Just found a juicy post featuring some of my favorite paintings in the awesome new blog, ArtFumes.com, curated by Atlanta-based artist B.J. Rathur. I adore B.J.'s curatorial aesthetic; it's an honor to be featured among such talented artists. Thanks so much, ArtFumes! http://artfumes.com/ca-steiner/
Visual Revolution blog has featured my work! Thanks, friends!
Check it out:
Check out the link to this beautiful online magazine: http://adistinctivestyle.com -- which has featured my work in their March, 2009 edition. The feature is on page 34-35, which you can scroll to directly, or go to the second page, where there's an all-visual table of contents; click on the image of my painting on the wall above the head of the model with the zoolander pose and you will be transported...
I will post the feature here soon as well.
Many thanks to A Distinctive Style's publisher, Denise Marie, for featuring me in her gorgeous publication!
Recently, Beth Pilling, a year 10 student at Hollins Technology College in Accrington, Lancashire, England, asked me to answer a few questions for a school project. Thought I'd post my answers here on my trusty blog, just fer scuz.
1.When creating your work, what do you think of? What is your inspiration and how do you come about it?
My inspiration, I think, comes from being engaged with life, approaching life with an open mind and heart, and paying very close attention to the beauty in every little detail of the physical world. The more you work, the more you see with an artist's eye, adoring the visual makeup of your surroundings. Making art is truly and simply the way to become an artist. The more you work, the more deeply you get into your work, the more you see with an artist's eye and feel with an artist's heart. The work has its own path, and it's the artist's job to show up, put in the hours, trust that the work will unfold, and constantly push up to and just beyond your own comfort zone. No one can tell you what to say, and no one can know what their work will say before they make it. The work tells you what you have to say. The work is in charge; you serve the work by working!
2. When i study your work i find it amazing at how different every piece is, does this just happen or is the aim of your work to involve a fresh look in each painting?
I don't plan my pieces; I work on impulse and there is a dynamic journey, very often a struggle, for each piece. I listen to the colors, balance, composition, juxtapositions of elements, etc., and let them guide me. I strive to feel confronted and satisfied by what is unfolding; I strive for dynamic tension between elements that click in a satisfying way. Everything else happens by accident.
3. Many artists create their work to make readers feel a certain emotion. Do you try to interrprate emotions in your work too? as sometimes the colours you use cause me to feel emotional.
It's much more unconscious or subconscious than striving to make anyone feel any certain way. All I'm doing is reaching into my guts and exploring what's in there. I'm trying to learn my own nature, and I think there's so much emotion in that process, that the work is very emotional.
4. Have you ever created a piece based on something you've seen or heard, or from an experience or anything?
Not really directly or consciously, but I think that my work on a really deep level always taps into home, the land where I grew up. I recognize that my trees, for example, are an exalted version of the olive trees that grew around my mom's house…but I didn't really realize this until I had painted them.
5. What made you decide on becoming an artist? Have you always been involved in art?
I've pretty much always been involved in art in some way, and wanted to be an artist since I was a little kid. Then, as an adult, I forgot that I wanted to be an artist, and tried to do other things, which all felt painful and wrong, until I remembered that I am an artist. Once I remembered, it was such a huge relief and such a reconnection with myself and my destiny, that I committed with all of myself to it. In a way, I actually surrendered to it…it was stronger than me, my impulse to express and connect. It's such a strong impulse that it's sort of brutally painful to try to repress it, and when you finally give in, though it's really hard work, there's an ease in it and a knowing and sense of stillness and peace. I think in a way though, I had to forget that I was an artist in order to remember…which gave the knowing more meaning. But I emphasize: that is my own experience. Yours is guaranteed to be different. Every artist has their own unique journey, no matter what, always. Forget all the stereotypes about artists suffering, etc. ; they're not true unless you buy into them.
