The Curious Frenchy is the blog of French artist Laurence de Valmy. Along her way, she had the chance to meet many passionate and inspiring persons who can be either entrepreneurs, artists, bloggers, chefs.
Sergio Gomez is a Chicago based visual artist, where he moved from Mexico City about 20 years ago and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Northern Illinois University. As an artist exploring painting and drawing, Sergio’s work has been subject of solo and group exhibitions in the United States, Mexico, Asia and Europe.
I first met Sergio by being one of his many listeners through his videos and podcast where he generously share business and studio tips for artists. I loved his cheerful tone with spot on and practical advice. We got in touch and connected through social media and Sergio invited me to be on his podcast. I was very touched and had a great time chatting with him. When we were off the record of the podcast we got a chance to talk a little bit about his path and career and I am happy to share it in my turn on the blog. Thanks Sergio !
How did you start your artistic career ?
After my Masters in Art degree I asked myself, what am I going to do with this degree now? At that time, my wife and I had just gotten married and were planning to eventually have a family. I knew I wanted to make art but we needed the money to make ends meet. So, I started working a 9 to 5 job in the advertising world. Although, I learned a lot about advertising, marketing and quickly polished my Photoshop skills, I ended up just living to maintain my 9 to 5 job and looking forward to the weekends.
But I hated the little art I was making in my garage. However, I continued to make it because, in the back of my head, I knew making art was my primary passion. After a few years living like this, we decided it was time for a change… I needed to take control of my career and take action by making the necessary changes to move it forward. To make a long story short, I enrolled in an MFA program at Northern Illinois University. I worked full time. No weekends, family vacations, family activities or social life. I was determined and totally focused on this. Eventually, I finished my MFA, opened my own gallery, got a great curatorial opportunity at the Zhou B Art Center, opened my Chicago studio and ended up working with two of the most accomplished artists in the world today.
What is your advice to aspiring artists?
Over the years, I have learned this big truth, don’t wait for an opportunity to change your current situation. Instead, convert each situation into an opportunity to move forward. Yes, it’s a matter of perspective or, as my wife would say, it’s a mindset. The most successful artists are those who capitalize opportunities that did not exist before. I now believe that a successful life in art begins with a clear perspective on what really matters to us individually. There is a season to receive, to build, and to give back to the world. The latter is where I am right now through my coaching program The Artist NXT Level, podcasts and the video shows where I help working artists succeed in the difficult art journey.
Tell us more about your personal artwork
When it comes to my studio work, my artwork is a personal investigation to understanding the cycles of life and our spiritual awareness throughout that journey. This has been my lifelong pursuit, to understand life’s intricate relationships with this world and the one above and after. If these ideas resonate with your own life pursuit, I believe you will connect with my work.
You often use the image of the butterfly. What does it represent for you?
To me the butterfly is such a fabulous creature. It starts as a caterpillar and then becomes this beautiful creature. To me it fits my idea of renewal, reinvention, resurgence and rebirth. It connects with the cycles of life theme in my work. At the same time the butterfly is one of the most fragile creatures. It reminds me how fragile we all are no matter how strong we may feel. In the macro of the universe we are fragile creatures. I also like to play with the duality of things. For example, I sometimes may choose the shape of a moth but people see it as a butterfly.
It is about reinterpretation as well. We see what we want to see.
The figures you paint are like shadows. What is your message ?
It is about identity. The absence of it to be exact. Ironically, my paintings (life-size) usually begin with the shape or the outline of a person that I personally know. Usually my kids, my wife or myself. From there, the figure goes into a transformation of neutralizing the image into a faceless form. The figures become auras, shadows, ghosts, memories or something alike.
To me, they become universal symbols without the baggage of our own prejudice such as race, religion, language, culture, etc.
They start as one specific individual but become about all of us. I love to paint the ambiguity of the figure and ask myself, is it really there or is it just a memory? I don’t know. I let the viewer make that decision. I am also more interested in the idea of “presence” versus “likeness” of the..
Everyone has heard of the sale of Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci for an astonishing amount of $450 M. What you might not know is the background of that sale, involving the previous owners of the painting the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev and his Swiss art advisor Yves Bouvier.
