Posts tagged Contemporary Painting
Paintings of the Natural World in a Digital Age by Josiah Ellner

Josiah Ellner is a Milwaukee-based artist who earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2019.  Ellner was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but grew up in Xi’an, China and later came back to Milwaukee to attend UWM.  Due to spending his whole life living in cities, he has always felt alienated from the natural world.  Despite these feelings of alienation, he has found himself strangely drawn to natural elements that are encountered in daily urban living. This has inspired him to create work that represents the estrangement of humanity from nature.  Through using a mixture of oils and acrylics, he paints figures in urban environments and inserts natural elements.


The natural world has changed drastically since the onset of the digital age.  With this change, the natural world as we know it has begun to fade and become background noise to new technology.  Despite this, we as humans are still drawn to the natural world and tend to hold onto natural elements in our daily lives, whether that be consciously or subconsciously.  My work tackles the growing complicated relationship that people of the digital age have with the natural world.  My paintings evoke one to further contemplate their personal relationship with the natural world.

Human Imagination Explored in the Portraits by Erin Armstrong

Erin is a contemporary figurative artist working and living in Toronto, CA. Her work looks into the human imagination as it is expressed visually. She is particularly intrigued by the ways in which the mind can conjure and create worlds by piecing together memory, experience, and the ability of the mind’s eye to render a non-reality. She draws on the genre of portraiture as a foundation for these explorations, but chooses to depict not a person or sitter, but an atmosphere or sensation expressed inside the formal qualities of human shapes. 

Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout Canada and the US as well as England, Australia, Scotland, Switzerland, and Sweden. She is currently working towards two upcoming solo shows in Seattle and Geneva in 2019. 

Select features include: Nylon Magazine, House and Home Magazine, ShopBop, Its Nice That, Domino, Cultured Magazine, The Jealous Curator.

Select clients/projects include: Nike, Anthropologie, The Drake Hotel, Portia De Rossi’s "General Public Art", Hulu’s “The Handmaids Tale”, Saatchi Limited.

Genevieve Cohn

Genevieve Cohn was born and raised in rural Vermont before attending Ithaca College for her undergraduate degree in Art and Culture & Communication. She received her MFA in Painting from Indiana University and was awarded the Future Faculty Teaching Fellowship following her graduate studies. Genevieve has shown nationally with works shown at ARC Gallery in Chicago and The Painting Center and Pace University in New York City. Genevieve has been an artist-in-residence at The Vermont Studio Center, The Ragdale Foundation, and AiRGentum in Seville, Spain.


My paintings walk a line between the real world and a world shaped by emotional perceptions. My practice and research focus on projecting possible communities of women by drawing from both a historical and imaginative past, present and future. In an age where the role of women continues to be examined, I am interested in challenging tradition to champion the full humanity and nurturing rationality of successful communities of women. I utilize imagery and ideology from the Women's Land Army and female separatist groups, as well as inspiration from literature and contemporary culture.


Giving up Is Not an Option with Ashley Longshore

Join Ashley Longshore and Kat on this special episode. We talk about the hard stuff: working through financial difficulty, not giving up, trusting and believing in yourself during times of uncertainty, staying in a positive frequency no matter what and working with high end clients. 

Sarah Ashley Longshore is a Louisiana-based painter, gallery owner, and entrepreneur. She is the owner of the Longshore Studio Gallery, located on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Longshore's art focuses on pop culture, Hollywood glamour, and American consumerism and has been compared to the artwork of Andy Warhol.

Claira Heitzenrater

Claira Heitzenrater (b. 1988) is a contemporary painter living and working in Dubois, Pennsylvania. She holds an MFA in painting from Edinboro University (2016), and a BFA in Studio Art from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (2012). She was featured in issue 11 of Fresh Paint Magazine, issue 38 of Studio Visit Magazine, and various regional publications. She completed residencies at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT and Sparkbox Studio in Ontario, Canada.


One of the great truths in life is that nothing lasts forever. Throughout our lifetime, we are subject to impermanence in myriad ways: death, fleeting moments, and the loss of objects and memories. Even a child, I possessed a heightened awareness of death: the constant reminder of my own transience is both provocative and terrifying. Initially serving as a catalyst for existential anxiety, I utilize that fear to drive my work in hopes of discovering and accepting that I am not meant to exist as a permanent fixture in the world, but rather a temporary impression on its surface. 

In my paintings, I harness this state of flux, employing varying degrees of abstraction and rendering to reinforce absence and presence with my observed forms. I apply and scrape away paint, removing portions of the composition to create “ghosts” within the picture plane, which function as not only a present spirit or manifestation, but also an absent memory. I deliver content to the viewer via the use of surrogates for people, being viewed from an outside perspective, their relationships mimicking that of human interaction. 