6. Do you have any suggestions for when i try and create a piece with the help of your work?
I would say that if my work inspires you, look at it and take it in with your whole body, not just your eyes. Look at it, breathe it in, and try to feel the emotions and that it evokes in you without thinking too much about images or structure. Tap into those emotions…those are your own, and they're there, wanting to be expressed. All my work did was make you aware of them, bring them up in you. Then, when you've made the emotions very real and present for yourself, get out a pencil or a crayon or something very casual and easy to work with and childlike, and start to doodle out your emotions on paper, promising yourself that you will not show the doodles to anyone…they're just doodles, like you'd make while you were talking on the phone or something. Then, keep your doodles and begin painting with those doodles as a beginning point. The reason: doodles are by nature a casual, spontaneous and authentic expression, from your deep unconscious. They belong to you. You're not trying to impress anyone with them. Start with your doodles, and expand them. Let them guide you. If you keep working, working, working…over the long term, and in a committed way, the doodles will lead you to your own artistic voice. You might also try looking around the house for doodles you've done in the past, before I gave you this advice, and begin from there…transfer them onto canvas, or into paint, or whatever medium you want to use. Expand them.
7. I love to paint more than anything, which can be difficult when focusing on pattern. That is why your work is so amazing to me, as there is a contrast of painting free hand and detail. Should i always look towards work like this or steer off in another direction sometimes?
Unfortunately, I can't tell you what you should or shouldn't do. The wonderful and sometimes scary thing about art is that there are endless possibilities. But I can tell you that making art, for me, is an exercise in working within certain structural limitations, and then pushing against and exploring those limitations...like in life, we do actually need some discipline and some boundaries, or we get paralyzed. So, especially in the beginning of your artistic path, you might choose a limited color palette, maybe two or three colors and white and grey or black, or choose one or two themes that interest you, and just focus on those for a while. If you're confused about whether to be sketchy/painterly or tight, decide on one or the other in the beginning, and try to stay within that. If you decide to be tight, and then after a while you find it confining, then you know that there is something authentic in you that is trying to push its way through. That tension becomes something for you to grapple with...and grappling is good; it's what making art is about and the birthplace of authentic expression. Eventually, in this way, you'll push beyond your own self-imposed boundaries probably without even realizing it, and you'll be off to the races, compelled by your own engagement with and interest in what's coming through you and by your own curiosity. Art, for me, is all about exploration and learning. I approach everything as a study. It's a study of color, composition, texture, etc., but ultimately it's really a study of the nature of reality, and when you get really deep in, you begin to create your own reality, which reflects your own nature back to you in a continually evolving way.
8. Trying to gain many peoples attention from a single piece must be difficult as many people have different tastes in art, how do you try to include everything that my catch alsorts of peoples interest?
You really have to put that out of your head from the get-go. No one's art will appeal to everyone, and if it does, I guarantee it will be mediocre and a little bit soulless (think of a Pottery Barn catalog, for example…appealing to the masses, but wholly lacking in imagination). I think of it this way: each painting has its own soul, path and destiny; it is destined to touch certain people, who have a kind of an energetic match with it. Not everyone resonates with my work…and my work isn't for everyone. There are certain souls out there, such as yourself, to whom the universe is speaking through the work. It's as if, in some mysterious way, art is medicine, and not everyone needs the same medicine. The only thing you can do as an artist is surrender to your own expression, to what comes through. Remind yourself that your nature is trying to express itself, and that your nature's expression helps to illuminate the natures of certain other souls who match it in some intangible way. And remember there are basically only five responses that people will have to your work: they will either love it, like it, be indifferent to it, dislike it, or hate it. You are guaranteed that there will be people along the way who will feel all of those ways about your work. Sit with that, know it, get comfortable with it. If you know that those are the possible scenarios, you won't be surprised. And know that every last person will see the work differently, to an amazing degree, because art is a mirror; people look at it, and they see themselves.
Steiner: I wouldn't say that I have a muse per se, though I do sometimes feel presences or energies with me when I work…subtle flows of color, light, sound and emotion that feel like they are imprinted with the resonances of distant places and times and people. I might call them muses, or collections of information, or echoes in time that leave behind impressions in my consciousness and in my work. They are intangible, but they feel very clear and present at times.