A story of crazy rich people with the background of Switzerland and Monaco, who trade art as a currency and which includes 37 masterpiece artworks, caught in the middle of complicated money laundering and bribery accusations, where no one was quite who they seemed.
I met Alexandra Bregman, author of the book The Bouvier Affair who spent years on that story and who presents it in all its complexity thanks to her expert knowledge of art history and of the art market.
I can’t wait to read the book, soon to be released and believe this captivating story will be a perfect scenario for a movie! Thanks Alexandra for sharing your story!
How did you start working as a writer?
I have written about art for a very long time. I studied English and Art History simultaneously in college, and I interned at Christies and at Gagosian. From there, I subsequently worked for an artist, at an art gallery, and had a pretty good handle on the art market then I started writing for Art Observed the following year. Art Observed was a critical experience, because it combined my preexisting skill-set with my interest. That’s been pretty much recurrent ever since.
When I went to journalism school, it was a culmination of my art writing experience. Upon graduation, I wrote for bigger publications, including Architectural Digest, the Wall Street Journal, the Art Newspaper…et cetera.
What is it like to be a freelance journalist?
It’s a matter of finding the right place for the right story, more than anything else as a freelancer. And being passionate about the subject matter, you know? I’ve been fortunate that I do have the flexibility, that I’m not tethered to one publication and forced to write what my section needs. If I’m really passionate about a story, I can send it to the right place and they can find a home for it.
I understand that you have Russian roots? Is that correct?
I just posted on Instagram about my great-great grandfather from Belarus. So yes, I have Eastern European roots. But it’s been many, many generations since anybody spoke Russian in my family.
I’m from a pretty widespread Jewish population in America of people who come from, quote-unquote Russia. You know, there’s a lot of people who if you ask, like, ‘Where are you from?’ they say, ‘Oh, my family’s from Russia; my family’s from Poland.’ They don’t really know that that territory was in constant flux. Within this category, my family’s been in America for 100 years or more on all sides.
You might have seen my piece for the Wall Street Journal about Chagall and Malevich in Belarus. It was special for me to write because I felt like I was rediscovering this part of my heritage.
Alexandra Romanov Empress of Russia as the spouse of Nicholas II
It’s interesting to dig into these type of roots. I’m sure that the Chagall story was meaningful for you, for sure. The last thing I’ll say about that is, even though Alexandra is a very common name, my mother actually named me for the Tsarina when she was 11. She read about the Romanov Russian royal family in a book called Nicholas and Alexandra, and she put the name on the back burner until I was born decades later! That definitely colors my quiet obsession with all things historical in Russia.
And I see that you’re a specialist of Asian art? How did that come about? I went to India after college, also in 2011. I actually had started writing for Art Observed in New York, and was able to maintain that while I worked in New Delhi as an artist’s assistant for…a fairly notorious guy. That’s a whole other plotline as to his reputation, but it was an incredible experience for me because he was an artist who was a fringe figure to a very important art historical movement, known as the Progressive Artists’ Group. So on one hand, I had incredible access, and on the other, I had my own time to explore and think creatively about Indian art in general.
When I returned, I worked for an East-meets-West gallery called Sundaram Tagore. Sundaram Tagore is a close relative of the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote both the Bangladeshi and Indian national anthems. That was even more eye-opening in terms of what it really means to get a grasp on Asia. It’s a massive continent. So I had the Indian background, but then learned about Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Japan. I even traveled with Sundaram to Tokyo and Dhaka.
Throughout, I’d been publishing here and there, and soon began working with the Asian Art Newspaper. I still cover Asia Week for them, contemporary art and antiquities from China and Japan, and love to write about Middle Eastern Art.
I am often positioned as an Asian art specialist, but I have to say, being entrenched in that scene, there are people who completely expert in Tibetan deities or the nuance of a porcelain ware…and that really isn’t me. What I can say is that the Asian art world has been incredible training to look at things critically and to have a scope of globalized connections.
So now about your artistic career. You paint on top of your writing. How do you see your work as a painter? Is it something you’d like to develop?
I mostly paint to relax. Honestly, I was really surprised that I won a spot at the Ad Art show. From there, I just wanted to canonize it in the art world. New works are still available for sale upon contact, and I’ve been happy to share it when the opportunity does arise.