The surrogates I place in my paintings are of a domestic nature. I choose domestic objects as they are meant to be handled by human hands in order to function, further promoting their familiarity. These objects flaunt their deterioration from use, supporting the emotionality of each piece.

My current body of work explores impermanence through the alternative avenue of living in the present moment with the constant mantra of "remember that you have to die", the English translation of the phrase “memento mori”. In order to fully accept impermanence, one might choose to fall in love with life itself in order to experience it fully. This group of paintings aims to capture brief moments in time, surrounded in love and warmth, while still employing the ghosts of lives past.

Lisa Von Hoffner

Lisa Von Hoffner is a contemporary figurative painter from Philadelphia. She received a BFA in painting from Savannah College of Art and Design and an MFA in painting at Arizona State University. In 2015 she was selected to partake in an artist-in-residence program in Joutsa, Finland where she invoked the richness of contemporary Finnish art to edify her work. Lisa has exhibited extensively in the States and abroad and was selected as one of only 40 artists out of nearly 1,000 applicants to be published in the New American Paintings MFA Annual. In 2017 she was on the Phoenix New Times list of “100 Creatives You Need to Know” and had her art featured on the show Good Morning AZ 3TV. Lisa is an educator at Arizona State University and continues to work on solo projects and collaborative efforts throughout the valley. 


My work brings to light the paradoxical state of women’s sexuality in a distinctly patriarchal society, literally and figuratively. Laced with bright lights and a near hallucinatory fanfare of color, the immediate tenor of my most recent work is a carousel of revelry and excitement, similar to the buzzing allure of Vegas. This sparkling veneer is sarcastically subverted by the realities that are being addressed ─ objectification, commodification, and the disfigurement and misuse of women’s sexuality in society. Through the hallowed reiteration of circles and a hyper-spectacle of art objects, these pieces enter the realm of devotion ─ devout objects to be revered, objects that pay homage to the sanctity of womanhood. This sentiment is punctuated by ever expanding upon the materiality of the work with complexly loaded ingredients, such as neon and LED lights. By elevating my paintings off of the wall, wrapping them in neon and slathering them with puddles of resin, I defy their two-dimensionality. In doing so, these paintings are transformed into art objects themselves, echoing the normative objectification of women.

The Courage to Enjoy It: Podcast Interview with Andrew Salgado

On this episode of Art and Cocktails, Kat interviews contemporary artist Andrew Salgado about the inspiration behind his recent exhibition at Angell Gallery, his approach to painting, bringing pleasure back to art-making, the importance of rest for artists and much more.

Andrew Salgado is a leading young figurative painter with over a dozen sold-out international exhibitions, including London, New York, Zagreb, Miami, Cape Town, and Basel. In 2017, Salgado was the youngest artist to ever receive a survey-exhibition at The Canadian High Commission in London, accompanied by a 300-page monograph, both of which were entitled TEN

“The large scale, gestural paintings of Andrew Salgado explore concepts relating to the destruction and reconstruction of identity – a process that he views as re-considering the conventions of figurative painting through a pursuit toward abstraction. Salgado questions the nature of identity and even the act of painting itself as something monstrous, allegorical, or symbolic. Incorporating Classical archetypes alongside a wildly inventive approach to his chosen media, Salgado’s work defies categorization. Recent works include collage, mixed-media, and even hand-dyed and hand-stitched linen and canvas. ”I am interested in how my paintings operate independently from their literal figurative foundation, and how they might deconstruct through colour choices, reduction of forms, and triumph of materiality to become something altogether otherworldly.”

- Beers London

Andrew’s new exhibition at Angell Gallery, Toronto:



October 4–27, 2018

The Language of Painting: Podcast Interview With Artist Anna Valdez

In this episode of Art and Cocktails, Kat and Anna Valdez share a few drinks and dive into Anna's incredible journey as a painter. We chat about how her experiences in archeology and anthropology influenced her current work. Anna talks about her love of processes and rituals and explains the inspiration behind her beautiful paintings.

Born in 1985 in Sacramento, California, Anna Valdez’s interest in cultural formation and collective consciousness began in her hometown. Exposed from a young age to a uniquely Californian cultural milieu, her proclivity for collecting and crafting a poignant and meaningful visual vocabulary took root during time spent sharing in the traditions and environments of people within her community. Her fascination with the ways in which cultural identities intersect lead her to pursue a career in sociocultural anthropology.

It was on an archeological dig in Ireland that Valdez first discovered her skill for art making. Valdez was encouraged to keep a sketchbook of the site, creating scale drawings and maps. Visually reinterpreting these “abandoned sites” allowed Valdez to explore the connection between anthropological and artistic methods of cataloguing and record-keeping.

Today, working across painting, drawing, printmaking, collage, and digital media, Valdez examines the relationship between material and cultural identity. Valdez incorporates articles found in domestic spaces such as plants, textiles, vessels and keepsakes into her work as a method of storytelling.  Her colorful work invites the viewer to consider objects as emblematic of personal and collective experience, shifting between still life and portraiture. 

Anna Valdez received her MFA in painting from Boston University in 2013. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States. Valdez’s work has been featured in Juxtapoz Magazine, New American Paintings,, and Daily Serving. Her work has recently been exhibited at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Masur Museum of Art, the Danforth Museum, Boston University Art Galleries, Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco, and Parts Gallery in Toronto Canada.

Anna's Work:

Recent Museum Exhibition at Crystal Bridges:

Anna's Instagram

Photos by Nora Lowinsky

A Celebration of the Slow Gaze: Interview with Polly Jones 

Polly Jones grew up in Plainview, Texas surrounded by a vast sky and parents who encouraged her love for art. She earned a BFA in painting at Abilene Christian University, which sparked a love for still life painting that has occupied much of the past thirty years of her life. She is grateful to share this journey with her husband, also an artist, and their creative and lovely daughter. They have spent many years in Tennessee, though the last dozen has been back in Abilene where Kenny teaches art at ACU. A full-time artist, Polly spends time painting in her sunny studio at home. Her award-winning work has been in numerous shows. She is a signature artist at The Center for Contemporary Arts and also has work on display at River Oaks Gallery in Abilene Frame and Arts. Outside of Abilene, her work is shown at Anne Irwin Fine Art in Atlanta, as well as Etsy and Ugallery online. 


My artistic process is to paint from life. It’s a celebration of the slow gaze, work that comes from a deep sense of gratitude and a longing to practice mindfulness. The still life setups are composed of what I find in my daily life—finding beauty, life, energy, and delight in ordinary everyday moments and objects. While painting, I incorporate paper that ranges from map fragments, ledger paper, hymns, poetry and to vintage Golden Encyclopedia pages for children. This is a way to include other voices and viewpoints into the image as well as a sense of nostalgia. Intense color, light, pattern, and texture are a focus that drives me on this creative journey. I often use polka dot grids as a way to refer to atoms, spirit, pixels, and all of the things that are hard to see that seem to pervade the physical world. 

Interview by Sarah Mills

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Your paintings have an extremely whimsical fun feel to them, how did you develop this style of painting?

I’m glad you respond to them in that manner because on a basic level I would love for the paintings to embody an attitude of positivity and gratefulness. There is satisfaction in domestic pleasures and I find that truly looking at small things is worthy of time and energy. This is a major impetus for my painting. Art making has been a journey of serious play and experimentation based on what I see. My painting style is the result of creating a problem and trying to find a resolution. It begins with a still life that I draw on a canvas. This initiates a process where I explore the relationship of colors and pattern by hanging them on the framework of the drawing. Most of my paintings involve constantly changing the colors within this framework. Additionally, I layer paint and collage materials in a process I find exhilarating. I have a visceral response to color that drives me to keep making art. 

The most common comment I have received from people over the years is that my paintings make them happy. I like that. Who doesn’t need a little happiness injected into their day (especially these days)? Ultimately, I think the whimsy comes from my interest in paradoxes. I hope that the work invites a sense of joyfulness and struggle intermingled - that’s what I mean by “serious play”. When looking at my paintings I hope the viewer senses the joy and struggle of the journey to find visual solutions. I consciously connect the work with the genre Vanitas which celebrates life while always aware of the inevitability of change and death. I paint flowers that die quickly, goldfish which were my first experiences as a child with death, and fruit which rot - all that are hidden in an extravagant, palpable skin.


Can you tell us about the use of polka dots in your work?

Polka dots worked their way into the paintings as a way to refer to an order I felt was in the universe. It is how I include a sense of spirituality that is a vital part of my life. It also refers to other things not visible. It makes me think of atoms, pixels, pollen, dust, light photons and molecules. When I draw what I see I anchor myself in the “now”. I have a desire to paint what I see as an exercise in mindfulness but also know that it’s never that simple. The visual is always complicated by memories and thoughts.

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The moments of collage in your work are fantastic. When did you start using collage in your work? How do you feel this element adds to your work?
Thank you! I have been using collage for about 15 years, though at first sporadically. I like the surprise you get when coming in close to the work. I like the complexity that comes from looking at a painting of a pear and finding a fragment of a map of New York City. It has become a way to include or at least allude to voices outside of my limited viewpoint. Often times a subtle narrative evolves from my seemingly random choices of text and images. Below is a lexicon for some of my most used collage materials. 
Polka dots (see question 2)
Golden Book Encyclopedia (nostalgia for quantifiable knowledge and analog vs digital)
Maps (the world is bigger than my table)
Hymns (that gratitude thing)
Poetry (love)
Vintage Biology diagrams (fragility of life)


What are you currently working on? 

I’m planning several large still-life paintings for a group show in the fall. I recently did a bigger one and found the scale a fun challenge. In a fit of ambition, I just finagled the transport of some huge canvases to our home. Feeling a little crazy now because I don’t have a big studio or a great place to store them or a dependable way to transport them. Also, I’m feeling a bit of stage fright… probably always a good thing. I never want to become complacent.  


What is the best piece of advice you have been given over the course of your career? 

Early on, a professor told me not to worry about trends in art but pursue my personal vision. A lot of nonverbal advice sticks with me through memories of other artists’ work. Some of their paintings haunt me as well as drive me to do better. 


What is your favorite part of your creative process?

I love it when a painting takes a different direction from how I began and ends up as a total surprise. Even after all of my years of painting, I can’t predict what the combinations of the visual language will form when they come together. The challenge and fun of being open to the unpredictable is what keeps me painting.


How do you keep yourself motivated at times when you lack motivation?
My husband is a great supporter and encourager of my work. He is also an artist and we help keep each other going. We share a studio and just seeing him at work is energizing. Music helps too.

Also, I’ve developed the certainty that bad work is inevitable and I can’t let it keep me in a funk. The gift of a better painting is just around the corner if I work through it. The hope of better work is always pulling me forward.

And like most artists, deadlines keep me motivated. I do try to keep reasonable goals. Too many deadlines and I’m overwhelmed and less creative.

Stefanie Thiele

What frightens me more than life itself is being regarded as ordinary. In my work, I examine an invisible sickness. My struggle with anxiety has pushed me further and further into the world of abstract art. The daily decision of hiding or highlighting certain character traits – mental or physical – is translated into compositions heavily dependent on the layering of contrasting colours onto opaque and transparent surfaces. 

I am a spirited person that takes everything a little too seriously. 
I am an introvert with an inescapable urge to entertain. 
I often feel rushed and constantly afraid of being boring. 
I overwork my pieces as much as I overthink my choices; 
always apprehensive about not using an opportunity to its full potential. 

But some things are just not mine to decide... Giving up control is a vital part and a self-set challenge for the creation of every artwork. My process is a constant making and breaking of self-imposed rules – a back and forth between deliberate acting and intuitive reacting. Introducing abstract elements into the real world (or vice versa) adds a twist of surrealism to my life, thus making it lose its soul-crushing gravity. 

I see my paintings as a directory of suppressed cravings and roads not taken. I am providing a surface for memories to be rediscovered and relived; a catalogue of “what ifs” and “could have beens”.

Contemporary Portraiture: Interview with Patty Horing

Patty Horing is a figurative painter living and working in New York City. A graduate of Brown University and the New York Academy of Art, Horing is currently represented by Anna Zorina Gallery in Chelsea. 


I am interested in the narrative and psychological nature of portraiture. Contemporary paintings of specific people simultaneously raise questions and offer clues about individual identity and the larger cultural context in which the subjects exist. My goal is to examine, through subjective interpretation, who that person is, wants to be, has been. The subjects' material surroundings also reflect some aspect of personal desire or identity that is linked to the psychological underpinning of the portrait. 

By conveying a feeling for both the inner and outer lives of individuals, I hope to access a deeper underlying current of relatable human experience.


Your work is a beautiful snapshot of contemporary life. Tell us about your interest in figure painting and your journey as a visual artist so far. 

I was an arts & crafts-obsessed kid and loved art history in college, but I didn’t start painting until relatively recently. I had a career in marketing, got a Masters degree in English literature, and became a mom to two kids before I ever picked up a paintbrush. Pretty immediately after starting painting, I found myself drawn to painting people. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing, I found that I could convey a likeness, and even more interesting to me, a sense of emotionality. More than a decade and a lot of work later, seeking the narrative mysteries inside the psychological states of human beings remains the driving focus of my work. My paintings can certainly be classified as portraits since they depict specific individuals; but I hope that in their narrative implications and sense of underlying emotional life, they strike a chord of empathy in the viewer that allows them to transcend the genre label. 


The figures you choose to depict are based in particular environments. What informs your decisions about who to paint and in what setting?

I mostly paint people I know well— friends and family — because my feelings for and about of them creep into the work in sneaky, often good ways. For the last several years I’ve been painting people in their ‘natural habitats’, with their stuff. I love to see how people choose to live within their spaces and also how certain objects reflect back aspects of their identities. When I go to my subjects’ homes to take reference photos, I am frequently amazed to find symbolic objects that reinforce the underlying narrative I’m aiming at. For example, in my painting ‘The Three Sisters’ (of lively elderly sisters), there actually was a baroque painting of three frolicking kittens over their couch. When I asked a committed gay couple to pose holding each others’ crossed hands for the painting ‘Joe & Joe’, just by chance there was a drawing of a bridge right above their heads that perfectly mirrored the shape of their joined hands. Things like that amuse me and make the work richer symbolically. 

Briefly explain the psychological element of your work. What do you hope to communicate through your paintings?

My work examines psychological states of being and relationships among people of all ages, through the lens of my continuing experience as a (now) middle aged woman who is a daughter, mother, wife, friend, peer, etc.

When a picture really works for me, it feels like the essence of a good novel, in that the viewer can feel the presence of a complicated human being in the midst of his or her story, even as that story remains ambiguous or mysterious. I also aim to elicit some kind of emotional response from the viewer. In nearly all of my paintings, the subject gazes back at the viewer with directed intensity. I enjoy that eye-to-eye confrontation as a way to pull the viewer into an experience of mutual engagement, and, perhaps, empathy — an experience ever rarer in our smartphone-obsessed era.

What do you love most about your practice? Tell about what lights you up and keeps you going.

I love being in the studio, blasting good music (singing along loudly), and getting so deep into a painting that I totally lose my sense of time. I also love it when I reach the point in a painting when I’ve gotten the general feeling I want from the composition, and now can just play, invent and experiment to bring it to completion. That can mean anything from pumping up color to inventing wallpaper patterns to adding objects or half-hidden symbols that make me laugh. 

How has living in New York influenced your art career and studio practice?

Since my subjects are usually people I know well, their cultural milieu is often also mine — New York City and its environs, with all the privileges and quirks the city affords its inhabitants. I got my MFA from the New York Academy of Art in Tribeca in 2015, and the wonderful community of artists I met there continues to be a great source of connection and engagement both personally and professionally. Both my current studio and gallery are also in the City, so it’s all pretty New York-o-centric for me right now!

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What is the best advice you received that you wish to pass along to other artists? 

That only YOU have your ‘secret sauce’, and if you make work that comes out of a place of authenticity, that’s true to who you are and what you care about, it will find a way to be seen.  (This is something I try to remind myself of when I start feeling Instagram FOMO myself.) 


What should we be on the lookout for this year?

Art with a meaningful message — political or otherwise. I think the rise in popularity of figurative art reflects people’s increasing desire to find meaning and points of connection within our culture and within themselves. 

CAMA Gallery - London's first space dedicated solely to Iranian Art

In late November 2017, CAMA Gallery launched an exhibition of 30 Iranian artists in anticipation of opening their permanent space in London’s St. James’ in early 2018.

CAMA Gallery are the pioneering market leaders in Modern & Contemporary Iranian art. Following the success of their live online gallery and exhibiting space in Tehran, they now look forward to the inauguration of their new London gallery in St. James’. CAMA marked their arrival in the capital with an exclusive drinks reception at London’s iconic Hotel Café Royal in Mayfair.

The opening reception event centered around an exhibition showcasing the works of Iran’s best contemporary and modern artists, including the masters Sohrab Sepehri, Bahman Mohasses and Parviz Tanavoli. Committed to bringing the booming and increasingly accessible Iranian art scene to the heart of London, CAMA offer access to exclusive, premier works. CAMA Gallery aims to be a leading force in the growth and expansion of the art industry in Iran and the Middle East. CAMA showcases art of all genres in physical galleries and online, offering contemporary artists exposure and global recognition.

