Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Art Space Talk: Zach Stein

Zach Stein is the third place winner of the 2008 Undergraduate Scholarship Competition provided by Zach will receive a $1,000 cash scholarship from myartspace. The myartspace Art Scholarship program began in July 2008 and entries were due by December 15, 2008. $16,000 of cash scholarships are awarded to the top 3 winners in the undergraduate category and the graduate category. Entry to the competition is free as is membership to myartspace.

Zach Stein's installations, monotypes, and paintings tend to be experimental in nature. This is achieved by the fact that Zach utilizes a variety of mediums in an intuitive manner-- everything from hot glue to rum. He is an artist who is not afraid to test the limits of his materials. Zach is currently a student at the University of Kentucky.

Catherine McCormack-Skiba, the founder of myartspace and CEO noted, “We had entries to the scholarship program from students at over 1,200 colleges and universities. The unbridled spirit and creativity from this group is quite impressive. While the top winners receive their recognition and award money, virtually all the submissions were of top-notch quality. We applaud the young contemporary artists in school today. Their contribution to the fine art world will be felt for decades to come. We are so excited from this first scholarship program we will be launching our 2009 scholarship program later this year and hope to see more than double the participation. Myartspace remains focused on improving the lives and careers of its community members.”

For more information about the myartspace Art Scholarship program and 2008 winners visit,

Spore, 64x64, acrylic on plastic bags

Brian Sherwin: Zach, you are one of three winners of the undergraduate art scholarship competition provided by the artist social network As you know the scholarship is intended for students who exhibit exceptional artistic excellence in their chosen medium and is to be used in order to further education in art. Can you describe how you felt entering the competition and your reaction to finding out that you had won?

Zach Stein: I just wanted an iPhone… But, seriously, I don’t see how an art student can pass up an opportunity like this. You don’t have to pay to join Myartspace. I don’t recall having to pay to join the competition (if so it wasn’t much). You don’t have to get your work to a location. You just take a picture and put it online. It’s a bit of a no-brainer.

I tried to tell everyone at school this is an excellent opportunity to at least get people to look at your work. Even though UK is in the middle of nowhere as far as the art world is concerned, I feel we do have a great deal of talent at our school and this is one of the best venues I can see that allows us to get our work to a larger audience. While not many people acted on this opportunity, I know some have already opened accounts since finding out I won. I’m trying not to say, “I told you so.”

As for winning, it kind of caught me by surprise. Of course, I had been keeping an eye out for the winners, the dead line had passed and I was anxious to see who beat me out so I could seek them down and destroy them artistically. I do have a bit of a competitive streak; anything that inspires creativity can’t be too bad.

So, here I am sitting at home one night getting ready to go to bed early because I start student teaching early the next morning when my phone rings and on the other end is Catherine McCormack-Skiba! It was a total shock. Not just the winning, but talking to Catherine really made me realize that you guys have a pretty cool thing going here. It felt really good. Of, course it killed my chances of getting to sleep early but I survived my first day without killing any of my students.

faulter, 60x60, acrylic on plastic bags

BS: Can you tell us about your academic background in art? I understand that you are currently studying at the University of Kentucky. Do you have any influential instructors or fellow students that you would like to mention?

ZS: I have already talked about the school in my previous interview and even though I may piss on it from time, it really is a great environment for exploring creativity.
I have to give credit to my studio mate Donald Keefe. He is an incredibly talented painter who has been showing me up in local competitions. We do a pretty good job at keeping each other in the studio and working. He’s also one of those people who have opened an account since I won, so check him out.
I also have to thank the head of our fibers department Arturo Sandoval. He has been a great friend and mentor throughout my education and I hope that I can be even half the teacher that he is. Even if he is an old hippy.
Untitled (large monotype), 30 x 36, monotype

BS: Can you go into further detail about your art? Tell us about the thoughts behind your art…

ZS: No thought. Just art.

Making art to me is like waking up on Christmas morning as a kid. I can’t wait to see what I get out of a piece. Of course, I get inspiration from various places, but I find if I try to create work for a specific concept or idea it seems to fall short.

I am not interested in finding any answers, but I do enjoy creating new questions. I want the viewer to feel like I do after watching a good Terry Gullium film. That feeling of having no idea what you just saw but knowing there is a much deeper layer to be found. Of course, when someone tells you what it’s about, the magic dies. Then the only thrill you can get out of it is ruining the magic for others.

Ignorance is bliss. Not because one is blind to the truth, but because it leaves one open to the infinite possibilities. Answers are the bane of creativity. If my work is concrete in being about something than that restricts the way one sees it. While I do title my work, it is more out of a selfish desire to make the viewer more interested in me, to want to see things from my point of view. I strongly encourage the viewer to ignore my titles, create your own. Let the historians figure me out so they can ruin the magic for all of us.
Untitled (medium monotype) one of about 30 monotypes, usually displayed as collage, 24 x 18 ; monotype

BS: Can you discuss some of the methods or techniques that you utilize?

ZS: I enjoy exploration, my statement on my BFA application was actually the opening monolog from Star Trek, but I don’t really think anyone was paying attention. I like to let a material or process inspire me, and then I exploit it however I can. My monotypes have three elements and I am constantly changing my mind as to which is more interesting at the moment. I am also working with fusing plastic grocery bags together. It creates a great texture that I love using and I am still exploring ways to use it.

My favorite material has to be gel medium. I can use a gallon a day and still need more. It can be used as glue, gloss, sealer, paint, or just about anything it seems

there is no spoon, variable (pvc=8x8x8), wire, pvc, hot glue

BS: What about other influences? Are you influenced by any specific artist or art movements?

ZS: I enjoy everything. Dada and Abstract Expressionism are among my favorite movements but there are things about most movements that I like. The last book I got is on Mel Bochner. I know that you might gather from my prior rant against concept that I wouldn’t like conceptual art, but his work makes me laugh and if something makes me laugh it can’t be too bad.

I also recently saw a James Turrell installation at the Indianapolis Art Museum that totally blew my mind. I don’t think I have seen much that can get that kind of reaction out of me. I’m really quite jealous. Turrell is now on my hit list.
Untitled (medium monotype) one of about 30 monotypes, usually displayed as collage. 24 x 18; monotype

BS: Can you discuss the art that you decided to enter into the competition. In your opinion, why do those specific works reflect your growth as an artist?

ZS: Really, it’s just a bit of everything that I have done in the past year. My pet has got to be the Ledger. It is a monster that started so simple and innocent and ended up devouring a good three or four months of my time. I found a shelf that was meant to display special order catalogs and decided to make a book out of it. I started by making the monotypes with some spare printer paper laying around so I figured I could make 3000 prints for a low material cost. I then began to realize I was enjoying the different effects and textures that different types of paper were getting so I began to troll the resume paper aisle of Staples for different paper.
After making the 3000 prints, putting them in sheet protectors, and methodically shuffling them a number of times I finally got them all organized and the end was in sight, until I decided that it would be a good idea to number them. It took me about a month after that to print out the numbers on a label maker and get them all labeled. The funny thing is I would do it again if I find another display.
This piece has now become a sort of holy text for my work. The numbering of the pages is totally random. For my purposes it is so I can make a record of my own titles for each page, but I like the idea that the number can also affect the way that the viewer sees an image. They may recognize a lucky number, a date, or a time that has some significance to them. I would be very interested in having a numerologist or mathematician look through it and attempt to read it.

BS: In your opinion, how is the internet changing the landscape of the art world, so to speak. Obviously artists today have more opportunities than they had before the advent of the World Wide Web. What your thoughts on this?

ZS: While the art centers still reign supreme over the art world and trends in art. Ten years ago, someone in Lexington would have little idea as to what is going on in the art world. The Internet is like Paris in the early 1900’s and New York after WWII all rolled into one. Yes, living in the centers still have their advantages, but we are still far better off than those Kentucky artists, who tried to paint Impressionist paintings by word of mouth, twenty years later.
monotype installation view of past installation including small and medium monotypes. About 20 x 8; monotype/mixed

BS: What are your future plans as far as your art is concerned?
ZS: Keep making it. I would like to get to grad school as soon as possible because there is a fear of what teaching in public schools may do to my work, but I’m not a very good starving artist so a steady income is a necessity. My goal is to make it through grad school and teach in a college environment. While I intend on doing everything in my power to make this happen, success in the art market would make it easier. My family has made a lot of sacrifices to help me pursue my dreams and I owe it to them to ease their burdens a bit.

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

ZS: Enjoy it. And Thanks to everyone at Myartspace for this opportunity.

Zach Stein is a member of the community--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange (NYAXE)

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