerate the color of it. The subjects and scene are only a starting point.
Water Tower and Lamp Post, oil on panel, 30x30

BS: In your work you often capture aspects of the city that are overlooked by most people. Upon viewing your work the viewer is reminded of what can be conveyed through the most mundane of structures. How do you 'see' the city, so to speak-- how do you decide upon the sections that you utilize within the context of your work?

SS: I am drawn to the more rugged and older parts of the city. Like any living organism, a building or neighborhood must mature; it develops character over time. I love the silhouetted dark shapes of the water towers against the bright sky, or the patterns of the fires capes. Many who envision New York, think of the Empire State Building or the skyline. I love to paint the New York that people tend to walk by. If I do paint the Empire State Building or another famous landmark, it is generally not the main focus of the painting.

BS: Can you discuss your process? How do you start a painting? Do you see the image in your mind first? Do you draw it out? When do you know that you have observed something that you must capture?

SS: I know when I have to paint something by the feeling I get when I look at the scene. It may be one particular element – like a sliver of light hitting the street at an angle. I work on a colored burnt sienna or yellow ochre ground, and usually sketch out the composition with an ultramarine blue wash mixed with a lot of turpentine directly onto the panel. I’ve been using a lot of Windsor and Newton Liquin, a fast drying medium that gives the paint a rich viscosity and varies the shine of the paint. I also work on panel and not canvas. I love the firmness of the panel and how it provides me with a slick surface and no bounce as I’m painting.

Cafe in the Snow, oil on panel, 24x24

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

SS: Right now I’m working on lots of paintings for my upcoming solo shows in 2008 and 2009. While the work for these shows is almost all cityscapes, I also find time to go out to the country to paint outdoors, en plein air, and work on smaller colorful paintings of the fall foliage, old Victorian houses, and quaint towns. My last two painting trips were to Nyack, New York, and Gloucester, Massachusetts. Focusing on a different subject matter helps to keep my work fresh. I try to travel often to constantly add new subjects to my visual vocabulary. This adds a new dimension to my cityscapes.

BS: Where can our readers observe your work? Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have a website?

SS: My personal website is I am currently represented by a number of galleries: David Findlay Galleries in New York; Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco, CA; Sparts Gallery in Paris, France; Cavalier Galleries in Nantucket, MA and Greenwich, CT; Lagalery in St. Paul de Vence, France; and Galerie des Remparts in Bordeaux, France. I also have an art agent in New York, Odile Gorse, whose website is Until February 2008 you can see my work on view at the Corning Gallery at Steuben Glass (667 Madison Avenue) in New York.

Winner on Canal, oil on panel, 36x48

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your work or your love for NYC?

SS: I love New York City because of its architecture, the people, and the endless inspiration that it supplies me for my work. But I think the things I love most about New York are the little things that I notice when I’m walking out my door every morning to go to my studio. The taxicabs rushing by, the trash trucks collecting garbage, the people walking briskly to work, the smell of the street vendors selling roasted chestnuts and pretzels and hot dogs, the rumble of the subway under my feet, the steam seeping out of street manhole covers… I walk outside every morning and think how lucky I am to be here.

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

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Art Space Talk: Henry Horenstein

Henry Horenstein has worked as a photographer, teacher, and author since the early 1970s-- his career as a teacher started at Harvard in 1974. Henry is author of over 30 books, including many monographs (HONKY TONK, HUMANS, CREATURES, AQUATICS, CANINE, RACING DAYS). His newest book CLOSE RELATIONS was recently published by powerHouse Books; it’s a collection of photographs he made as a student of Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind’s at RISD in the early 1970s. Henry's textbooks have been widely used by hundreds of thousands of photography students over past 30 years. Henry lives in Boston where he continues to photography, exhibit, publish, and teach at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he is professor of photography. He is known for being one of the most influential photography educators in the United States.

Brian Sherwin: Henry, tell us about your background-- are there any early experiences you would like to share in regards to your first years working with photography? When did you decide to first pick up a camera?

Henry Horenstein: I started out as a history student at University of Chicago. It was the late 1960s and everyone, including me, felt a little restless. A roommate showed me how to use a camera and I was hooked. Taking pictures was a lot more interactive, and a lot more fun, than study in the library stacks.

BS: Henry, you have worked as a photographer, author, and teacher since the early 1970s. How were you able to find balance while working in so many directions? Would you say that one pursuit feeds off the next, so to speak?

HH: For me, it's one of the same. My professional work is teaching and photographing and I enjoy them equally. More fun and rewarding than just teaching or just taking pictures. The books are the natural outlets for my ideas about teaching, thus the textbooks, and my personal photography, thus the monographs.