Artists exhibiting at the launch:
Mansour Ghandriz, Parviz Tanavoli, Jafar Rouhbakhsh, Massoud Arabshahi, Nasser Ovissi, Sohrab Sepehri, Monir Farmanfarmaian, Manouchehr Yektai, Bahman Mohasses, Reza Mafi, Sirak Melkonian, Mohammad Ehsaei, Abdolreza Daryabeygi, Nasrollah Afjehei, Parviz Kalantari, Ebrahim Faraji, Hossein Mahjoubi, Manouchehr Motabar, Hossein Ali Zabehi, Taha Behbahani, Jamshid Samavatian, Behzad Shishegaran, Nosratollah Moslemian, Reza Hosseini, Maryam Salour, Ali Nasir, Ali Nedaei, Fereydoun Omidi, Bita Vakili, and Masoud Keshmiri

Images below are works by artists included in the exhibition or represented by CAMA. Please visit the gallery website for more information or contact Anna Beketov, Damson PR: or +44 (0)20 7812 0645.

Interview: Jeanette Morrow

Jeanette Morrow earned her B.F.A. from the Savannah College of Art and Design. After college, she worked in public relations for a number of years before eventually returning to her roots as a fine artist. She formally launched Morrow Studio in November 2016 and has been working out of her studio in Manhattan ever since. Her abstract paintings are hallmarked by larger scale color stories that are loose, gestural and emotional. 


What inspired you to become an artist? Can you tell me about your background in art? 

I was born with a draw to the arts, but it was my high school art teacher who was the first to nudge me towards exploring my work further. He, and an accumulation of other voices collected in my head saying, “Yes. This. Do this.” fueled my desire to become an artist. As a rising senior, I went to a summer art camp (nerd alert!) and decided to apply to an art college. By the fall I was accepted into the Savannah College of Art and Design.

How was it to break away from art for a period of time in your early career? What urged you to return to it? 

Honestly, I was finding a lot of fulfillment in my career in the digital arts that I didn’t really miss the fine arts for the first few years of my corporate career. Once I had a family and knew I didn’t want to do the travel my job required, I decided to stay at-home with my daughter and freelance. It was then that it became less and less of a joy and more and more apparent that I missed painting and ceramics. At the time we were living on a small farm outside of Atlanta and converted our barn into a studio. The very early official works of Morrow Studio were born there!

Are you now painting full-time? What is your studio like? 

I split my time in the studio between painting and ceramics. I thought to get traction or exposure, I had to choose one or the other, but the perk of being my own boss is that I can do whatever I want! I’ve had to wrestle with preconceived notions of what “success” was going to look like for me. Exposure is important to the survival of an art career, but so is genuineness.

We have the very rare luxury of space in Manhattan and have converted a spare room in our townhouse into my current studio. When I’m not in there, I’m hanging with my two toddlers.


How do you plan a day in your studio? Are there certain tasks that you always do? 

Time management is crucial to my time in the studio, as I only get a few hours a day to create (thanks to the aforementioned toddlers). A gift I am thankful for is my ability to work quickly. It doesn’t help with my patience in day-to-day tasks, but I sure do appreciate it when I have to focus on a commission deadline! Studio must-haves are a huge cup of black coffee, my favorite music playing (playlists change depending on the mood of the piece) and bodega blooms.

Use a few words you think best describe the aesthetic of your abstract paintings. Is there a specific feeling or idea you wish to convey through your work? 

Layered, moody, dramatic, loose. My favorite pieces are the ones that capture a feeling of movement and emotion. I have respect for the medium and let that play heavily in the process. I can’t control when the paint bleeds or how it sprays. As hokey as it may sound, it feels like a collaborative creation between myself and the medium.


Why don't you title your works? 

Each piece most definitely has an intention or inspiration behind it, but I shy away from overtly sharing that with the observer. I don’t want to rob them of their imagination and thoughts of the piece by bulldozing over them with mine. Kind of like when a book gets turned into a movie.

What media do you use? 

I use a variety of materials, but primarily acrylic paint and prisma colors. Since acrylic is water-based, I can achieve the fluidity and texture that I desire.


What is your painting process like? What do you do to generate new ideas?

To the disappointment of many art teachers, I have found the more methodical and planned I try to be before actually putting paint on the canvas, the unhappier I am with the end result. I can easily overthink and overwork and feel the first mark is the scariest, so I rip the bandaid off. If it’s a commission, then of course I’ll make sure the palette is correct and keep inspiration photos and notes nearby.

I find my environment the most fruitful to generating new ideas. I seek beauty in interiors and nature and when I’m immersed there, it’s the easiest to be inspired.

Which other artists interest you? In what ways do you find inspiration from their work?

Robert Rauschenberg was the artist who first lit the fire in me to create. I remember learning about his career in high school and couldn’t shake the urge to get my hands dirty after that. Currently, there’s so much talent out there that I find those who are unapologetic about their work to be the most interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good, safe and pretty floral piece, and have many in my home, but artists who seemingly don’t care what others think is the most appealing. Southern folk art has always inspired me in this way. Artists in that genre usually have little formal training, but cannot stop themselves from creating and their love and passion just pours out into their work.

