Twenty-five questions exploring the mind and habits of an artist.
by Stephanie Cassidy | April 6, 2022
I have no recollection of making a decision to become an artist. I drew as a child and early on felt an impulse to create, to make things. I didn’t realize that becoming an artist was even possible until I reached the Arts Students League.
Their concerns were more about practical issues – supporting myself and such. As time went on and they saw I wasn’t starving, those concerns subsided. They continue to be very supportive.
There are many artists whose work I love to spend time with – Anselm Kiefer, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Richard Diebenkorn, Kurt Schwitters, Robert Rauschenburg, John Chamberlain, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still, Johannes Vermeer, Henri Matisse . . . I could go on and on.
I love Johannes Vermeer’s paintings. I am also very fond of the sculpture of Medardo Rosso. The work of both these artists has a sense of quietude that I deeply admire.
If poetry counts (and it should) anything by Pablo Neruda. I am also constantly rereading Mary Oliver’s essay, “Of Power and Time.”
Distinction, clarity of expression.
Keeping a sketchbook is not part of my daily practice, but I sometimes make watercolor sketches from nature.
I love the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, the East Building of the National Gallery in Washington D.C., and Storm King Art Center — all for different reasons.
I don’t know about best — but I was very moved by Anselm Kiefer’s 2010 exhibition at Gagosian, Next Year in Jerusalem.
A naturalist or a veterinarian.
My parents were do-it-yourself-ers who spent years renovating my childhood home from the ground up while we were living in it. They also had a basement wood shop and always had several woodworking projects going. I suppose this rubbed off on me.
I didn’t go to art school. I was mentored at the Art Students League of New York. For me, getting myself to the League was the hardest part of this journey. My time spent as a student at the League grounded me and gave me everything I needed to pursue my vision through my work.
I’ve sat for the longest periods of time in front of works by Mark Rothko.
The color of the sky at dusk. Cherry blossoms.
It depends. When I’m in need of motivation, Mozart can push me forward. When I’m totally immersed in my work, I often listen to Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier played by Glenn Gould. Bach’s music and the way Gould plays it, has always been an inspiration. There are also times when I work in complete silence.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a gallery. It could have been the Leonardo Drew exhibition at Galerie Lelong several years ago.
Underrated is a quantifiable a term that is rooted in the idea of a collective judgement of those other than the artist and occurs outside the studio. This has nothing to do with the act of creating Art. I believe that artists spend their lives wrestling with themselves and with their work to fulfill an ideal, a vision. This oftentimes occurs in isolation, under difficult circumstances and without any tangible expectation of acknowledgement. Artists keep at it, no matter what. This, I suppose, is a very long way of saying that all artists (when they are indeed that) are underrated — until they are not.
My art is an integral part of who I am as a human being. So, yes — whether I’m in the studio or not.
One way I measure time is by life before art and life after. Life before art was nearly thirty years.
Take a walk in the park. Sit under a tree. Listen to the birds sing.
Do the formal relationships that I am creating convey with clarity what I mean in the in the here and now — with this work? Does the work have the emotional, visceral impact that I am looking for? How can I push myself, push the work forward? Can I be even more clear? Am I taking enough risks?
Integrity, courage, purpose, and perseverance.
Gosh, everything. There’s so much to understand, so much work to realize.
I have mixed feelings about seeing art on a screen. While I appreciate the opportunity social media provides artists in putting their work out in the world, I think something is lost in the translation. One thing that the pandemic has reminded me of is the importance of quietly and thoughtfully sitting, in-person, in front of a work of Art. There is nothing like it.
DEBORAH WINIARSKI (@deborahwiniarski) teaches Mixed Media, Collage, Painting, and Dimensional Art online and in-person (afternoons & late afternoons) at the Art Students League of New York. interview Deborah Winiarski