BS: You studied under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at RISD in the early 1970s. Can you discuss how they influenced you as a young photographer? Did they inspire you to be come a professor of photography at RISD?

HH: They were both great teachers, with very different styles. I think I learned from Aaron to try hard to be supportive of students and to not lord my experience over them. I learned from Harry that hard works get results. And I learned from both of them that the life of a teacher/photographer was a life worth pursuing. Sounds a little silly now, but in the early 1970s there weren't that many role models for this kind of career goal. As for teaching at RISD, this was blind luck. I taught at several schools before returning to RISD as a teacher, then a job came available and I got it.

BS: Henry, your textbooks have been widely used by hundreds of thousands of photography students over the past 30 years. How do you feel knowing that you inspire young minds to create-- that you have taken part in their instruction?

HH: I feel very appreciative and lucky. When I wrote my first textbook, schools were just beginning to offer a lot of photography classes, so there was need for such a book. Timing, as they say, is everything.

BS: Are you writing anything at this time? Also, where is the best place for our readers to find your books if they are interested?

HH: Working on books of my own work—one called ANIMALIA, out spring 08, is a compilation of my animal photos. Another is on burlesque. Always revising a textbook, it seems. If people have an independent bookstore nearby, I suggest supporting them. Otherwise, AMAZON or some other online retailer is probably the best place to find my books.

BS: Henry, you are known for you unique manner of capturing your subject matter. For example, your photographs of the animal kingdom-- often characterized by shooting very close to the subject -- are at times difficult to identify at first glance. Can you discuss why you capture subjects in this manner?

HH: Well, I'm trying to find a different way to see the animals. So many good pictures from so many great photographers of these subjects over the years. Otherwise why bother? I am trying to bring a more intimate look, to see if the animals can "tell" us something, not necessarily about them, but maybe us. There's a photo of a texas-map turtle, for example, treading water. That's how so many of us feel so often ,I think.

BS: Henry, your Humans series of photographs explore the human body as a form of landscape. These images have been noted for never giving way to aesthetic perfection. We live in a fairly open society, yet the general public is still often wary of nudity. Would you say that part of your goal with Humans is to challenge viewpoints concerning the nude human form? Can you go into detail about this series of photographs-- the motive behind them?

HH: Really they are extensions of the animal photos. I like the roughness (grain, contrast, varying focus planes) because they show another side of the human body. And I try to show man and women, not just one or the other. But these pictures have little to do with the people or sexuality or the usual things nude photos are about. They are meant to see their subjects in a different light and maybe suggest something about ourselves.

BS: Henry, how do you decide on a theme to explore? The possibilities seem endless-- how do you decide what to focus on?

HH: They are endless. I just pick subjects that interest me and that make good photographic subjects. Simple. I am not working for a client, in the traditional sense. Bad news: I may never get paid. Good news: I get to do what I want.

BS: What are you working on at this time with your photography? Also, will you be exhibiting in the near future?

HH: The books I mentioned above. Yes, some shows. Always trying. There's animal work up in Cambridge, MA now at the Harvrad Museum of Natural History and at Gallery 339 in Philadelphia in the spring. Also, some work in Paris in a group show called Bettes et Hommes

BS: Henry, what kind of equipment do you use?

HH: Canon 35mm film cameras and 5D digital. Fuji 645 and Mamiya 6 medium-format film cameras.

BS: Finally, do you have any advice for photographers who are just starting out?

HH: My advice is a cliche, I'm afraid, but here goes: Be yourself. Don't let other talk you out of what you want to do. Listen. Consider. Make your own way. There are many ways to skin a cat.

You can learn more about Henry Horenstein by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Art Space Talk: Brian Alfred

Brian Alfred lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He received his Masters of Fine Arts from Yale University in 1999. Since that time he has enjoyed solo exhibitions at the Mary Boone Gallery, Max Protetch Gallery, Sandroni Rey Gallery, SCAI the Bathhouse, and Haunch of Venison. Alfred's work has garnered many awards including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award and a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. His work is represented in many important collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum.

Spray by Brian Alfred

Brian Sherwin: Brian, it is my understanding that you were born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-- you now live in Brooklyn, New York. How did moving to Brooklyn influence your work? Would you say that your experiences in Brooklyn have helped your work to mature?

Brian Alfred: I imagine growing up in Pittsburgh has had an effect on my work more so than anywhere else. There’s a certain feel and aesthetic to Pittsburgh that I think comes through my work subconsciously. I travel a lot and I think that also has a big influence on my work.