How has your practice developed or changed since you first launched your studio? 

I’ve learned so much in the infancy of studio. First, that comparison truly is the thief of joy. I check-in with myself often and if feelings of doubt outweigh my feelings of creativity then it’s time to log out of my social media and sit with myself so I don’t lose sight of my intentions. From a business perspective, I realized quickly that getting a thick skin was going to be as important as a good brush.

Alonsa Guevara: Desire and Painting The Paradoxes of Life

In collaboration with Jesse Brass, Making Art (video)

Interview by Ekaterina Popova

Alonsa Guevara was born in Rancagua, Chile. She spent seven years of her childhood living in the Ecuadorian tropical forest with her family, growing up surrounded by magnificent landscapes and magical environments, a big reason to be a lover of light, nature and colors. Alonsa received her BFA from the Pontific Catholic University of Chile in 2009, and moved to New York in 2011. She graduated from the MFA Program of the New York Academy of Art in 2014 and was granted the Academy's Fellowship award 2015. Her most recent solo show was at Anna Zorina Gallery in NYC, 2016. Alonsa is currently living and working in New York.

Alonsa Guevara

Alonsa Guevara

When did you first start painting? 

I always drew and did creative crafts since I was very young, but I started oil painting when I was 12 years old with the help of my grandmother from my dad’s side. My Abuela Maruja used to draw, paint and make clay sculptures as a hobby. She realized that I enjoyed making things too, so she took me to her studio and encouraged me to start new projects. She taught me how to build a wooden easel, stretch canvases and introduced me to basic oil painting techniques. I kept painting on my own and when I was 18 I joined The Visual Arts Program.

Alonsa Guevara

Alonsa Guevara

“The vegetables and fruits depicted in my paintings are sometimes fresh and juicy and other times smushed and rotten; making fertility and life coexist in a parallel with decay and death; the full cycle of life.”
— Alonsa Guevara

Being an immigrant myself, I love learning about what parts of their story artists bring to their work. How do you feel your cultural background influenced your current paintings? 
I had a very intense and nomad childhood. I was born in Chile and moved to Ecuador when I was five years old. During those seven years in Ecuador, my family and I lived in different towns and for a couple of years, I lived on an animal farm where nature, flora, and fauna were around me all the time. 

We returned to Chile when I was 12 and also lived in different cities, thus I got to experience a variety of environments and landscapes. At the same time, because I was in nine different schools from kindergarten to high school, I got to share the culture and traditions of different people, which made me more open and tolerant. 

I guess that everyone keeps memories of their childhood when becoming adults. It is such a significant part of life that is difficult to forget. I have very vivid memories of the places where I lived; I won’t forget the smell of the humid earth, the songs of the cicadas during twilight and the adventurous hikes into the jungle.

Now I have been in the US for six years, which makes me think “you don’t know what you have until it is gone”. Being far away from home made me appreciate the connection between mankind and their natural surroundings in a different way. 

It was back in 2015, my fourth year living here when I began the series of work called Ceremonies. I went back to Chile to visit my family and I thought of the idea of making a real ceremony with my siblings, surrounding three of us by fresh and rotten fruits. So I got a truck, got hundreds of pounds of fruits and staged this ritual. During this process, I took pictures that I used as a reference for my paintings. I have done the same process again in Chile, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and here in the US with family and close friends.

These "Ceremonies" are a representation of an imaginary world where the characters celebrate the cycle of life, especially fertility and fecundity. This celebration is for themselves and their families, as well as their lands and the harvest. I imagine these characters expressing gratitude by making offerings and ceremonies where the people appear nude laying down on the ground covered with a mix of fresh and rotting fruits, vegetables and flowers from their seasonal harvest: an act of connection with their lands and nature. 

The vegetables and fruits depicted in my paintings are sometimes fresh and juicy and other times smushed and rotten; making fertility and life coexist in a parallel with decay and death; the full cycle of life. 

Alonsa Guevara

Alonsa Guevara

My two favorite moments are: when I start covering the canvas with looser brush strokes and when I am working with tiny brushes making details like seeds, juice, ants, and especially when I am painting the portraits.
— Alonsa Guevara

What do you love most about your process? 

Lately, I’ve been enjoying the whole process of setting up, from buying the fruits and flowers, creating compositions with shapes and colors, to taking the pictures of the models lying down. 
However, by far my favorite part of my process is when I am in my studio painting. My two favorite moments are: when I start covering the canvas with looser brush strokes and when I am working with tiny brushes making details like seeds, juice, ants, and especially when I am painting the portraits.