Now about the book that you are releasing The Bouvier Affair! It’s quite a fascinating story. How did you come up with it? You first wrote your thesis on this subject and from that thesis, you transformed it into a book? How did it work?
The thesis was 8000 words, and I spent the better part of my entirety at Columbia (which was a year-long program) pursuing it. I flew to Monaco during my winter term. I was pretty entrenched in those 8000 words.
I focused predominately on art as an asset class, and the investment capability of Modigliani in particular. It was called ‘Modigliani Money,’ and essentially focused on art as a trading currency. This allowed me to be very analytical about the nature of what had gone wrong. It garnered interest and encouragement, from a fellow journalist and even from one of my off-the-record sources.
But because some time since others had been covering the scandal in full once I started expanding into a book, and I felt like I could do more. As much as people knew about this incredible story, they hadn’t spent a lot of time drawing parallels to the artwork involved. There’s Modigliani, there’s Gustav Klimt (who’s work is on the cover), and there’s da Vinci, of course. I mean, there is some literature coming out around the Salvator Mundi, but there are 37 paintings involved in this scandal. I had—and have—so much to say about each of those individual pieces. Once I got more first-person testimonials, the rest was history.
Reading about all this type of dirty money story is probably what a lot of people resent about the art world. What is your take on the perception and the repercussions of this type of affair in terms of the rest of the art business?
This is truly that minute percentage of people that have more money than—I mean, the GDP of certain countries, at some point. It’s unbelievable. The Salvator Mundi cost more than the net worth of Taylor Swift. And it’s just one transaction for them.
So yes, it’s incredibly important to understand how that world operates to better understand the world around us. I think the way that the art market functions is not so different from the way other markets function: the stock market, the real estate market…just the way that things are bought and sold, and the possibilities for corruption, or just deviation. Because at the end of the day, this is a secret world. How much should it really have an impact on other valuations?
Take the cost of rent in New York, for example. There are vacant apartments in New York that are used as investment properties. These are incredibly expensive, and as such, they bring up the average value of a studio apartment for someone like me. That trickle-down effect is the same in the art market to a certain degree. If the art at the Affordable Art Fair costs slightly more in reaction to the way that these sensational auction values are hammered up and up and up.
So, to that end, I do think it’s educational. And in terms of corruption, yes, you can treat it like any other industry as well.
So who do think, or you hope, will be interested in your book?
Well of course I want everyone to read it, and I want it to be huge. [Laughing]. Absolutely humongous.
Do you think more like people who are already deep into the art world, or would you like to attract people who don’t know much about it?
Fortunately, there is already an audience who know a little bit about this, as the series of events has been widely reported. I hope that those people are intrigued by the additional information I was able to pull together.
It’s for people who are interested in art, because there is quite a bit of art history tying into the scandal. It’s for people who are interested in scandal, because they might surprise themselves with the way that this particular story illuminates an art world that they were unfamiliar with. And it’s for anybody who’s interested in character.
Undoubtedly, I am deeply familiar with the art world, and I’m absolutely fascinated by the art historical components of the Bouvier Affair. But a great story usually includes a good versus evil, good guy/bad guy, predator/prey, hero/villain structure. What I love about this story with all the art and scenarios stripped away is that it changes on you. It’s not so clear who will be the hero in the end.
Listening to you, I’m thinking, you’re going to sell the rights to Hollywood! Because it has everything to make a great movie.
Oh let’s hope so! It’s major. It’s major art; it’s major money. It’s very cinematic, because they travel the world—to some of the most beautiful places. Monaco is gorgeous. And I’ll never forget interviewing Bouvier in Singapore. I walked up and he was in Ray Bans in the sun with the skyline behind him. It was epic.
Right now the book is available through Kindle, is that correct?
Yes, the Kindle preorder page is up. That should be ready to go on April 11th. The softcover and book launch will follow.
Valeria Feliú is an artist based in Argentina… and of course we met online!
She creates beautiful portraits mixing a realist style with her own approach of symmetry, color palette, texture and graphic patterns. She includes abstract elements in her portraits and give them a unique signature. Her goal is to combine strength and delicacy, that she considers two aspects of womanhood.