BS: Brian, you obtained a BFA from Pennsylvania State University and an MFA from Yale University. Can you tell us about your academic years? Who were your instructors at that time? How did the art departments influence you during those early years?

BA: For me, school was a great opportunity to work out idea after idea without worry of failure. At Penn State my teachers who really impacted me were Robert Yarber, Helen O’Leary and Julie Heffernan. At Yale, Mel Bochner, Rochelle Feinstein and a long list of great visiting artists were very valuable in the studio. I tried to really utilize every moment and every resource to develop my work and really immerse myself in all aspects of art making.
Surveillance Plane by Brian Alfred

BS: Brian, you are represented by the Mary Boone Gallery. How long have been represented there? Are you represented by any other galleries?

BA: I have been at Mary Boone for a couple years now. I am also represented by Haunch of Venison London/Zurich/Berlin, Studio La Citta in Verona, and SCAI the Bathhouse in Tokyo.

BS: Brian, you have accomplished a lot in recent years. You were awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2003, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award in 2006-- and during that same time frame you were reviewed by major publications like Art in America and the New York times-- your work can be found in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art. What would you say contributes to your success?

BA: I hope that any success that I have had comes from my work connecting with people and the way they look at our world. I feel like I have been given opportunities that have helped me continue to work hard and share my ideas with a lot of people, and that’s really all I could ask for.
Matsumoto by Brian Alfred

BS: Brian, let us talk about your art. Your work often involves banal, urban structures and spaces. However, you also create portraits-- I really enjoyed viewing Tanaka and Matsumoto. How are the portraits connected to you more dominate work? Should your work be seen as a whole?

BA: I have painted landscapes for many years. I really think of these spaces as descriptions of who we are as people by what we create and what surrounds us. Recently I started a project of painting portraits of people who have been in my mind over the years in the studio. I paint paintings, make paper collages, make sculpture/installations and animations. I see all my work as one whole. To me, the differences between two images or the differences in the way they are created is as much of the content as the image itself.
Tanaka by Brian Alfred

BS: How do you decide upon your next venture? Do you keep a journal-- sketchbook? Do ideas pop into your mind, so to speak? When you are running the errands of your daily life do you 'see' future pieces before you? In other words, is a walk down the street just a walk down the street... or do you gain new ideas with with each passing block? Give us some insight into how your mind works.

BA: I usually get ideas as I am working. I think all the things I see when I am traveling or out and about get stored in my mind and as I am working on things in the studio, they just seem to come out. I am definitely not one who sits and waits for the idea to come to me. I need to create and ideas come from working through things. I think my journal is my laptop. I make most of my drawings on it.

BS: Brian, can you go into further detail about the philosophy behind your work? I've read that you are influenced by the Utopian sensibilities of avant-garde early-Modernists like Wassily Kandinsky, is that so? Can you describe that connection?

BA: I really like to think of my work as being influenced by everything. My work could be about anything from the beauty of a tree to the chaos of an earthquake to utopic ideals to conspiracy theories to meteor showers to corporate life, etc, etc…It’s basically all about our world.
Double Rainbow by Brian Alfred
BS: What other artists or art movements have inspired you? Is it important for your work to have a connection to pivotal points in art history or are you more interested in the 'now', so to speak? In other words, is the study of past artists a crucial part of your research or do you feel that the experiences of present day are more vital to what you are conveying within context of your art?

BA: I have a love for history and art history and the impact that the past has had on our work today. That said, I agree that art has to be of one’s own time, and I hope that my work connects with our world today in an unconscious and meaningful way. As far as movements, I have affinities for Pop Art, Constructivism, Minimalism, Conceptual Art, Propaganda Art, but nothing comes close to the love I have for Ukiyo-e. There’s something about those images that connect with me that no other work does.
Larry Young by Brian Alfred

BS: Speaking of the future, I've read that you are preparing for a solo show titled 'Millions Now Living Will Never Die'. Can you tell us about your plans for the exhibit? Where will it be held? Will you be exhibiting new work?

BA: ‘Millions’ will open in January at Haunch of Venison Berlin. I have been working on the work for this show for almost three years. It’s the longest I have ever worked on one show. It will consist of 333 painted portraits of people who have been in my head in my studio over the years. There will also be 33 paper collage portraits, a group of animated portraits, an installation of ‘book portraits’ and a group of ‘protest paintings.’ It’s really about all these people who have an impact on you or who influence you and it never directly comes out in your work aesthetically. People tend to think the only people who must impact you as an artist are those who create work that looks very similar to your own. This project attempts to blow that out of the water.
A self-portrait by Brian Alfred

BS: Do you have any other exhibits planned for 2008? Can you give us details?