Alonsa Guevara

Alonsa Guevara

What keeps you painting? 

I ask that same question to myself over and over, and I don't have a sure answer. But I think that I keep painting as a desperate reaction to let my creativity and passion to take over my life!
The process of creating it is like an extension of real life, creating new worlds brings me excitement, happiness and a lot of pleasure. Therefore, since after I graduated from undergrad I always found the time to paint, even when I made a living as a painting teaching or when I had a full-time job. 

I am grateful to say that since 2015 I have been able to make a living as an artist, so now I am a full-time artist and I spend almost every day painting and making things.

What is the best advice you received in your art career? 

During my first year of undergrad, I had a teacher that told me that I should focus on printmaking because my paintings (which I was doing mostly from my imagination) “weren’t working”. I’m very stubborn and I wanted to paint so bad that his advice just made me want to paint more and get better at it. So during that year I took Painting I and started painting objects from life, and I realized that I was pretty good at it when I had a reference to look at. After that year, the same teacher asked me to be his assistant for Painting II and said to me: “You can listen to other people’s advice, but more importantly, listen to yourself.”

Instalacion Fruit Portraits Available 2017.jpg

What is your biggest dream as a painter? 

I would love to be able to keep making a living as an artist and keep sharing my work with people. And my dream as a painter is to have the skills to paint everything accurately completely from imagination, this way I can recreate images that I have in my mind. I’m already able to paint a lot of things from imagination, but I would love to have the skills to paint everything I have seen! From human figure in all positions to a forest with hundreds of flora and fauna species. 

Alonsa Guevara

Alonsa Guevara

Tell us about your interests outside of the studio. 

In my studio, I have a lot of different instruments that I play during my painting breaks. I love to play the guitar and sing and lately, I got a keyboard so I am learning how to play it. I also have drums, a tambourine, harmonic and some instruments that I made myself, and I love to get friends together and have some musical parties.

Also, I spend time exercising almost every day. For a whole year since 2016, I did CrossFit (which sounds extreme) but I really enjoyed it. Now I am taking some African dance classes called Kongo beat, I’m doing Spinning classes and also I go for runs at the Promenade in Bay Ridge.

Paintings by Alonsa Guevara at  Anna Zorina Gallery, New York

Paintings by Alonsa Guevara at Anna Zorina Gallery, New York

How do you replenish your creative pool?

Here in NYC you are so exposed to an enormous variety of artistic creations that it is impossible not to be inspired or influenced by it. But in general, I get inspired by so many things! By meeting new people and listening to their stories, by traveling to different countries and getting to see their landscapes, I even get inspiration from a tiny cut open blueberry to paint a fruit portrait.

Creativity comes randomly, sometimes I have great ideas and other times the worst idea you can think of, but allowing myself to spend that time developing those ideas, playing around and making mistakes, is what makes me realize what works and what doesn’t, and most importantly I learn from that process.

I think what has helped me the most is to be open to new ideas and to overcome FEAR, making mistakes is OK, making silly ugly things is fine, cutting your painting on a thousand pieces won't kill you, you just have to DO IT! 

I always say “It is better to regret what you did, than what you didn't do. So go for it!!

Alonsa Guevara,  Anna Zorina Gallery, New York

Alonsa Guevara, Anna Zorina Gallery, New York

What do you hope the viewer experiences when looking at your paintings? 

I explore the relationship between a person and his or her environment as a means of embracing a connection with the beauty of nature that has seemingly weakened with the growing reliance on industry and technology.

With my paintings, I'm trying to create magical worlds that contain my experiences as a woman while offering my personal understanding and appreciation of beauty.

In my “Ceremonies” paintings I find the people that I paint beautiful because they have natural bodies loaded with what we call “imperfections” that are actually just perfect. While I paint these nude bodies I pay special attention to their stretch marks, veins, asymmetry, freckles, etc. For example, my painting “María José’s Ceremony” represents a mother with her child, and here I painted her cesarean section scar because it is a beautiful mark of which any mother should feel proud. 

We live in a world that seems to relate beauty with synthetic and unnatural; to be beautiful you have to change the way you really look. But with my paintings, I am trying to inspire the viewer to open their eyes to the natural beauty that surrounds them. I hope the viewers feel attraction to my painting and make them believe the truthfulness of the image they are seeing. I hope that when the viewer sees my paintings they think about the paradoxes of life: desire & repugnance, fertility & decadence, birth & death, truth & fantasy.   

Mark your calendars for May 10, 2018 for a solo exhibition by the artist at Anna Zorina Gallery, New York.