I think I'd be accurate in saying, however, that the natural world, the water, the sky, the land, is really my primary muse. Not any literal or particular landscape—I don't consider myself a landscape painter, though I incorporate elements of landscape into my work—but the deeper essence of the natural world, the breakdown of its parts, its internal geometry. I grew up in rural northern California, very close to nature, and as a kid my love for nature was so deep that it was like a longing, almost painful. My work, I think, grows out of that; on some level, it's an effort to relieve that longing, to get inside of nature, to engage with it, to merge with it. Of course, within this desire, there is always the deeper desire to know my own nature, to experience my own being in a pure, unencumbered way. Painting allows me to do that; it relieves me of the everyday suffering of the mind, and it fulfills my desire to get inside of what is dynamic and beautiful and meaningful about being alive.
Hathor's Tribe: Are you a visual artist, writer, musician or film maker?
Steiner: I'm a visual artist—a painter. That's what I do, that's my main gig. But I also love music--I sing and play guitar--and I'm something of a writer. I worked as a writer for a number of years, actually, and got my graduate degree in creative writing. I've found that I'm happier, though, more adept, more fulfilled, more comfortable dwelling in the mind of the painter. The painter has to hang out in a pre-linguistic space, in a simultaneous space (the painter can see all of her creation at one time), and there's something about that that is so sweet, so liberating, so humane. I am also not particularly interested in telling stories, which, as you can imagine, can be problematic for a writer. Even as a painter, I avoid narrative in my work, preferring to communicate in more abstract visual language that, at least to me, feels truer, closer to the bone. Painting allows me to more directly express the quiet, subtle moments in life when time slows down, when stories stop…these are the moments that interest me most.
Hathor's Tribe: Do you plan out your work before you do it, or does it evolve organically?
Steiner: Very rarely do I plan my work. I tend to work on impulse, to feel the art in my body first…in my solar plexus or throat or chest…and I allow it to gestate, to percolate. I usually work on a large number of pieces at a time—as many as 30 or 40 at once—and I move around from piece to piece, depending on what is calling me. My process reminds me a little of the way the surfers here in Santa Cruz go out to the beach and sit in their trucks and study the waves for long periods of time. Then, something clicks, and they go into the water. That's kind of what I do. I sit with the paintings—even if they're just blank canvases—till something clicks, then I go into the water.
Hathor's Tribe: Is there a mental process? Do you have a question to ask or answer?
Steiner: I feel like in my creative process there's a nexus point—a hub of consciousness where the mental, emotional, physical and ethereal meet…and the inspiration tends to move from the ethereal, through that hub, down the arms, through the hands and paintbrush, onto the canvas. Within that mysterious process, the conceptual or mental is somehow present—I have general ideas and themes that play out, over and over—for example, I have a very real concern for the state of the Earth; I also have a deep craving to connect with the anonymous women artisans who came before me, who gathered together in sewing circles, and worked so intimately with textile design and pattern and ornamentation. But ideas, issues, themes, they never really come first. Like I don't sit down in my studio and think "I'm going to connect with my ancestors today" or "I'm going to express my concern over the fact that we're abusing the planet." Not because I don't want to sometimes, but because it just doesn't seem to work for me; it's putting the cart before the horse. I think there are a lot of artists out there who are really good at starting from the conceptual, and I truly admire them and sometimes envy them. For me, I seem to have to surrender to approaching my work as a process of studying and engaging and playing with the basic building blocks of the physical world…color, form, material, etc.
Hathor's Tribe: Do you use the creative process to express your internal conflicts or to purge yourself of emotions?
Steiner: I'd say so, yes, not really consciously, but more alchemically, in an experiential way. Art is a discipline; it's a devotional practice and a commitment. There's something about showing up in the studio, rain or shine, whatever's happening in my life, that is just profoundly comforting. I can bring the deepest sorrows of my life to the table, and the art will eventually transmute them. The flip-side of that is that I can't hide from my sorrows, my conflicts, my shadow, because the creative process doesn't allow lying or hiding. It's constantly cleaning house on the psyche, both personally, and for the collective, the ancestors, the rocks and trees and all the rest. The creative process has a graceful way of touching the deepest, most painful wounds. It brings existential comfort, somehow speaks to those unanswerable, fundamental questions about the nature of reality that can't ever really be answered.