BA: I have a group show about landscape at the Shizuoka Museum of Art in Japan and a group show about mapping and cartography at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

BS: Brian, do you have any advice for art students-- any survival tips?

BA: Work hard. My motto has always been work, work work. If your not 150% into what you are doing, there’s not much chance other people will be.
BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

BA: I hope it makes you think.
You can learn more about Brian Alfred by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Friday, November 16, 2007

Art Space Talk: Amir Fallah

Artist and designer, Amir H. Fallah, lives and works in Los Angeles, California. At the age of sixteen, he founded Beautiful/Decay magazine, and has seen it evolve from a black & white xeroxed zine into an internationally distributed publication. As the Creative Director of Beautiful/Decay, Amir has molded the magazine into one of today's most well respected and reputable independent Publications.

Amir's aesthetic, knowledge and creative intuition is sought after internationally. His CV includes creating illustrations for numerous publications, speaking on panels at colleges and universities, and orchestrating and revitalizing entire brand identities and events.

After receiving a Bachelor Of Fine Arts from The Maryland Institute College of Art, Amir went on to complete his Masters Of Fine Art at UCLA in 2005. His past exhibits include shows at 4-F gallery, M.Y. Art Prospects, Laband Gallery,Cherrydelosreyes, Overtones gallery and the Scope Miami Art Fair. He is currently represented by the Third Line Gallery in Dubai, UAE.

Brian Sherwin: Amir, you are the founder of Beautiful/Decay magazine. Can you tell our readers how B/D came into being?

Amir Fallah: I started Beautiful/Decay with my best friend Jay when I was 16 years old .It was a small black and white zine that we made to pass time and to connect with other artists around the D.C. area. I stopped making the zine after a few issues and Jay and I went our separate ways to college. During my last year of college I restarted Beautiful/Decay as a full color magazine. After the first 2 issues I met my current business partners Ben Osher and Fubz. They both had a zine called Manifest in the Baltimore area. They first came on to help with advertising and marketing. After a few more issues I made them my partners and we have been running the magazine together ever since. The three of us oversee all the various aspects of the business.
BS: What was your original intention for B/D-- how has the publication matured since those early years?
AF: In the beginning it was just something for fun. Now it’s a real business with employees, bills, offices on both coasts and an international following. The magazine has matured in every aspect. It’s come a long way from being a black and white zine made on a copy machine. It’s been a rewarding process as I’ve learned a lifetimes worth of lessons from the various achievements and the occasional mistakes that we’ve made.

BS: B/D is one of the most well-respected independent publications. B/D has been involved with several events-- for example, last year B/D worked with Scope New York. Can you tell us about that association?
AF: We’re always looking for collaborative opportunities with new companies and artists. The event with Scope progressed very naturally. We had distributed magazines at their various fairs in the past and somewhere along the way we discussed doing an event together. Since we have an office in NYC and hold parties regularly in the city it was easy for us to come in and work with them on the official scope opening.
We have a whole list of upcoming events coming up for the rest of 2007 and all of 2008. We will be working with a wide range of partners to produce more in-depth events such as our Vis/Ed screening which will take place on November 20th at the Anthology Film Archives in NYC. For Vis/Ed we have invited Brand New School, The Happy Corp and to screen and discuss inspiring videos, films, and animations from their personal collection. We hope to expand Vis/Ed into a traveling screening that will be showing in various venues nationally.
BS: Can you explain a little bit about the creative forum, Vis/Ed, you're producing on Nov. 20th? How did it come about? Why did you select the three creative companies you did?
AF: In the last several years videos have become such a large staple in the creative community as video friendly computers and sites like have become popular. Vis/Ed came about as a reaction to the popularity of video. You no longer needed millions of dollars and a huge staff to produce quality videos. You could produce, create, and distribute video now with a click of a button on your Mac., Brand New School, and The Happy Corp are three companies that I’ve always admired. They all have amazing reputations in the creative community and have been working with moving images in a variety of ways. Vis/Ed is a unique opportunity to not only watch and discuss the work that they have made but also work by other artists and designers that they admire.

Example of B/D Apparel

BS: Your Fall Apparel Line will be hitting stores soon- what can we expect? What are some of your favorite pieces from the new collection?

AF: Our fall line of apparel is amazing. I’m very proud of how the apparel is shaping up. We started the Apparel division of B/D with only 4 shirts and within a year it has grown into a 40+ piece collection. My favorite pieces would have to be our exclusive Aya Kato line. We’ve been big fans of her work for ages and its great to put out the line with her.

