Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stitched Identities by Jane Zweibel

Baang and Burne Contemporary will hold their inaugural show, Stitched Identities, on Sunday September 26, 2010, 2-6:00 p.m. showcasing the recent paintings of New York artist Jane Zweibel. Her Stitched Identities are soft sculptures or "stuffed paintings" that allude to childhood stuffed animals and dolls while suggesting cartoon figures, spiritual icons, and effigies.

Her work attempts to "push and blur the boundaries and traditions of sculpture and painting". A major theme is Zweidel's work is an ongoing exploration of issues of identity, in particular female identity.

I love to get inside an artist's head to see how the work they are currently producing came to be. Here is a peek into this artist's thoughts and inspirations.

How did you get started making art? Have you always been a painter or have you worked in different mediums?
I have made art for as long as I can remember. I never made a choice to be an artist – it was what I always did and wanted to do. I have always been a painter first. But I have also consistently made drawing and collages. In college and graduate school I learned printmaking and began investigating sculpture as a medium. That foray into the language of sculpture has informed my work today. For six years I have been creating what I call “stuffed paintings”: sewn and cotton stuffed canvas forms with paintings on the facades. I see them primarily as three-dimensional paintings. I love the idea of merging painting and sculpture, and fusing them into a new, hybrid medium and mode for self-expression.

Self-Portrait Praying #1
Oil on sewn and stuffed canvas
40 x 24 x 12"

Working alone in the studio can be a lonesome endeavor. How do you keep yourself motivated and on track?
I have maintained studios in a variety of contexts. I have worked in rented studios in buildings with other artists’ studios. This kind of studio situation has afforded me the space to focus upon my work, as well as the possibility of interacting with other artists. This has always worked as an excellent balance for me. Even more ideal has been artist residencies, where I have been granted the time and space to develop a body of work, and to develop creative relationships with other artists. I have fine-tuned the ability to work independently in a dedicated way. Working towards a specific goal, such as a show, definitely fuels my motivation. But if there is no upcoming exhibition or other opportunity, I just keep working, and the sheer excitement of seeing new work unfold is where the motivation and inspiration lies. Of course, there have been many times when I have experienced a lack of motivation. During those periods I sit tight, and so far my “mojo” has never failed to return. Travel and multiple cups of coffee help!

Self-Portrait Praying # 6
Oil on sewn and stuffed canvas
40 x 16 x 12"

What's the best & worst piece of career advice you've ever received?
Perhaps the best career advice I have received is that no matter what, it is the creative work that takes place in the studio, developing over time, that is the most important and driving force of an artist’s life. Without the work, there is no career. The career components --- shows, grants, reviews, etc. -- are essential to being and developing as a professional artist, but none of that can happen without a strong commitment to one’s artistic vision, the realization of that vision, and conviction in what you are accomplishing in your work. Stick with what is true to you – that has always worked for me – and career triumphs, interspersed with disappointments and rejections, have been my rewards. In terms of the worst piece of career advice offered to me, I can’t think of anything specific. However, I have had some disturbing and discouraging experiences in terms of reactions to my work. If I had allowed these incidents to take hold of me, they would have adversely affected my career as an artist.

Do you believe artistic creativity is an innate human quality?
I do believe that artistic creativity is an innate human quality. I think that all people are born with the potential for creative self-expression. However, unfortunately, because of the poor level of art education in most public schools, and the lack of support for art education in general by the government (at least in the United States), most people’s innate creative potential is neglected and un-nurtured. This is a profound shame. On the other hand, I don’t think that everyone is “born” with natural talent for art. But certainly, everyone has within them the capacity to express him or herself artistically and creatively. It is indeed a human quality.

Can you describe your most recent exhilarating visual experience?

Describe the last time you stood before a work of art and were genuinely moved by it. Recently, I saw an exhibition of Kiki Smith’s new work at Pace Gallery in Chelsea, NYC. I have always admired her work. But I was unprepared for the powerful experience of seeing this show. I was tremendously moved by it, so much so that I felt that it would have a deep impact upon my own work. The overall theme of the show was the life and death cycle of a particular woman, and women in general. The women could be perceived of as both personal self-portraits, and “everywoman’ portraits. The dying women could be perceived as references to Kiki Smith’s sister, who had died of AIDS. The larger than life portraits and self-portraits were extremely eloquent, evocative, moving and haunting for me.

Over the years you’ve worked with many different galleries internationally, but Baang & Burne Contemporary functions in a really different way from the traditional white cube gallery structure. Why did the idea of B&B appeal to you? How did this project come about? What made you think it might be a good fit for your work?

In addition to typical white cube galleries, I have also shown in a variety of alternative spaces and venues.I believe firmly that there are so many ways and places to exhibit art that exist off the beaten path. I love innovation, and that includes the arena of gallery models. These new and exciting venues increase the possibilities for artists to have their work seen. When I was presented with the opportunity to show my work with Baang & Burne Contemporary I gladly accepted. I think that offering the art world, and others, the opportunity to view my work in an intimate context, and to have the chance to meet and talk with me, and vice versa, is a creative and wonderful alternative to the conventional gallery opening and exhibition. It promises to be more relaxed, friendly, and conducive to conversation and getting to know the artist and artwork in a more up close and personal way. I immediately felt it would be a good fit for my work, in that it breaks the mold in exhibition models, and my own ideas resonate with the vision of Baang & Burne’s creators/directors. I admire what they are setting out to accomplish, I like the work of the other artists represented, and they believe in my work. The latter is something you don’t always clearly get from gallerists-at-large.


Shayla said...

Hi Margaret, isn't Zweibel fascinating? I enjoyed her interview.
Long time no see. We're getting ready to move and things are chaotic on our end. Talk to you later.

Margaret Ryall said...

I agree Shayla. The idea of stuffed paintings really appeals to me. Jane's themes/interests are similar my own. Isn't it wonderful that you can explore similar themes and have work that is so different from one artist to the other.

I am for the most part back in St. John's. I have two more very short trips planned to the summer house to do housekeeping types of activities - no fun , no painting.

Kathy said...

Great interview, Margaret!! Thanks for posting this.

hwfarber said...

Well, Margaret, I think I'd attend this exhibit--even uninvited! Interesting post; I have read about her work.

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Interesting interview...I so like these painting/sculptures...very powerful. This will be a great show!
I'm very drawn to this work and others like it...there is a pull this winter to explore new/old ways of expressing...thank you for the introduction.