Hathor's Tribe: If so, do you feel that art can be a kind of therapy?
Steiner: Without question; I think art is inherently therapeutic, and there's no way around that. Of course, its value as therapy and its aesthetic value are not necessarily related. The merit of art therapy is in its healing or cathartic effect on the individual. Fine art has to stand on different criteria, on its own artistic merit.
Hathor's Tribe: What is your opinion about the current art movements which focus on dark imagery?
Steiner: That's an interesting question, and something I've actually pondered quite a lot, because so many of the best, most compelling young artists are working with some very dark imagery, and I love so much of their work. All I can say is it's here and it's happening, and, like all expression, it's got to be on some level a reflection of the inner worlds and conflicts of the people expressing it. And let's face it, to be alive on planet Earth today means confronting on some level the absurd dream of the apocalypse that humanity seems to be addicted to dreaming now. So…from that perspective, it should be no surprise that dark imagery is showing up in art these days. I don't know…I think about the R. Crumb model…that art can be a kind of exorcism of internal demons. I agree with this idea and know from first-hand experience that it's true. And yet, there's a place where, at least from my perspective, very dark imagery in art has become too fashionable for its own good, and can be (though it certainly is not always) a bit unimaginative or repetitive. I have a perpetual craving to see art that I've never seen before, to see art that is brave and innovative and fiercely honest. Just as overly sentimental art fails to tell the truth because it hides from the shadow, relentlessly dark imagery fails to tell the truth, because it denies light. Both fail because the nature of reality is that light and dark are in a constant, dynamic interplay, that they are gradually, inevitably part and parcel of the other, connected as they are by infinite gradations of gray. It's the yin-yang thing. You can't avoid it.
Hathor's Tribe: Do you make art for yourself, or do you have a market in mind?
Steiner: I make what comes through. I don't seem to have it in my nature to do otherwise.
Steiner: I'm not sure I would say I believe that it has a higher purpose, because I don't really know for sure, and my believing in an idea doesn't really have much bearing on reality anyway. But I would say that in my heart of hearts I feel that art is necessary...for our psyches, for our sanity. I read somewhere that the ancient Hebrew nomadic tribes, when they'd find a place in the desert where they intended to set up camp, would take a tent stake, called an "ameyn" and ritualistically ram it into the ground, claiming it as their own, literally grounding themselves in that place with the proclamation of that word. "Ameyn" is of course "amen", a word commonly used to 'stake' prayers into reality, into time and space. To me, art is like that amen or tent stake going into the ground; it's what we use to ground ourselves into the meaning of our lives, to remind ourselves and to proclaim that we are in fact transcendent and eternal slips of light—intangible souls—navigating the Earth plane at a certain point in time. Without art, we drift into states of spiritual and social anomie…we lose ourselves in our infinite nature, we lose our minds. Art gives us a place to be, a way to define ourselves.
Hathor's Tribe: If you could meet any artist from the past who would it be?
Steiner: There would be so many…but if I had to choose one, I would probably say John Lennon, because his music and life and death are so viscerally and emotionally intertwined with the events of my life. Other artist/heroes/great souls from the past whom I would like to meet: Gertrude Stein, Georgia O'Keefe, Pablo Neruda, Theresa of Avila, Einstein, Mother Mary, Carl Jung, Richard Brautigan, Margaret Mead, Joseph Campbell, and so many more...
Hathor's Tribe: In what way do you want to be remembered?
Steiner: I can say I'd like to be remembered for my work, but really, my greatest hope would be that there are people thriving on a healthy Earth a thousand years from now, people who have long since forgotten me, because they've got more important things on their minds, like loving their children, and taking care of the planet.
The article below was originally published in the July, 2008 issue of Citizen LA Magazine. Also available on the Citizen LA website.