She’s currently having a solo show at ‘Casa de Salta’ Buenos Aires, Argentina, featuring 18 oil paintings that will be on display until 29 March. For those who like me, will not be able to visit her show, here are some photos and more information about her work. Thanks Valeria!
What was your artistic path?
From an early age I developed an interest in the creative and artistic fields, and pursued personal projects within ceramics, drawing, painting, and photography. Then while studying a Visual Communication degree, I attended the workshop of a renowned Argentine painter – Adolfo Nigro-, under Torres García´s “universal constructivism” art movement and was influenced by this experience. Later on, I moved to Sydney, Australia where I studied interior design and worked in the architectural and design field before moving back to Argentina. I am now a full-time painter, focusing my interest in realism and the human condition.
Tell us about your current solo exhibition
I am presenting my latest work in a solo exhibition titled ‘HOMAGE OF MUSES AND INSPIRATION – REDEFINING THE CONTEMPORARY PORTRAIT’, where my goal is to bring to life new muses intended to be a source of inspiration for everyone,
While creating my paintings, I saw the opportunity to create ”inspiration”. “It’s more than a mental and physical force; it is emotional and spiritual and makes people achieve extraordinary things at a higher level. I believe it’s such a powerful tool!! Not only to greater our lives and endeavors, but to arrive to an entire better society.
Art is sometimes intimidating when it should be about sharing emotions and experiences. It’s one of the goal of ArtsClub, an arts-focused social club based in New York City which promise is to learn about art in a fun way. The club organizes social and accessible experiences ranging from gallery dinner parties to curator-led museum tours or art-making workshops and bigger parties. Sounds fun right? I think so too!
If you like art (and live in NY area!) check out below some examples of the activities they organize and their upcoming calendar below and learn more on artsclubnyc.com
Learn about Jean-Michel Basquiat and street art of the East Village circa 1980, then make your own Basquiat-inspired artworks. Imagine a studio filled with jazz, art and a selection of enamels, oil sticks and “found objects” to paint with. All that’s left is to make a masterpiece! This event is led by Corey D’Augustine, a conservator of modern & contemporary art for the Guggenheim and an art history teacher at NYU, Pratt, MoMA and Sotheby’s Institute. BYOB.
Go back to Warhol’s days at The Factory, his New York City studio and a hip haven for creativity – a place where artists, musicians, actresses, socialites, drag queens and free thinkers would gather to exchange ideas, collaborate and have a good time! Warhol was even known to enlist his friends in “coloring parties”, during which they would get together to hand color his drawings, collages and picture books. tour of the Whitney on Saturday at 5PM.
Don’t know the difference between a tenor and a baritone, or an aria and a recitative or where opera even came from? These questions and more will be answered as you join Naomi Barraterra and Stuart Holt for a casual conversation and lesson at the Metropolitan Opera Guild to explore the basics of opera and prepare to experience Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto.
Lucinda Grange is a photographer of the extreme. She has traveled the world and climbed on iconic structures and buildings, bringing back with her, cliches that are breathtaking and unique.
Lucinda uses photography as a means of self expression and to “excite, intrigue, educate, and most of all, make people feel inspired: to see and interact with the world differently, to get more enjoyment, adventure and excitement in their day to day life.” Some critics say her work is too extreme and not worth the risk… They missed the point: she is an expert climber trained since her childhood and the photography is happening because she’s climbing “I would do this, and have done this, without a camera”. Not the other way around. I see her work as an expression of freedom and inner strength. A young woman, expert at what she does, who wants to follow her passion and the bonus is that she shares her adventures with us.
The young artist is always on the lookout for new adventures so stay tuned. To discover more of her work, don’t miss her next solo show City Cross-Section on view at Lyle O Reitzel Gallery, New York from January 17 to February 15, and of course follow her on social media @lucindagrangestudio.
What do you want to achieve through your artwork?
