Artist + Curator Interviews, Event Photos, and News
On Saturday December 10th we will celebrate the opening of Edith Lebeau's solo show When The Light Goes Out. Here, the Canadian artist opens up to us about what she calls her most personal work to date, soothing serious issues with serene pastel palettes and symbolic imagery. Below, she explains a thorough glimpse into her painting process as well as a list of current working artists whose faces you may notice in the series! Swing by the gallery soon to see the work up close.
Interview by Jessica Violetta
JV: Edith, I am very much looking forward to your upcoming show "When The Light Goes Out". I must say that your statement for the series resonates with me so deeply as a woman. Are you willing to elaborate a bit on the personal place it is coming from?
EL: Yes of course. This series was inspired by personal anxieties and experiences. I've been dealing with different anxiety disorders such as panic attacks and social anxiety for many years now. I've been working on overcoming my fears and learning to accept my condition and who I am in the last couple of years. I'm still working on it and I thought I should explore those fears and experiences through a series of new paintings for my solo show.
JV: Wow, that sounds like it must be very difficult and I hope that your art has served as a positive way to cope. I think it is safe to say that you are not alone in these experiences. Do you have any favorite artists or pieces of art that inspire you?
EL: I'm doing good! Anxiety is only there part of time, luckily. The show is about that dark side of my mind but it's only a part of me, I'm a very positive and joyful person aside from that. But yes, art has helped a lot. It gives me the freedom to express myself without having to speak. That's a good thing because expressing myself with words has always been hard for me.
There are a lot of artists out there whose work I really love. For this show I actually painted some of them! Daria Lapto also known as "Claymate Creatures", J.A.W Cooper, Mab Graves, and Amy Sol. I like to paint women that inspire me. I also like the works of Erik Jones, Alexandra Levasseur, Allison Sommers, Jennybird Alcantara, Travis Louie, Syd Bee, Casey Weldon, Amy Earles, Lori Nelson and the list could go on and on. A piece that really inspires me for it's atmosphere is "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth. I just always keep coming back to this piece. Another artist that keeps inspiring me, from different media, is Floria Sigismondi. Especially for her work on music videos.
JV: I would like to commend you on your use of color both in general and in this series. The distinct palette beautifully compliments this serious, feminine content. Is there personal meaning or purpose behind the color you use?
EL: Usually not so much. But this time it kind of did. Since this show was about fear and dark feelings I might have gone with dark tones but I really did not want to go there. I felt the theme was grim enough and thought I could tone it down and express my hopefulness by adding a bit of pastel colors. I realized that the darker the theme of the piece is the more colorful it is! Haha! It was not planned though.
JV: That is very interesting. Now we can think a bit more about each piece and how intense the theme is based on the color! Could you give us some insight into your studio process? Any rituals or techniques you want to share?
EL: It usually starts with a blurry idea of what I want to create. I then contact my friends to schedule a photoshoot. If my model is too far away, like for some of my artists friends, I contact them and send them some instructions on what I would like to do and the feeling that I would like to express and they take pictures and send them to me. Once I have all the pictures I choose the one I want carefully by looking at the expression and take the one that I feel more connected too. Then I put it in photoshop, make it black and white on photocopy mode very very very pale just to see some of the lines. I then erase the parts that I know I'll change. I print it, at this point it kinda looks like a part of an extremely pale drawing with missing elements. I then proceed to draw over it, adding shadows, changing the hair, changing parts of the face if I need too, adding other elements, clothes, textures, adding a background. Then once the drawing is done, I scan it, print it and then I transfer it to my canvas. Than I paint with acrylics. I don't have a special method after that. I sometimes do the background before, but most of the time I do it at the end. The colors are rarely planned. It's always blurry in my head and keeps changing while I work. It's the part that is most unconscious and instinctive.
JV: Recently, I had been discussing with someone, the way that modern figurative artists sometimes develop a "character" that they depict most often in their paintings who comes from a mixture of their own personal aesthetic, their own physical appearance, and idealization or conceptual emphasis. I happened to use your work as an example of this happening in a successful way. Would you say that you are consciously choosing certain character muses?
EL: I do tend to use the same model over and over and changing her hairstyle and personality in the pieces. I like to create different characters for the same person. When I go through the pictures from the shootings there are often a lot of pictures that I want to keep. I find the facial expression from certain persons fascinating. You can look at two almost identical pictures and see two very different emotions just through the eyes. There are some models that I just really like to work with. They are usually friends/artists and people I look up too.
JV: I know that you collaborated once on a painting with Casey Weldon which I thought was so interesting and successful! Do you think you will do more collaboration in the future?
EL: Collaborating with Casey is always a pleasure. That guys is so awesome. He is extremely talented and such a great human. I love doing collaboration. I did one with my friend and artist Marie-Eve Proteau too. That was such a great collab as well. I would definitely love to do more.
JV: I am very interested in the secondary imagery you are using in your paintings. I like how you use conceptual elements decoratively to illustrate each theme. Can you talk a little about the process in which you come up with these ideas?
EL: I like to use certain symbols that come back often in my paintings. They usually have the same meanings but can change depending on the theme I'm exploring in the piece. And sometimes they are just decorative, of course. For example, I often use feathers. They used to just be decorative elements but they became more and more present with time until they kind of merged into some sort of cocoon of feathers in my pieces "Feather cocoon" and "Staying in". They then became a symbol of protection from the outside world for me. You can see, in my new body of work, that they are usually attached to a blanket or knitted scarf. The blanket or knitted fabric also has the same meaning in my new pieces.
JV: Is there any particular imagery that is most prominent to you in this series?
EL: Yes, one of the conscious symbols that is present in this series is the Ocean. There is something for me about a grey day at the ocean (a non-crowded one of course) that makes me feel alone in the world with a certain sense of nostalgia. The only thing that you can hear is the sound of the waves and the wind. In this new body of work, the characters are left alone with their emotions and I thought that the ocean would add to that feeling.
"When The Light Goes Out", for me, is mostly about solitude, the fear of loss (friendship, love and basically ending up alone) and other anxieties and insecurities.
JV: This is so helpful to understand before viewing the work. Where do you think you will take your art from here?
EL: I don't exactly know yet as I've just finished this series. But I will keep exploring this theme for a while. I feel like I'm not over it yet.
JV: This may be a difficult question to answer but do you have any big-picture ultimate art goals to accomplish in your lifetime?
EL: I try not to think too much about the future. I try to go day by day. I don't have big goals except continuing to do solo shows and being part of group shows or collaborations if I have the opportunity too. That makes me really happy. I would love to do cover art for music albums and for books. That would be so amazing! I would love to one day collaborate on a clothing line, that would be cool.
When the Light Goes Out will be on view this December at Modern Eden Gallery with an opening from 6 pm–9 pm on Saturday, December 10. We hope to see you there!
Sandra Yagi is a surrealist painter working out of her San Francisco studio to create highly informed works inspired by the dramatic realities of ecological dynamics. Here, Sandra has had the graciousness to share very thought-provoking statistics about modern wildlife and the human influence along with a glimpse into how she translates those discoveries into works of art.
Interview by Jessica Violetta
JV: Hi Sandra, we are so glad to have you showing in the gallery for the upcoming show Hindsight. Can you talk a little bit about the work you are contributing?
SY: When Bradley contacted me about the exhibit, he mentioned that the work I had done with ecological themes would work well with his vision for "Hindsight". Over the last few years, I did several paintings that used the human skeleton as a symbol of humanity's destruction of the environment. My first piece along these lines was "Elegy" which I showed at Modern Eden in 2012. This painting depicted a skeleton beckoning some beautiful birds, passenger pigeons, hunted to extinction in the late 19th century. The pieces for Hindsight are a continuation of that theme. "The Last Harvest," the painting that I just finished, portrays skeletons pulling sailfish from a peaceful sea. It appears to be a wasteful slaughter, as the carcasses of previously caught fish lay in pools of blood on the deck, and there is no end to the harvest until the last fish is dead. A study by the World Wildlife Fund showed that vertebrate populations declined by over 50% between 1970 and 2010. This decline is mostly driven by monetary greed - poaching, hunting, and habitat loss for minerals, wood and palm oil.
JV: Wow, your work is so well informed by research. I know that you are generally very influenced by science, oddities, and nature. Is there something particularly relevant between your life experiences and interest in these subjects?
SY: I've always loved science, animals and nature. When I was a kid, my uncle taught me to appreciate wildlife and nature by giving me a number of animal books and a microscope. I was always collecting insects, especially butterflies. My younger brother and I would go to a nearby pond to catch minnows, crawdads and frogs, and bring them home to raise in an aquarium. I would look at pond water samples under the microscope to find protozoans, hydras and water fleas. To this day, I'm still intrigued with insects, animals of all kinds, bones, and microorganisms. I subscribe to science magazines, maintain a decent collection of books, and follow various amateur scientists on Instagram.
JV: Aside from reading and investigating these topics, do you have any other artists that you look to as inspiration?
SY: There are a number of artists that inspire me, so I will only mention the first ones that come to mind: Walton Ford and Martin Wittfooth both use animals as symbols for the affect humans have had on the planet, as well as metaphors for contemporary society. They are both incredibly talented and skilled artists who make works of beauty that also convey serious messages. I admire Laurie Lipton's skillful drawing, visionary imagination and ability to access dark recesses of the human psyche. I love the fearlessness of Masami Teraoka in taking on any subject even if taboo or sensitive. Among old masters, an artist that inspires me is Maria Sibyl Merian, a naturalist and artist who lived in the late 1600-early 1700s. She went to the jungles of Suriname to illustrate insect species at a time when women were not allowed to study science and pursue art. Not only did she illustrate animals and insects, she also scientifically described metamorphosis and life cycle of various species. My anatomical imagery is also inspired by Andreas Vesalius and Bernard Siegfried Albinus. Both artists did scientific illustration of human anatomy, but the illustrations were artfully done. Their illustrated figures were in beautiful landscapes and dynamically posed.
JV: It appears that you work in a very traditional way, drawing from life with pencil and painting in oils. Have you always worked this way and/or what is it about this process that you like most?
SY: Drawing is the foundation of my working process. I go to the SF Zoo and the California Academy of Science as often as my work schedule allows to sketch from live animals and specimens. This helps me understand how animals move and behave. Additionally, I go to life drawing sessions twice a week, drawing the nude human figure. This is a very traditional regimen, but I think it is necessary to continually practice my drawing skills.
JV: I commend you for your dedication to learning how to properly draw animals from life! But your paintings are also very surreal which means it cannot all be inspired only by what is seen in front of you. Can you talk a little about how you move from concept to a finished painting?
SY: A painting usually starts with a rather fuzzy spark of an idea. I then produce a rough sketch just to capture the feeling of the idea, and at this point I don't worry about technical accuracy. Once the idea starts to gel, I start working through problems such as composition, background and mood. This stage involves a great deal of research and photography. I look at images on the internet, go out and photograph possible backgrounds, and sometimes even purchase props, such as skull castings or insect specimens.
I often arrange and and photograph my human skeleton (casting), and use Poser, a software program, to understand the positioning of the skeleton. I usually work through several drawings before I arrive at a final version, rendered to show shadows and values. I then transfer the drawing to a panel using tracing paper and graphite transfer paper.
My favorite part of the process is when the second layer of paint goes onto the panel, and the concept becomes more tangible.
JV: The way you describe your process is very inspiring with all of the props and preparation you arrange. Is there anything you could give as advice, whether in tools to acquire or otherwise, for artists interested in painting similar kinds of imagery?
SY: I recommend taking time to observe nature, both in person, and through the work of others, such as wildlife photographers. When I'm relaxing and brainstorming for new ideas, I enjoy paging through all of my nature and art books. You can never have too many books! Preferably with lots of color photos.
JV: You are also holding open studios this month which are right here in San Francisco. What it is like these days having a studio in this city?
SY: I'm very fortunate to have a studio at Pacific Felt Factory (PFF) , in San Francisco’s Mission District, an area where gentrification is quickly displacing arts’ spaces and local artists. PFF, which opened last year, has 14 affordable artist studios, and a community exhibition/meeting/event space. I have studio neighbors who are supportive of one another, and producing and showing great art. Several of my artist friends have moved away due to loss of living or studio spaces, to places like Los Angeles and Reno, and to me the city has lost some of its character with their transition. I hope that the City government will take more policy action to ensure that the art community can flourish (through zoning, affordable housing, and setting aside real estate for art studios). The staff of ArtSpan, which produces the Open Studios citywide event, has worked hard to help visual artists remain in the city - either directly, with art spaces such as the Journal Building Studio Residencies program at Van Ness and Market, or through their advocacy at City Hall. One way that I have tried to give back to the art community is by serving on the board as Treasurer for a women's non profit art organization, Northern California Women's Caucus for Art. We provide community, networking, art activities, and exhibition opportunities for women artists.
JV: As a female, I am so excited to hear you mention your involvement in this organization. Through that experience along with simply being a female artist in today's society, do you feel that women are continuing to receive more opportunities in the art world?
SY: I believe that the opportunities for women have vastly improved over the last few generations. The gallerists I have personally worked with have treated their male and female artists equally well, and provided equitable exhibition opportunities and levels of promotion. However, I believe that there are still inequities regarding treatment of female artists by high end galleries and museums. Statistics in this article from ArtNews shows that in the 7 year period ending in 2014 male artists were the subject of the majority of solo exhibits at major art institutions - women garnered only around 20% of such exhibits.
JV: Well that is quite an eye-opener, for sure. We have come so far yet still have such a long way to go. Thank you Sandra, so much, for your time. We are looking forward to celebrating with you at the opening this Saturday and may just pick your brain a bit more about these topics!
Sandra Yagi's new work will be on display as part of Hindsight from November 5th to December 3rd. Join us for the opening reception this Saturday from 6-9!
Emilio Villalba is a modern San Francisco based artist with an iconic painting style. His new series, Talk to Me is currently on display featuring experimental portraiture rich in texture and distinctly muted palettes. Below, we were able to learn more about his investigative approach and the motives behind the work that he creates. Of course, we highly recommend you also swing by and check out the paintings for yourself!
Interview by Jessica Violetta
JV: Hi Emilio, we are honored to have you back in the gallery with new work on view. Your paintings are easily recognizable yet beginning to show signs of a slight shift in the way you have lightened things up for some and then highly reduced the imagery onto black in others. Can you talk more about this progression?
EV: These new high-key images started out as a way to “lighten” up the mood in my work, but I think I ended up with the opposite result, haha. These paintings felt more depressing and “emo” to me than my last series here at Modern Eden. I experimented by distorting the silhouettes more than usual, as well as the placement of the facial features which allowed the expressions to be pushed. For example, on Talk to Me and the The Lonely Painter Facing Death I thinned out the faces and ruined some of the definition to make them seem a bit longer. I felt that investigating a more “painterly” approach to this series would help out the visual concept a bit more. The movement of the paint would move the viewers eye around the piece easier as well giving the painting some weight by adding thicker, more textural brush application.
JV: Right, there feels to almost be a bit less specificity in the faces or people you are depicting in this series than in your previous work. So was this intentional?
EV: Yes, totally… since I was playing with a more painterly application, I felt that some of the features were getting in the way of the brush work as well as some features feeling unnecessary for a particular expression or composition. A lot of the paintings at one time had more features that have been painted over or scraped off. I really enjoyed this process, and I think will continue to explore it.
JV: That sounds like an interesting direction. When you are working, how exactly do you choose which features to fully render and which to fade away? Is this mostly an intuitive decision or something that you predetermine?
EV: I think a lot of it for me had to do with the mood or composition. I was really curious what features I could repeat and which features I could erase and convey a clearer statement of the expression, as well as relating those features back to the overall design. By pushing the brush work and color design I felt that I made up for the destruction or invisible features of the face, haha. Hopefully.
JV: I think you were successful in that attempt! As I mentioned, your work has become very recognizable. Would you say that you have landed upon a “style” or kind of painting that defines you as an artist and/or feels like one you would like to hold on to for a while?
EV: When I think of style, I think of design. Like, what kind of “look” am I going for, and then I adjust color and brushwork to fit that aesthetic. As far as landing or arriving upon a style to keep, I don’t know if the paintings will always look the same… the concepts however, or the idea behind the pieces have been pretty consistent for the last two years with this multiple feature body of work. When I first experimented with this look, my goal for that painting was to create a monster haha. I wanted to represent depression, and bi-polar disorder visually but in a calm sense. If anything, I would like to get to the point where my brushwork is more of the unique voice rather than the subject matter or having multiple features all over the faces haha. I would love to start exploring other subject matter, such as still life and landscape, and figure out a way to incorporate those into a show and still keep it cohesive. At this moment though, I’m still extremely addicted to painting portraits.
JV: I can completely understand that portrait addiction, it would be cool to see you do a landscape though. For Modern Eden's group show “A•Chroma” a few months ago, you contributed a few pencil drawings that were each so different from another and also quite different from your paintings. Of course, your life drawing technique is quite skilled. Can you tell us a bit about these pieces?
EV: Yeah, I love figure drawing and wish I could do it more often. For me, drawing and painting from life is the ultimate. I always tell people that drawing nudes from life is like training at the gym. It’s the best way to learn how to draw especially if you are interested in organic form. The poses range anywhere from 1 minute to 40 minutes, which to me is still really quick! I’ve learned how to make statements in that amount of time, but ideally I would like to get back to drawing longer poses and eventually painting from life. The figure drawings that were in the “A•Chroma” show are 5 minute to 20 or 30 minute poses. The one in color is from a “blind-contour” session where you draw without looking at your page haha. I always love the way those turn out. The final piece was one I did when I was a student actually, of my good friend and amazing painter, Kieran Collins. I was really into dynamic symmetry at the time, and limiting my lines to certain directions. Those were very tedious but fun experiments.
JV: Do you have a favorite piece in the current display?
EV: haha oh man, um I think my favorite piece might be She’s Gone because it’s the most emotional portrait I think I have done in terms of expression haha. Is that cheesy? I really liked the way it looked framed, almost as if the shoulder was resting on the bottom of the frame. Each painting though, I really enjoyed making. I can’t wait to make more pieces and continue to explore this look. The level of focus shifted a bit from the last series because now I’m painting a lot more from imagination rather than a photo reference. It makes me step back and really think about the design and movement more.
JV: I don't think that anything relating to emotional expression is cheesy, especially in the art world! I have found that many artists are unable to pinpoint their favorite work so it is great to learn why one is more compelling for you.
We are also excited to be offering limited edition prints of at least two of your paintings for this show! It is always fun to see how beautifully original art can propagate in the form of a print. Do you ever have this in mind when working?
EV: Thanks! Yeah I’m really excited about the prints. I never thought I would have prints of my work made. We never plan the prints until the pieces are done, so I’m not thinking about a reproduction of the work while I'm working on them. Once we have all the pieces photographed, the owners of Modern Eden (Bradley and Kim) and I look over them and we decide which ones to run test prints of and then decide from there. I think they do a way better job picking out which ones to print than I do haha. Bradley does an extremely beautiful job making sure the prints match the original.
JV: I agree! Bradley and Kim both have a great eye for presentation and they pay an important amount of attention to detail in print reproduction. What, if any, do you find to be your biggest struggles or challenges when approaching your work and what advice can you give for overcoming them?
EV: Hmm, well, I mess up all the time!! I have to constantly remind myself to be patient and take my time. I have a full time job with weird hours so there are days when I start a piece and I rush it because I know I won’t be able to paint for 2 or 3 days which absolutely frustrates me, because there are areas I need to finish while the paint is still wet. So if I don’t finish an area that needs that I would have to repaint it during the next sitting. There are other little things that throw me off sometimes like lighting in my work space not being consistent, but for the most part is just having a deadline for the amount of time I have to paint. The dream would be to have at least 4 days a week in a row to work without interruption etc.
Thanks to Emilio for the insightful glimpse into his process! You can come and take a look at his current work in person at the gallery anytime between October 14-29.
Event photos from the opening reception of Crystal Morey's Delicate Dependencies and Emilio Villalba's Talk to Me on October 14, 2016. Thanks to everyone who made it out last Friday to celebrate, support, and take in all the incredible art by these two top Bay-Area contemporary artists. Both shows run through October 29 and can be viewed at the links above.
Crystal Morey is an Oakland based sculptor with a pristine and evocative new series called "Delicate Dependencies" opening tomorrow at Modern Eden. We are delighted to have had the chance to gain a glimpse into her studio process and the enlightening depth behind the work that she creates.
Interview by Jessica Violetta
JV: “Delicate Dependencies” is a new body of work for you, can you tell us where the ideas for these sculptures began? Tell us about the imagery you chose to include.
CM: In Delicate Dependencies, I wanted to create a dreamlike, captivating space; one filled with emotive hybrid creatures, here to warn us of our current trajectory toward environmental downfall. These figures are meant to show the sinuous connections between all living creatures, and the balance that must excites, in a healthy natural world.
I like to research animals that I find relatable in their actions and intriguing visually. In “Delicate Dependencies” I decided to focus on animals from the western United States, creatures that have an interesting history or trajectory, ones closely affected by human expansion.
I am interested in what we consider to be “fringe” or “indicator” species. These creatures are often the first indicators and casualties of environmental change, and are often found at both ends of the food chain – small creatures being susceptible to minute habitat changes and larger creatures affected by disruptions in a long food chain. These interests led me to include creatures such as a brown bear, red fox, peregrine falcon, mountain lion and California bighorn to name a few.
JV: There seems to be new, natural elements in your sculptures, can you tell us about the use of leaves and what they mean visually?
CM: The leaves are a completely new addition and one I am really fond of. I have been thinking about adaptation, natural evolution, and human driven environmental change and the addition of plant life into my work became the next step. Human and animal relationships have been very important in my work and thinking about the entire biosphere led me to this inclusion. I am interested in a chain of elements, of all living things being interconnected and dependent on each other for long-term viability.
I also find that the leaves speak to the delicacy and balance of our rapidly changing environment. They represent the inescapable cycle of growth, fullness and decent, a theme I am very interested in exploring.
JV: I love the phrase that you use when describing part of your influence as “human interdependence with the land and animals around us”. Is it possible for you to elaborate on how exactly this influences you?
CM: So much of what we see and hear about the state of our world is very upsetting. With humanitarian crises, natural habitat destruction, and wildlife devastation at the forefront, I think we can become desensitized, making us unable or unwilling to take in more information. For these reasons I choose a different method. I see “beauty” and “emotion” as having a power to reach people, to share a poignant, delicate and human moment. My hope is to create empathy for our environment and the creatures that live within it. I hope to stir a curiosity rooted in our relationship to plants and animals around us, and that we are here to share this planet together.
JV: You mention in your biography that you had an “alternative upbringing” and I can only assume that, by this, you are referring to being raised in the Sierra Nevada's, can you explain?
CM: Many of my inspirations and interests in the natural world stem from an alternative upbringing, one I closely connected to the landscape around me. For much of my early childhood we lived in unique dwellings without modern amenities such and electricity or pluming and chose not to indulge in television or mainstream radio. This lifestyle allowed for plenty of time to explore the forests, lakes and river canyons of the area, creating a strong relationship in the way I saw myself as a tiny component in vast sea of natural landscape.
As I have become older, with new life experiences, now living in an urban city, my perspective has changed and the world doesn’t feel as large, wild and free. Through living in an urban environment, manipulated and controlled by humans, the fragile quality of the natural world has become more apparent to me. I no longer see natural landscape as an expansive, never-ending space, I see it as a finite, irreplaceable space we must nurture and protect.
Nostalgia, memory and longing also play a distinct role in my work. I often find myself wishing I could return to the naïve child I was, engulfed in the magical wood, filled with imagination and wonderment, unburdened by the realities of today. And yet, I choose to live in the city of Oakland because I don’t want to ignore modern life. I want to be part of the art culture and environmental conversation about what is happening now, and how we as artists can use our voices to encourage ideas to change.
JV: About how long does is take for you to create one of your pieces? Is there a part to the process that you enjoy the most and/or least?
CM: I build all of my sculptures by hand, using porcelain clay. I start with a composition and gesture in my mind, I then visualize the piece with the emotion and thoughts I would like to convey. From there, I source photographic references for human and animal components to reference as I sculpt. I usually start by sculpting the legs, then move to the torso, the head and onto the arms and hands. Once all of the elements are in place, I then work up layers of detail. I love the intricate details like toes, horns feathers, fur, teeth, and the gestural composition I can create in the arms, hand and fingers. Porcelain is a very delicate material that takes time to set up and dry, this means I can often work on multiple pieces during the same time period. Once a piece has been sculpted, it must completely dry before being fired to roughly 2200° F in a ceramic kiln. From start to finish, including drying time, a piece can take about two months. Creating sculptures with porcelain can be very challenging, but I love the history associated with material and the delicacy and translucency I am able to achieve.
JV: Your current work is so gentle and provocative and we are so excited to see it in person. Any ideas of where your art will take you next?
CM: As a full time studio artist, I am continually trying to challenge myself with new projects. I find it important to deepen my interest, themes and concepts while also pushing my abilities. Through this new collection of work, I have enjoyed the new addition of trees, leaves, leading me to new adaptations of plant and animal. In the next year I hope to continue to expand on these ideas and can’t wait to see where I end up!
I really appreciate your time and interest in my work and I am so happy to share my thoughts and work with you! For more information, please visit my website at www.crystalmorey.com or follow my work on Instagram @cmorey! Thank you!
Delicate Dependencies is on display from October 14–29, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco.
Tracy Lewis is another fantastic artist among many who are currently on display for the “Femme to Femme Fatale” Beautiful Bizarre group show this month. Known for her delicate yet evocative watercolors, Tracy’s art has understandably become highly sought after in galleries and the homes of her admirers. She graciously extends her knowledge to those interested via workshops in California, where she lives, as well as vacation destinations.
Interview by Jessica Violetta.
All images courtesy of the artist.
Omniscient by Tracy Lewis
On view through October 8, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco for Femme to Femme Fatale curated by beautiful.bizarre Magazine.
Glenn Arthur is one of many artists showing in the Beautiful Bizarre curated group show Femme to Femme Fatale here at Modern Eden Gallery this month. Collectors swoon over his sleek, intricate acrylic paintings of feminine beauty in stylistic twists. With a tremendous fan base and following, Glenn’s work speaks for itself. But we are curious to dig a little into the nature of his work ethic, freedom, and enjoyment after having arrived at this level of admiration and artistic success.
Interview by Jessica Violetta.
All images courtesy of the artist.
JV: I am personally a big fan and have enjoyed watching your work progress, always becoming more beautiful and refined. How does this growth resonate with you, if at all? Do you ever notice yourself experiencing drastic changes in your art and/or reflecting back on the progress you have made?
GA: Recognizing my own growth as an artist is a strange thing. I never notice it happening until I look back at my older work and see all of the differences compared with what I'm currently working on. I do constantly strive to improve my work so it's always nice to see that it has happened although I can never really pinpoint when it's happening. Of course, as an artist, I'm never satisfied with making just one type of art. I like to try my hand at several mediums which pushes my growth in different directions that I might not have thought about on my own. Surprise growth is just as welcome as intended growth!
JV: It also seems that artists like yourself are able to increasingly indulge in the aspects of the art-making that you personally enjoy, the more your fan base expands and support is received to literally watch you do….whatever it is that YOU enjoy to do! Is that a fair assumption or do you feel there is some freedom left to be desired?
GA: The fan base is always a factor for me when making my art, but not in the way that it dictates what I choose to make. I'm a multifaceted person with a lot of different interests so I'm always aware that some of the art I make will get a huge response and some will get a very small response. I know the true fans of my work understand that I love creating everything from surrealistic art to anime fan art to sketches of hummingbirds as silly characters. I've never felt stifled when it comes to creative freedom. If anything, the people who enjoy my work continually encourage me to try new things and I love that.
JV: Your work often infuses what you’ve referred to as your “signature” hummingbird. What is the story behind incorporating these pretty, playful birds?
GA: I always feel bad answering this question because I feel like people are expecting a deep response about some kind of personal symbolism that hummingbirds portray for me when in actuality, I just think they're super cool! I've been fascinated with them for as long as I can remember. They're such fast little birds though and out of sight in an instant, so putting them in my work is a way for me to keep them around longer. It's also just tons of fun to dress them up and give such tiny creatures a larger than life personality.
JV: I think many people, including myself, truly enjoy looking at artwork that is primarily about beauty, femininity, tasty details, and the dedicated craftsmanship behind it. Have you ever felt pressure to deliver work with different subject matter and/or what would you say to aspiring artists who also desire to focus on beauty and craft like yourself?
GA: The art that I share publicly is the art that truly inspires and speaks to me aesthetically and emotionally. What a lot of people don't know is that I also do a lot of private illustration work which gives me the chance to explore a lot of art that I wouldn't normally make. Of course these illustrations look nothing like my personal style, and I don't share them publicly, so even if someone saw them they probably wouldn't know it was made by me. Being given opportunities to make so many different kinds of art really makes me appreciate my own personal style so I never really feel pressured to deliver anything different. The best advice I can give to any aspiring artist is to be prolific! I make some kind of art every single day. I may not share it all publicly, but a day never goes by without a pen, pencil or paintbrush in my hand.
JV: Again, just based on observation, the enjoyment you take in your work really seems to show. There are plenty of theories about the importance of artists being able to fully indulge in what they do and that coming through to the viewer. But you also claim to be a perfectionist and your discipline is evident too. Is there anything you can say about balancing these two dynamics in artmaking - pleasure and discipline?
GA: I have a saying that I always refer back to when it comes to discipline. "Practice makes proficient." Although I do consider myself a perfectionist, I know that perfection is an unrealistic goal. I'm also my own worst critic which renders perfection unattainable in my mind. So the next best thing is proficiency. To me, being proficient in something that brings me pleasure, so I guess the more I strive for it the more I enjoy it. I don't know, maybe that makes me some kind of masochist? I also have an undying fear that I'll forget how to make art if I ever stop which might factor into my strange views of pleasure and discipline.
JV: We are looking forward to having your solo show here at Modern Eden in May 2017! Have you begun to prep for this yet, even just in brainstorming or sketch phases? Give us hints of what to expect!
GA: I'm ridiculously excited for this show! I've recently become obsessed with growing succulents and cacti and I'm planning on painting a whole series inspired by these gorgeous plants! As with all of my work you can expect a touch of surrealism and whimsy and of course hummingbirds! I've already got a bunch of sketches and studies in the work and can't wait to get started on the full paintings!
JV: Lastly, I believe you are currently living and working out of northern California. How is this, in your opinion, compared to being in the LA area right now? (Clearly we are a bit biased…)
GA: I was born and raised in Southern California living most of my life in the Orange County area. I still love it down there, but at this stage in my life I really wanted to slow things down and enjoy more nature which the Bay Area is perfect for. I'm specifically in the East Bay which I have fallen in love with and it's great that San Francisco is only a short drive away so that I can get my fill of big city life when I need to.
Intertwined by Glenn Arthur
On view through October 8, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco for Femme to Femme Fatale curated by beautiful.bizarre Magazine.
(September 17, 2016)
This past Saturday, we rolled out the red carpet to welcome an international roster of artists and collectors for our latest exhibition, Femme to Femme Fatale curated by Editor in Chief of the Australian-based art publication, beautiful.bizarre Magazine, Danijela Krha.
As soon as the doors opened, the gallery was buzzing with excitement. Artists delighted in meeting Krha while fans of participating artists were thrilled by a chance to chat with and see the artworks in person.
Femme to Femme Fatale is on view through October 8, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco.
Red Carpet Fun:
Handiedan is a Dutch collage artist based in Amsterdam we are excited to have as part of our next group show Femme to Femme Fatale curated by Beautiful Bizarre. Her work impresses with its ability to exercise a refreshingly unique approach while maintaining a truly pleasing aesthetic regardless of how near or far we are to it. Intrigued by both the beauty and the process, we’ve had the opportunity to interview her for some elaboration.
Interview by Jessica Violetta
All images courtesy of the artist.
JV: It comes as no surprise that your work will be featured in a show with this title and theme. “Femme” seems to be a common theme within your work but so does “Femme Fatale”. Is there anything you could share with us about your choice to so often include a pinup style female (or more than one) in your work?
H: To me, I like how the sensual female form can symbolize both soft and strong, radiates both power and vulnerability. An origin of softness and growth, a purity, sexuality of beauty and decay. I like to use the classical pin-up because of the high cultural value and they exhibit a tasteful response to female sexuality. To use this as the basis of my work and translate/transcend them into a new aesthetic form surrounded within symbolism.
An extra aspect is when you look at a technical aspect. As an extra gift, when digital reproducing these magazines with a scanner: a graphic moiré pops up. It’s sort of a tiny graphic grid. I love it how this moiré works on the paintings and how it interacts with the pixelation of low resolution web images in my digital collages.
JV: The way you are able to entice a viewer into your artwork with such overall charm and then have us come to find that you have actually hand cut and carved the components with mastery, it feels to be a gift that keeps giving. Do you find similar satisfaction with this duality when creating the work?
H: I love the fast and intuitive way of designing and montaging in the computer. It gives unpredictable outcomes that surprise me. It sometimes feels like my unconscious is able to become conscious and appears right in front of me while I create my originals.
I love the timely part of my hand cut collages. It slows me down and lets me go deeper into the meaning of the piece and the process towards the final result.
I love to combine the autonomous techniques of hand cut collage with the modern possibilities of the digital collage techniques. It gives me a definite satisfaction to combine these two techniques, and to see how they complement each other both in the layering of the artwork and in meaning and technique.
JV: You have had the opportunity to show in various forms - from gigantic outdoor murals to small scale gallery works. Do you have a favourite experience so far?
H: My most favourite experience is the combination of both.
The quiet focus of working for months by myself in my studio creating art for a show.
The fast and energetic focus while creating a wheat past mural in one week, with a lot of direct interaction with your audience and the project team gives a lot of energy.
Either way of working gives a new and different energy and the possibility to re-focus. I think combining results for me as a good way to grow, learn and develop my art.
JV: As someone who collects vintage illustrations for the aged aesthetic but also seeks out modern art, I find your artwork to be like a successful hybrid between the two. Have you also been a connoisseur of materials like this before you began to use them to create original work?
H: The original work I’m creating today, is a direct result of what I always have done.
I always had a fascination of things that are aged or ‘have a story locked in time’.
For example, a little piece that fell off an old tree or dried flower, a trashed empty record sleeve or yellowed metro tickets. All to me little treasures.
I can however also see this in modern things that I think are different and raises curious, or that triggers a happy feeling. Like my vinyl toy and crystals and gems collection.
I like to gather things that have a story and it’s even more interesting to combine or compose them together. To see a surprisingly new and totally different story appear.
JV: Being in San Francisco, we know there are both differences and similarities about art and life in Amsterdam. Are you satisfied with the opportunities available for you where you are now and/or have you shown or traveled to other places that seem to welcome what you are doing even more?
H: With my art I mainly exhibit and do projects abroad. I’m very grateful that I am able to do what I love all over the world and meet all these different kind of people.
As a basis, I find Amsterdam a great city to live and to develop my art. A nice and open atmosphere to create. I think a lot of nice things are happening in Amsterdam. Especially the last few years, new galleries and projects full of new art energy popped up.
JV: Aside from the commonality of depicting the female form, are there any overarching themes or concepts that you typically have in mind when making your work?
H: My art works are a treasure trove of symbols and patterns scattered on and through the background. You can find meaning in the tattoos, in patterns of decorative symbolism and hidden meanings, with a focus on Quantum Physics, Metaphysics, Mythology, Sacred Geometries, Cosmology, Astronomy and Space and Time theories.
JV: Your mural in Berlin for Urban Nation is breathtaking. Can we look forward to you creating more large scale public work in the future?
H: Thank you.
After creating the mural in Berlin in 2014, I’ve created several large wheat paste murals for Wall Therapy in Rochester and one for RMP in Richmond this year. Sadly, because of harsh weather conditions these walls didn’t last.
There are plans in the make for a new large mural project in conjunction with my solo exhibition at Jonathan LeVine Gallery next year. Very excited about it!
Flos Vitae by Handiedan
On exhibit for Femme to Femme Fatale from September 17 through October 8, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco. Inquire for more info
The gallery began working with Danijela Krha and her team at beautiful.bizarre in 2014 as the publication entered its sixth issue. Introductions to Gallery Director Kim Larson were made, and a shared interest in advancing the same caliber and style of artwork was revealed. Over the last several years, the magazine has grown and expanded into nothing short of an international phenomenon. Now in it’s 14th issue, and with well over 600,000 followers combined across their social networks, they serve up a continuous and engaging stream of beautiful and surreal contemporary artwork, which as their name implies—oft trend toward the bizarre. What initially began as a focus on advancing Australian artists on the world stage, became a much larger endeavor as similarities and shared interests were discovered in the US, Europe, Asia and more. Built upon nearly two years of planning and cross-collaboration, this exhibition represents a successful knitting together of a geographically disparate but connected community of artists under a common movement, and another step toward advancing this growing movement in the art world. All images courtesy of beautiful.bizarre and the curator.
Interview by Jessica Violetta.
JV: Danijela, it is very exciting to have you as a group show curator for the first time at Modern Eden Gallery after admiring your magazines on the shelves for a while now. The list of artists you have gathered together for the large group show, “Femme to Femme Fatale” is very impressive. Can you tell us a little bit about the concept of the show?
DK: Thank you I am thrilled and grateful to have this opportunity to work closely with Kim and Bradley whom have been major beautiful.bizarre magazine partners for a number of years.
When Kim and I connected on the idea of a beautiful.bizarre magazine exhibition, it felt like a natural step in our business relationship. It has been a real pleasure working with the directors and owners of Modern Eden Gallery, whom are both extremely passionate and professional.
I agree that the artists that have come together to be part of the “Femme to Femme Fatale” exhibition are incredibly impressive. I am honoured that I, and beautiful.bizarre magazine have been able to inspire such a exceptional and diverse group of artists from various styles and genres to come together and explore the feminine in contemporary art and society. I think this speaks to the wonderful reputation that beautiful.bizarre magazine has built over the last 3+ years as a business that truly respects and values artists, and of course is madly in LOVE with the incredible work they produce.
As I'm sure you are aware, the beautiful.bizarre aesthetic is largely figurative and you will see many feminine faces and bodies, lives and experiences grace the pages of our art quarterly and our web and social media pages. As a woman in the modern world I am grateful to have the opportunities in life that I do, and honour those that fought for our current freedoms. I am also intrigued how my sisters experience the modern age across cultures and ethnic backgrounds - are we all facing similar issues? Hence the theme was born in my desire to have the best figurative new contemporary artists look at the women around them, at themselves and at our society and explore and bring to life the many forms of the modern feminine.
"Femme to Femme Fatale : The Feminine in Contemporary Art"
Woman. She is an archetype, a stereotype, mother, lover, daughter, dominator. Larger than life, hiding her divinity, selfie taking, heart breaking and heart broken.
Uncompromising and comprising, a shaper of society.
Within every woman there is a nurturer, and a wild beast! She can be a maid, a princess and a queen, all at once.
Yet some women are still taught it's not OK to have been born a female. They are punished and treated cruelly, a less than human in some societies. While from around the corner we watch, heartbroken at the plight of our sisters. In this modern age, we fight for those who have no voice, rallying together in full circle. Hoping that somehow we can help them break free from their chains and join us in a freer world, one that is closer to equality for the sexes.
In the Western World we are much closer to gender equality, more free to express ourselves – our passions, our dreams, as well as our struggles and fragility.
We are: tattooed beauties, extravagant and defiant, unafraid to stand up and face the world on our own terms; old and fierce, hardened from the pain of taking on the whole world at once, yet we wear our experiences on our faces and bodies with pride; girls with our faces on every page, trying so hard to fit in, selfie taking, insecure and over confident at once; women who are passionate about the natural world and strive desperately to save it for the future generations we will create; the strong and determined career woman who holds up the world on her shoulders, a brilliant example to us all, yet is often tired and lonely inside.
In one lifetime a woman can be all of these things. Big and small, strong and weak, dominant and submissive, leader and nurturer, she shrinks then expands, she grows and evolves.
The life of the modern woman is still riddled with difficulties. We have worked hard to empower ourselves in this patriarchal society. Some have succeeded and others still struggle. Trying to fit in and stand out, to stay healthy, relevant, career driven and nurturing, who are we in today's modern world?
JV: Just like the intention of beautiful.bizarre as a whole, this show seems to gather artists from all around the globe. Was there something particular that you looked for in these artists?
DK: Indeed, beautiful.bizarre showcases the work of leading and emerging new contemporary artists from around the world, and I feel strongly about continuing this in our physical exhibitions. It is also extremely important that the diversity that is showcased in beautiful.bizarre art quarterly is also a highlight of our exhibitions. I want the viewer to see the pop surrealist painting right next to the fine art painting, next to the emerging artist, beside the widely exhibited artist whose work graces the walls of public galleries and museums. It is this juxtaposition, this inclusive and encompassing mantra that is evident in everything that beautiful.bizarre magazine does and has translated beautifully in “Femme to Femme Fatale”.
I also of course considered all the artists who have been featured in beautiful.bizarre magazine in the past 3+ years and those we would love to feature in the near future!
JV: I’ve noticed that your magazine is open to submissions from anyone. It must be both exciting and overwhelming to fish through and choose what gets published. Do you ever notice having a hand in getting emerging artists to a more established position of their career by featuring them in group shows or your magazine?
DK: We receive hundreds of submissions each week and the task of going through them is passionately and diligently done by my Submissions Manager, Susan Santamauro who loves art and the creatives who bring it to life as much as I do. Susan and I appreciate that all young creatives start at the beginning, and it is through encouragement, practice and experimentation that successful artistic careers are born. It is very important to us to ensure we encourage those just starting their journey and help those that are on the cusp on a new chapter grow and evolve.
We have many examples of beautiful.bizarre’s influence in the art community - it is a wonderful and humbling testament to my team's passion and hard work. Many emerging artists that have been featured in beautiful.bizarre magazine have seen their artistic careers take off following their exposure through our publication and media network both in relation to salability and exhibition rosters. I am ever grateful that I am able to help others in this way!
JV: On the other hand, I am sure you are able to establish relationships with artists that you work with on ongoing basis. Would you say that your curated shows, like this one, are primarily made up of artists whom you have already worked with?
DK: Oh yes, as I mentioned above, all the beautiful.bizarre curated exhibitions feature artists we have worked with in the past, that we love and respect. As well as those we wish to create that enduring relationship with. I am very fortunate to have been able to build an exceptional network of artists, gallerists and of course art lovers/collectors that are supportive of beautiful.bizarre’s mission and vision.
JV: Being based in Australia, I know that you are fond of bringing Australian artists to light. Are there any Australian artists showing in “Femme to Femme Fatale”?
Great question and thank you for raising it. Being an Australian company, it is very important to us that we do our best to raise the profile of Australian new contemporary art and artists both locally and internationally. To encourage their creative process and support their careers. We do this in multiple ways, including features in beautiful.bizarre magazine, sharing their work on our socials, articles/interviews on the beautiful.bizarre website and of course inclusion in our curated exhibitions.
I have a huge sense of pride and am extremely honoured that we have a number of exceptional Australian creatives in the ‘Femme to Femme Fatale’ line up including Bec Winnel, Graeme Balchin, Julia deVille, Marie Larkin, Nicole Watt (aka Mahlimae) and Pippa McManus.
I am very excited to have this opportunity to introduce their work to the San Francisco art scene.
JV: With the intention of focusing more on alternative forms of expression, it is fascinating that beautiful.bizarre has made such a presence for itself within the current art scene. Does it come as a surprise to you that so many people are interested in art that is more “bizarre” than mainstream?
Actually no, since I myself feel this way I am not surprised that many others do too. I always thought I couldn't be alone in feeling uninspired and bereft when I left many of the more traditional mainstream galleries. I didn't feel a connection with much of the modern work being shown. However, we have seen significant change in the last decade and the art scene is still evolving thanks largely to social media. We are seeing a returned focus on representational figurative art which is beautiful.bizarre’s main aesthetic, and to work that acknowledges and celebrates the mastery of artistic skill. We as consumers of the visual world now have a powerful voice through social media to shout from the rooftops what touches us - what we love! We no longer have to accept what others tell us we should appreciate.
beautiful.bizarre embraces many forms and genres from fine art to low brow, from the beautiful to the bizarre, however what is clearly evident is our love for figurative art. We the viewer can see ourselves in the work, how the figure sits or interacts with the the scene/landscape - we project our own experiences, emotions and values onto the piece - this is why figurative art is so engaging and so powerful. I believe our focus on figurative art is one of the main reasons beautiful.bizarre has grown so quickly in the last 3+ years - because we can connect with it as human beings.
I hope you don't mind, but I would like to take the opportunity to publicly acknowledge and thank my management team whom are the most passionate, dedicated and amazing people I know! beautiful.bizarre wouldn't be where it is without each and every one of these exceptional people. I am incredibly fortunate and thankful to have them all with me on this exciting and rewarding journey: Richard Purssey [Co-Founder & Technical Director], Bella Harris [Online Editor], Jeanette Bartholomew [Finance Manager], Susan Santamauro [Submissions Manager], Miu Vermillion [Public Relations Manager], Hieu Nguyen [Designer], and finally my brilliant Executive Assistant Kylie Dexter who has helped me bring this exhibition to life. I would also like to thank all the beautiful.bizarre Online Authors and Guest Contributors for sharing their love of art/photography/music/film/wearable art etc with the world through the beautiful.bizarre website.
JV: Do you have any personal all-time favorite artists/creatives or pieces?
I have WAY too many favourites to even begin recounting here, but let's just say that ‘Femme to Femme Fatale’ is showcasing a large majority of my current “Art Throbs”.
JV: What initially drew you to the task of curating gallery shows?
DK: To be completely honest with you our major gallery partners/advertisers have in each circumstance approached me with the offer, and I believe it is a wonderful and natural extension of our close partnership.
Plus of course it is a real thrill and an honour for me personally. I am humbled by each and every artist’s original creation for “Femme to Femme Fatale”. Their time, energy, creative vision and expression is something I value extremely highly.
JV: We are looking forward to having you here in San Francisco. Besides the opening, do you have any fun plans while in town?
DK: WOW myself and Richard Purssey, beautiful.bizarre’s Co-Founder/Technical Director and I are incredibly excited about our visit to San Francisco! We leave just after our wedding and will arrive early in the week prior to the opening on 17 September. So San Francisco and the opening will be part of our honeymoon!
I am thrilled that so many of the exhibiting artists will be attending the opening and I will finally have the opportunity to meet them, and Modern Eden Gallery Directors Kim and Bradley. At this stage we have not yet made any “touristy” plans but I have been googling like a mad woman, so would appreciate any/all recommendations re what we should do and see while in town.
I can't wait to see all the fabulous folks of San Francisco on 17 September at the opening of ‘Femme to Femme Fatale: The Feminine in Contemporary Art’. Please do stop in and say hello, I would love to meet you and hear what you think of this, the first beautiful.bizarre exhibition the US!
Femme to Femme Fatale will open September 17, 2016 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco. The exhibition will be on display through October 8, 2016.