Erica Steiner: Can Art Still Be Beautiful?
by Kristi Collacott
Through her latest body of work, Reverie: Meditations on an Ornamental World, showing at Edgar Varela Fine Arts in July, painter Erica Steiner dares to adorn in a manner that is both thought-provoking and beautiful. Using vibrant pastels, gold leaf, and intricate detail, Steiner captures the essence of nature, the true origin of beauty, salvaging splendor while remaining conceptually grounded.
At first glance, these highly detailed paintings may appear to be psychedelic experiences as the colors, patterns, and applique insinuate one wild ride. Upon deeper investigation this experience takes the form of a journey of introspection that transcends time, body and culture in the pursuit of a more profound understanding and concern for the feminine mystique found in the organic beauty of the live earth. "My work is self-referential," she states, "I work from impulse, and from interest, from a place of curiosity." Steiner credits the language of nature as inspiration for her work. Weaving together the bark pattern of olive trees with fuchsia shades of camellias, she paints more of a collective tapestry than a canvas, capturing Nature's normally unseen energy. Allowing herself to indulge in the excessive ornamentation of her canvas, she only considers her work to be successful when the obsessive quality of the details transmutes itself and reveals something unexpected about the authentic nature of beauty.
Just as the Earth intuitively garnishes itself with the finest blooms in the spring, Erica believes that the need to beautify our material world is innate. Considering the current popularity of home decorating shows that are on these days, she really may be on to something. Nevertheless, it is through these acts of adornment, similar to ritual, devotional practices, or the earth's own photosynthetic couture, that the artist sanctifies the abstract idea into something more visually concrete. She states, "I suppose the work strives to experience, and therefore to celebrate and make peace with, the beauty and the suffering inherent in a transitory world."
In graphically twisted art nouveau prints, Erica credits her affinity for beauty to her interest in individual lines, movement, and color and her preference for simultaneity, in grasping the whole while avoiding any narrative. "I am much more interested in sensory experience of places and moments in time--essential experience in the moment, not related to the last moment, not dependent on the next--than I am in telling stories. Painting allows me to more directly express the quiet, subtle moments in life when time slows down, when stories stop...these are the moments that interest me most."
Though it took some experimentation with linguistic expression before Erica herself understood the power of the "pre-linguistic space," it was this big picture point of view that eventually unified her thoughts. A humanistic journey, beginning with BA studies in Art from Mills College in Oakland, followed by a degree in Anthropological Studies, and an MFA in Creative Writing that Erica credits as the defining foundation for her understanding of the world's dynamism.
A native of Northern California's rolling hills, Erica's education brought her into the heart of the city. It was years later though that the effects of the deviation in aesthetic environment manifested itself in her work, permeating the paint with oppositions of beauty. Perhaps this "balancing act" sprang from a need to beautify her inner city surroundings with her country roots. These contradictions are woven in as Erica's paintings capture a variety of opposing perspectives. Byzantine gold leaf and Buddhist ornament melee their way across one work while the detail of India's finest miniature painters see-saws with aboriginal pattern on another. She states, "My work is an unpremeditated act of integration, a balancing act, and an act of continually reaching for what is new and compelling to me. There is attraction and destruction in it, because that is the essence and foundation of life." After all, you can't have beauty without at least tiptoeing past the upleasant.
Erica Steiner' work promises both conflict and compromise. Radically pleasant and intriguingly invigorating, Steiner reminds us that in difficult and chaotic times, beauty still exists. She seizes the opportunity to make a statement while allowing us to savor the splendor of beauty, a sometimes rare experience in today's art market. www.EricaSteiner.com
Reverie: Meditations on an Ornamental World runs from July 19th to August 10th, at Edgar Varela Fine Arts (EVFA), an eastside gallery located at 542 S. Alameda Street, 2nd Flr. Los Angeles, CA 90013 www.EdgarVarelaFineArts.com
"Erica Steiner's amazingly detailed oil paintings serve as a merging point for many freestanding design styles. A heavy focus on nature and landscapes come into play, but don't expect any static paintings here. Steiner's works ripple with waves of decorated gold leaf, Victorian-inspired florals, nearly psychedelic coloring, and detailed ornamentation. Her newest paintings, shown here, are called Reverie: Meditations on an Ornamental World, and the name cannot be more suitable. "Whether this impulse is made manifest in the form of an everyday act like putting on jewelry, or in an overt act of ritual, such as the adornment of a religious icon with flower garlands, we as humans are ubiquitously driven to decorate our world, to sanctify it, and to beautify it with ornament," Steiner says, explaining the idea behind this body of work. Where Chinese and Japanese landscape painting, Tibetan Buddhist textiles, and medieval Catholic illumination manuscripts may sound a little dated, Steiner manages to incorporate these ancient, ornate styles into something refreshing for the modern age."
Myspace, si sa, è una vetrina per artisti, fotografi, musicisti e scultori: non è difficile trovare autentici talenti tra le migliaia di profili presenti e restare colpiti se non addirittura affascinati dagli stili diversi, eterogenei e interessanti con i quali si può venire in contatto. In questo post vorrei parlare di tre artisti tra i miei amici, che mi hanno particolarmente colpito sia per le tecniche che usano sia per i soggetti che scelgono, sia per la forza dei messaggi che trasmettono.
Uno di questi è Rafael, di città del Messico: stando a quanto lui stesso afferma sul profilo di Myspace, fin da piccolo ha sentito il bisogno di creare con le proprie mani al punto di non riuscire a giocare come tutti i bambini ma di cercare continuamente argilla da modellare per plasmare nuovi oggetti, nuove creature, nate dalla sua fantasia.
La sua ispirazione proviene dai ricordi della sua infanzia, dal suo personalissimo modo di percepire la realtà, i sogni di ciascuno, nonché dall’osservazione estatica e rapita del miracolo della vita che ritorna spesso nelle sue opere. Di lui mi ha colpito la capacità di creare immagini positive, dai colori pastello, dolci e appassionate, talora un po’ oniriche, che trasmettono un messaggio di vita e di speranza a chiunque le osservi. Mi ha ricordato, sia pure con altri mezzi e altro tipo di canali espressivi, Folon e il suo mondo a colori pastello, pieno di sogni e di poesia.
Erica, invece, lavora su tele a olio e lamina d’oro: la lamina d’oro viene applicata direttamente sul colore ancora umido e le sue immagini descrivono paesaggi talora lunari, talora orientali, mondi fatti di colori, di linee e decorazioni floreali che trasmettono un senso di pace. Le sue opere nascono dall’unione del disegno tessile con quello ornamentale, entrambi coniugati con l’interpretazione della realtà circostante e l’osservazione della natura: è impossibile non restare rapiti dal sapiente uso dei colori, dalle linee morbide ma decise che delimitano gli ambienti, senza peraltro generare interruzioni nette. I suoi soggetti appaiono lontani dal tempo e dallo spazio, dalle categorie fisse degli uomini e dalla contingenza della loro vita, in una dimensione fantastica quasi immateriale, forse frutto dello sguardo sereno con cui Erica indaga la vita.
Infine Antoine Josse, uno scultore che sa unire sapientemente legno carta e fibra regalandoci figure eleganti e allungate, dai grandi piedi che calcano verosimilmente la terra ma, che le tengono, anche, drammaticamente incollate ad essa.
I suoi personaggi sono spesso assorti, in ambienti desertici e popolati solo da alberi senza foglie eppure quanta forza si trova negli abbracci disperati, nei gesti enfatici che le lunghissime braccia trasmettono e amplificano, quanta vita emana dal piccolo albero che faticosamente cresce, incurante dell’ambiente ostile e distante che ha intorno. Antoine ci restituisce un messaggio bellissimo: l’amore, l’amicizia, l’aiuto verso il prossimo sono la vera vita. Non importa se intorno a all’uomo c’è deserto e desolazione, tra gli uomini e dentro gli uomini ci sono la vita e la speranza che non permettono al vuoto e all’abisso di inghiottirli.