Monday, September 13, 2010

Jane Zwiebel- A new hybrid medium

© Jane Zwiebel Self Portrait

 Join me for an interview with Jane Zwiebel. I'm hosting a stop on her blog tour in cooperation with Baang & Burne Contemporary. Her answers to the following questions inspired me on both the making of art side of things and the business side. No doubt you'll find some stimulating gems too.

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.

© Jane Zwiebel Self Portrait
Have you studied or do you have expertise in other fields? How does that background influence your studio work and vice versa?
Creative writing is my second passion. I mainly write poems, and upon occasion, short stories. However, my writing never developed into a career like visual art did. I only write when intermittently inspired, unlike making art, in which I work in my studio consistently, whether inspired or not. Another field I have worked in professionally is teaching. Originally, I didn’t think I would like or be good at teaching art. However, once I began teaching art, I found that I actually loved it. Teaching art always fed into my art making. A major watershed moment in the influence of teaching upon studio work took place during the course of teaching my fifth graders to create hybrid sewn and stuffed creatures. I decided to make one with them. I worked with canvas, thread, stuffing, and paint in my studio – and my first “stuffed painting” was made. What began as a student project transformed into a new, exciting, and on-going body of work! A year ago, I earned my second master’s degree in art therapy. Now, inaddition to my studio practice, I work professionally as a creative arts therapist. The materials and concepts I develop in my studio transforms into what I do with my clients as an art therapist. Conversely, my creative process is strongly influenced by my work as a mental health professional. Currently, I am developing my most ambitious project to date, which will integrate painting, sculpture, and installation. The whole concept is inspired by my art therapy sessions.

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© Jane Zwiebel Self Portrait


Working alone in the studio and 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!

If you could dispel one myth about being an artist, what myth would you banish forever?
The myth I would like to dispel is that of the “starving artist” I believe that truly serious artists, on some level, want their work to ultimately be seen and experienced by others. I also think that most artists really do want to ideally make a living from their work. Many of us take day jobs, such as teaching, to support our work and ourselves as artists. Maybe I should only speak for myself, but I know I am not alone in this: when a collector acquires my work, I am quite happy to send it out into the world. Most significantly, I gain such gratification in being paid for what I most love to do! 

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.

What advice would you give to an artist who is just starting out?
A young artist should have time and space to develop a serious body of work true to the artist’s vision and creative instinct. He/she should also have time to experiment and take risks in their work. I don’t believe that a beginning artist should rush into the business of being an artist – which is not to say that they should not take the right opportunity if they arises and feel right. When it feels like the right time to put the work out there, do it! But the work should always come first.

How important do you think it is for artists to know about art history, and why?

I think it is extremely important for artists to know about art history. Art history is a continuum. As artists, we are all an integral part of that continuum. I think that being well versed in the history of art presents artists with a wealth of information to draw upon. I have learned so many invaluable lessons from artists who came before me, and this has profoundly enriched my own development as an artist.
Artists don’t work in a vacuum; we all have influences, which are key to our finding our own artistic identities. For example, I wouldn’t be the same artist I am today without looking at, learning from, and being affected by, the self-portraits of Frida Kahlo. Although I consider my own self-portraits uniquely my own, I know and appreciate that Frida Kahlo’s indelible images have influenced my images.
© Jane Zwiebel, Self-Portrait


In a hi-tech global society that is saturated by visual images that are being exchanged with amazing speed, how does two dimensional art such as painting remain relevant?

I think that hi-tech innovations can exist alongside of painting. I find the Internet, with its vast treasure trove of visual imagery, has become a major resource for my work. Yet, painting itself, the intimate relationship between hand, tangible medium, and subject matter, is and will always be relevant.

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.

Who are your art heroes? Who are your “real life” heroes ?

I have many art heroes. In terms of contemporary artists, I love the surreal, figurative paintings of Julie Heffernan. Other artists whose work I love and admire are: Philip Guston, Susan Rothenberg, Elizabeth Murray, Elizabeth Layton, Max Beckmann, Frida Kahlo, Francis Bacon, Van Gogh, Caravaggio, Mantegna, and Rembrandt. My “real life” heroes are: my deceased grandmother Ruth, my son Nicolas, the writers and therapists Lauren Slater and Irvin Yalom, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton – and I know there are others, but these are the ones that come to me off the top of my head. The common denominator, I think, is that these individuals have all in one way or another overcome difficulties and odds to triumph in their lives.

If you would like to find out more on how Baang & Burne are "eliminating barriers" for art buyers by functioning in a different way from the typical art gallery read Kesha Bruce's post, "How to Create Unique Art Experiences."

5 comments:

MiKa Art said...

Wow, her art is so different and unique!! The interview is very interesting and inspiring. Thank you very much for sharing, Shayla!

Tracy said...

WOW...Jane's "stuffed canvases" are incredible... they live & breathe! Very impressive how she uses a kind of illustration-style painting and creating these doll-like figures to tell a story. With these she does seem to marry painting and writing, I think. Thanks for introducing us to her unique work. Terrific interview, Shayla...very nice variety into the mix here. Happy Days :o) ((HUGS))

Megan Coyle said...

Thanks for sharing her work - it's fascinating!

mansuetude said...

the boundary she sews and stuffs then paints with so much symbolic importance, makes me as viewer feel squeezed in or stuffed too. I want to rip it open and let its life spread out... but that is good!

Wonderful interview.

M.Kate said...

Hi there Shayla...what an interesting set of pictures and thoroughly enjoyed the interview. Hugs/ :)