BS: Amir, you participated in a panel discussion entitled "UNBOUND: How L.A.'s Art Magazines are Changing the Face of Popular Culture"-- In your opinion, how are publications like B/D influencing popular culture?

AF: Independent art and culture magazines are powerful in that they document and publicize a wide array of artists and designers without the restrictions and politics that most mainstream magazines run into. We don’t have to answer to a publisher so we can print what we want when we want. This gives us the freedom to put unknown artists on our cover and to give emerging talent a break that they wouldn’t get in larger, corporate publications.

Works 2, acrylic, ink, watercolor, pencil on paper mounted to canvas, 24 x 30 in., 2007

BS: Amir, you are an artist as well. Your work was displayed at The Third Line Gallery in Dubai for the first ever Gulf Art Fair. Can you tell our readers about that experience? What can you tell us about the Gulf Art Fair?

AF: I’ve been to Dubai twice now and it has always been a pleasure. It really is an amazing place with not just a rapidly growing economy but also a burgeoning art scene. I’m lucky in that The Third Line is one of the best galleries in the region and has been extremely supportive of my work. I didn’t get to attend the Gulf Art Fair last year. The Third Line took my work to it. However this year I will be flying out for the fair to build a site specific installation.

BS: Amir, can you tell our readers about your youth? I've read that you started out as a graffiti artist, is that so? Can you recall any youthful experiences that continue to drive you in the direction you are going today-- with the publication and your art?
AF: I was never interested in art until I began doing graffiti. I did tons of graffiti for over 12 years. Some of the best memories and experiences iv’e had have been a direct result of painting graffiti. Graffiti taught me to create for myself first. I was never thinking about galleries or an audience when I was painting. I was doing it for the pure joy of making something. I’ve carried this mentality over to my artwork as well as b/d. Its like the cheesy saying " you can’t love anyone until you love yourself. " I’d like to think that others won’t love your magazine if you don’t love it yourself.

Kissing the Suns, acrylic, ink, pencil, color pencil on paper mounted to canvas, 24 x 30 in., 2007

BS: With that said, can you tell us about your artistic practice? For example, your paintings and drawings-- can you tell us about the process that goes into creating them?

AF: I have 2 modes of practice when I make art. The first mode is research and development. I read a lot, conduct surveys and interviews, and make preparatory plans before each body of work. Once I feel comfortable about the content I’m dealing with I put the research aside and start to make things. I try not to over think the work too much. You can do all the research you’d like but once you start making art it usually takes on its own life. I let all the research filter through me to make the work. Most of the time the end result is good but every once in a while I’ll end up having to scrap a piece and start over.

Venice Beach- Gender Neutral, acrylic, ink, pencil, color pencil on paper mounted to canvas, 36 x 48 in., 2007

BS: You often use images of forts in your work-- can you tell us about the symbology behind the use of those structures? What other forms of symbolism do you utilize within the context of your art?

AF: When I was a kid I used to love to build forts and tree houses. They were places to get away and play pretend. I would hang out in them for hours and goof off, day dream of girls that I’ve had crushes on and look at the occasional nudie magazine. In a weird way the forts were like a gallery or performance space where anything and everything could happen. I’ve also started to paint my cacti collection into the paintings. The cacti function as placeholders for people in the work. Sometimes they are in the shelter of the forts and sometimes they are painted alone in a deserted landscape to fend for themselves.

(The Greater Velocity) The Greater Risk of Hurt, acrylic, ink, pencil on paper mounted to canvas, 36 x 48 in., 2007

BS: Amir, where else do you draw inspiration from?-- what artists or art movements have influenced you?

AF: I’m inspired by many artists across many genres. I collect books on many of the artists that I’m currently interested in. I just picked up the catalog for the Matthew Monahan show at the MOCA here in LA and the last Lari Pittman show at Regen projects was amazing! He continually blows me away with his work. It’s completely seamless.

BS: Finally, is it difficult finding balance between the work you do for B/D and the passion you have for your art? Or would you say that they feed off of each other? Has the work you've done with B/D made you a better artist, so to speak?
AF: It’s not easy juggling my art with the magazine but I can’t see doing one without the other. I’ve had to come up with creative scheduling so that I can give both areas equal time. Running the magazine also gives me access to artists that I admire. Over the years I’ve had the chance to interview and meet some of my favorites. This probably wouldn’t be possible if the magazine wasn’t around.
You can learn more about Amir Fallah and his art by visiting his website-- You can learn more about Beautiful/Decay magazine by visiting B/D's official website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin