Tag Archives: artist interview

“Dinner with an Artist” featuring Monika Steiner

“Dinner with an Artist” was inspired by the many dinners ANNE REED GALLERY’s owner, Barbi Reed, has had the pleasure of enjoying with gallery artists over the years. It was during these dinners that the conversation twisted and turned to the delight of all sitting around the table. There was no more perfect way to relax and enjoy the camaraderie of artist, collectors, and staff after the intensity of curating, preparing for, and installing an exhibition. Today, we invite you to this virtual dinner table conversation with Monika Steiner. ANNE REED GALLERY is thrilled to announce our representation of Monika. We invited her to our virtual table to answer a few questions about her background, her work and the paintings in her first solo exhibition, The Timeless, at ANNE REED GALLERY.

Monika Steiner: Released I, Oil on Wood

Monika Steiner: Released I, Oil on Wood

ARG: Let’s start by discussing the recent focus of your work: spheres, which we see in The Timeless exhibition. We know from your artist statement that you have always been interested in metaphysics and are fascinated by the sphere because of its “elegance and efficiency”. Can you explain how this fascination began and its ongoing role in your work?

MS: My curiosity with circular shapes began early.  In Egypt I saw firsthand the sun god “Ra” depicted with a circle over his head. Almost every culture or religion, in one form or another, used the circle as a spiritual symbol of unity, wholeness and enlightenment.  I became fascinated by how such a simple shape can express as powerful of a concept as one’s mystical sense of oneness.

After a series of paintings of two dimensional circles I started to render them as spheres.  The sphere encloses the greatest amount of volume yet uses the least amount of surface area.  Nature uses this form to structure everything from the sub atomic world all the way up to the shape of planets.  We subconsciously resonate with something powerful in the face of that kind of mathematical perfection.

On a technical level, it challenges me to draw, freehand, perfect circles.  Arranging the sizes and colors of the spheres and integrating them into a non-static background is hard, but when I get it right, the pieces have a balance and harmony of composition that invokes this sense of wholeness and unity, properties of the shape itself I wanted to communicate.

ARG: Can you speak more the  “ultimate intention” of your abstract work? Image

MS: My ultimate intention with my abstract oil paintings is that the art would give viewers some access to their own perception process– feeling something they can’t explain because they can’t label it like a realistic image.  It’s like the painting opens up a space between where its surface ends and the viewer’s mind gyrations begin.

ARG: We’re intrigued by the titles of your paintings. Can you tell us about how you decide on each title and its significance? For instance, we’re interested in the genesis of Released I and Released II, the two most recent paintings in your exhibition?

MS: I generally title my paintings before beginning them and I am thinking of a feeling or an idea that I want to express abstractly.  For example, Released I&II are about emotional release and in the end that concept is clear in each painting in that one sphere that is far less integrated with its surroundings compared to the others.  But that wasn’t a result of conscious design, more just thoughts and feelings influencing the process and the unconscious mind solving the representational problem.

ARG: We found a short Youtube video in which you discuss your painting technique of layering. In it, you state, “More layers make a richer painting.” Can you tell us more about your layering process and how this technique allows you to achieve your vision? We’re curious if you start with a specific vision or if you allow the painting to evolve as new layers inform you?

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Monika Steiner: Cascade, Oil on Wood

 MS: I carefully plan compositions before I start. The placement in the sphere paintings is hard to change later, so I sketch it out first in charcoal. With the sphere shapes it is very important that everything stays in balance throughout the process otherwise the whole piece in the end feels “off”.  Besides the composition, I have to balance the light and dark tones of each sphere and integrate them with the background.  I paint the lightest colors first; those warm tones penetrate through the additional layers of paint and make the piece glow in the end. Even a one-toned piece, bluish grey for instance, can be warmed up with an initial layer of light yellow tint underneath. Those first layers are hardly visible in the end but are essential to chromatically harmonize the painting.

By layering glazes on top of each other I can achieve a nice radiance and the transparency of the drips can be seen if you look at an individual sphere close up. All those layers are very subtle but make the piece much richer.

ARG: We noticed that you have created sculpture in the past. Do you continue to work in this medium?

MS: Yes, I still do bronze sculptures, although, my main focus has always been painting.
My approach to sculpture is conceptual like the paintings, using emotions or concepts to create abstract shapes that are unique and timeless. With bronze I am using the ancient lost wax process, still done the same way today, so the ageless quality of the process is always with you – but so is the labor intensive work of it – modeling the piece first in wax, making a shell, melting the wax out of the shell, pouring the bronze in, destroying the shell, sandblasting, chasing and finally adding a patina. It still fascinates me every time I see the red hot molten bronze being poured into its shell where it will transform itself back into a solid that will outlive us all.

Monika Steiner: Pendulums, Bronze

Monika Steiner: Pendulums, Bronze

ARG: You were born in Switzerland. When did you come to this country and has your “multi-cultural” experiences affected your work?

MS: I came to the USA in 2000 and I do believe that my multicultural background and my travels throughout the world have affected my work. My jewelry making background influenced my sculpture; having to adapt to a new culture and going through a life transition made me realize how painting can be a creative channel to go deeper within myself. I know it has also helped to have inherited a Swiss work ethic.

ARG: Now you live in the Bay Area and recently had a baby. Where do you paint and how do you balance motherhood with your commitment to being an artist?

MS: I am lucky that my painting studio is at my home and that I have a nanny two days a week. It is definitely a challenge time wise to balance motherhood and being a professional artist but I am very dedicated to my work, which has always been my passion. I worked very hard to get where I am now as an artist. I treasure every minute with my daughter and I am trying to be as present as I can with our time together yet I found that having both, work and motherhood, helps me learn to balance my life.

ARG: We have found that many artists have been interested in art since they were children. Did you have any early childhood experiences that sparked your interest in art or mentors that affected the direction of your work?

Monika Steiner, Far Away, Oil on Wood

Monika Steiner, Far Away, Oil on Wood

MS: I always loved art, but growing up on a small farm village where art was considered a hobby, not a “real profession”, was challenging. I became a teacher there instead of an artist but I always did creative things on the side – pottery, jewelry making, drawing, painting, etc. It was only when I came to the USA and couldn’t work as a teacher that I realized it was finally my chance to pursue my passion and study art. One of my teachers at SSU definitely influenced me and sparked my interest in abstract art. His encouragement made me believe I could pursue this career.

Cy Twombly: Scattered Blossoms (SmithsonianMag.com)

Cy Twombly: Scattered Blossoms (SmithsonianMag.com)

ARG: And now, do you have contemporary or historical role models who continue to inspire you?

MS: There are some artists that I feel an immediate connection to: subtle things like Cy Twombly’s or Jay Kelly’s very minimal pieces. I find it intriguing and especially challenging to create quiet, almost, “silent”, pieces of art. Less “loud” in the sense of color and form is a direction I feel myself headed.

ARG: We raise our glass to you and to your latest beautiful exhibition with ANNE REED GALLERY. Although we’ve many more questions for you, perhaps we should end this conversation by asking if there is there anything else you’d like to say either about your work or anything else.

MS: Thank you so much! These were very thoughtful questions. I can’t think of anything else, just that I feel honored to be represented by your beautiful gallery.

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“Dinner with an Artist” featuring Cheryl Warrick

“Dinner with an Artist” was inspired by the many dinners ANNE REED GALLERY‘s owner, Barbi Reed, has had the pleasure of enjoying with gallery artists over the years. It was during these dinners that the conversation twisted and turned to the delight of all sitting around the table. There was no more perfect way to relax and enjoy the camaraderie of artist, collectors, and staff after the intensity of curating, preparing for, and installing an exhibition. Today, we invite you to this virtual dinner table conversation with Cheryl Warrick to discuss her current exhibition: Visual Dance.

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ARG: What early influences sparked your interest in art and becoming an artist?

CW: I remember watching my father draw and sketch on napkins and the papers that were in front of him on his desk.  He would never describe himself an artist. He was a Retired Army Lt Col. and was very organized and thoughtful with everything. I thought his drawings were amazing. They were like watching his brain at work. Drawing was how he figured things out. My sister is also an artist. I can remember watching her creating small figurative sculptures of wax and wire coat hangers.  I started drawing in middle school. I drew the figure mostly. I would pull out my sketch pad and draw everyone as they watched tv at night. 

warrickNOTwords

ARGYour paintings contain many symbols that you have mentioned are important to the viewers’ “continued exploration” of your works. We notice some symbols recur in your works, such as boats, trees, ladders and even teapots. Can you explain what some of these symbols mean to you and why you choose to include them in your paintings?

CW: I think of these images as archetypes. We all know something about these objects, either on a personal note or as a symbol that represents the opening to a deeper story. We all know something about an empty chair. It could be about loss or about someone who will fill that seat in the future. Two empty chairs may imply a conversation. I am not really fixed on a meaning, and everyone will always have a different response when they see these images. 

ARG: Besides iconography, you are also clearly drawn to landscapes, including your new series of acrylic works on paper featured on our sister site ARTprojectA. Are these specific landscapes or landscapes that are made-up, fabricated?

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Distant Ground, Acrylic on Paper

CW: I invent my landscapes. They are also about symbolic associations. We are all living with a sky above us and the earth under foot. I paint from what I call “internal knowing” and I invite the viewer to complete the painting by bringing their own meaning and interpretation to what they see. There are often, hills, valleys, waters to cross, stormy skies, bare trees or densely filled horizons. Some places seem a stone’s throw away, while others are much farther off. 

ARGIn some of your works you use materials other than paint such as bits of found paper. Where do you find these materials and why do you choose to incorporate them in your paintings? 

CW: I love bits of scrapbooking paper, old maps, found letters, and ledgers. Almost anything. I love putting found papers down as a way to begin. I cover them up and then they begin to form a texture and history in the work. 

J.M.W. Turner Painting, "Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps"

J.M.W. Turner Painting, “Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps”

ARG: Do you have any current or historical role models who inspire you? 

CW: I have a great appreciation for many artists and kinds of art. I am a big fan of the landscape paintings by J.M.W. Turner. They always seemed so contemporary.  I also love the the work of a group of women quilt makers from Gee Bend Alabama. The improvisation, texture and movement in these quilts are really beautiful.

ARG: Have you encountered any obstacles you’ve had to over come in the art world? And if so, what advice would you offer other aspiring artists?

CW: I think all artists have obstacles from time to time. The first and most important thing in my mind is always self compassion. We are taught to take great care of our brushes and art materials, but our first tool is ourselves. It starts with being present with yourself and allowing what is there to be there. Meeting yourself as a creative person on a journey that is not linear is a real challenge. It requires radical acceptance and cultivating a practice of inner dialog that is kind. I suggest spending a lot of time in nature, that really helps. 

Letters, Acrylic - Mixed Media on Panel

Letters, Acrylic – Mixed Media on Panel  

ARG: Have you been influenced by living in Boston?

CW: Yes, especially lately. The recent bombings at the Marathon were horrific and tragic. There are so many brave, kind people that helped one another on that day, and the days that followed. It was truly inspiring. This is a great city, alive with a vibrant caring community, culture and of course, wonderful art. 

ARG: Can you tell us a little bit about where you work?

CW: I have a small studio in the SOWA district of Boston. The building used to be a whiskey factory and has been artists studios since the 80’s. The floors are sloped from the weight of the whisky barrels. There are 20 or so artists in the building. It is rather old and creaky, but it works!

The Way, Acrylic - Mixed Media on Panel

The Way, Acrylic – Mixed Media on Panel

ARG: Just for fun, Do you listen to music or the radio when you paint? If so, can you tell us what you listen to.

CW: I always have my ipod on..I’m a big fan of musical compilations. I listen to anything from Love is My Religon by Ziggy Marley to anything Bill Evans and everything  you can imagine in between.

ARG: Do you have any thoughts about the direction you see your work evolving?

CW: I have no idea, I am just grateful to pick up the paint brush and paint! When I  look back over more than 20 years of facing the blank canvas, something always comes. Creative life is a beautiful dance with faith, trust and action.

ARG: Thanks, Cheryl. We’ve so enjoyed sharing a conversation over a “virtual dinner” with you and look forward to more time with you in the future.  Cheers!

CW: This was fun. Thank you.