Through my artwork I want to excite, intrigue, educate, and most of all, make people feel inspired. Inspired by the cities we live in. Inspired to see and interact with the world differently, to get more enjoyment, adventure and excitement in their day to day life. This can be seen very clearly through ‘City Cross-Section’, a project thats been ongoing for a decade now, and I’m sharing it for the first time at Lyle O Reitzel Gallery. In ‘City Cross-Section’ I detect the city around us, sharing locations of the same attitude and longitude, but different altitudes, collaged in a single frame. For example, who would have thought there’d be a forgotten subway station UNDER City Hall in NYC? Its got stained-glass windows, chandeliers, rich deep green and cream tiles. It’s stunning!
For your series “Backwards and in High Heels”, how do you find or convince (!) your models? Who are these brave ladies?
‘Backwards and in High Heels’ is one of my favourite projects because of the people that model for me. I approach woman that inspire me, that I want to shoot. I want to capture how it feels to know them, as well as highlight their strengths and abilities as women, while also challenging the female stereotypes. This collection is available exclusively with Azart Gallery. A woman owned and run gallery. The owner of which, Latifa, is a huge inspiration, I’d love to photograph her next!
You also work for galleries. What did you learn from it as an artist?
I do! This started with my first solo show back in 2011, when I had my first solo show at Hartlepool Art Gallery, a beautiful converted church in the middle of my home town. They let me help and be around behind the scenes. I got to curate the layout for the show and see how much of it works. This insight was very inspiring. When I moved to NYC I started working with more galleries, in Chelsea, the Lower East Side, art fairs and pop ups. I believe every artist should work or intern at a gallery for at least three months. I believe what you learn from being on the other side of the conversation will teach you invaluable lessons on how to work with galleries as an artist. I believe this has lead to me working with the three Galleries I work with; Azart Gallery who represent my ‘Backwards and in High Heels’ collection, Lyle O Reitzel Gallery who represent my bridge based work, and will be showing ‘City Cross’Section’ for the very first time, and Edgework a London based platform that have a small selection of images.
Is there a shot that you particularly like and why?
Different shots are treasured for different reasons, but mostly due to memories. I try to capture the moment, the environment, as well as the emotions felt when I’m at a place, and with a person or a group of people, and some I love simply for the adventure itself.
Is there an anecdote that you would like to share?
There’s so many stories and locations, from escaping on camelback from the gun carrying security having just climbed the great pyramid, to standing on the eagle of the Chrysler building with a leg brace under my dress.
What do you say to people who think that what you’re doing is not worth the risk?
I can completely understand why someone would think that. But the truth is, I would do this, and have done this, without a camera. Interacting with the city like this helps me feel at home, and it’s quite cathartic. I capture the images, share them along with the stories of wild adventures so others can live vicariously, without having to take the risk themselves.
What is your wildest dream?
I’m reluctant to say, as I want to make it a reality, but it’s tall! And I want to stand on top of it!
What are your upcoming projects?
I’ve got a number of projects on the go. City Cross-Section is ongoing, I’m working on a book with the amazing writer Adrian Brune, and some other things I’m not quite willing or able to talk about yet ….. watch this space…
Artist Leo Caillard plays with our relationship to time through photographs and sculptures mixing different periods and invites us to take a different look at our current times. It is thanks to his path, first in science and then in photography, that this young artist developed his critical eye on our changing society. He created a first series, Art Games, in 2010 on the place of digital in museums. His following series, Hipsters in Stone, in 2012, confirmed his talent and gave him his breakthrough. His work succeeds in being appreciated by the public for his light and humorous approach and by art professionals for his more philosophical message about the mutation and the end of civilizations.
He was recently invited to exhibit in London with Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, he was at Scope Miami for the Miami Basel week and will be in February at the St Raymond Museum in Toulouse. And if you land in Orly airport in Paris, you will be welcomed by his photographs of artworks from the Louvre Museum which will be on display for the next 3 years. A promising emerging artist, who talks about art, science and philosophy with passion and talent. I can’t wait to see his upcoming creations.
What were the key moments of your artistic path?
I has been in several stages: to begin with, I come from an artistic family, mostly in music, which opened me to an artistic sense. Still I did not practice art right away because I wanted to be an astrophysicist and so I have a background related to quantum physics. I was curious since childhood to see the world differently and up to my twenties, I did this thanks to objects such as telescopes or microscopes ie scientific objects related to optics. It is a rather Cartesian approach : not to be fooled by the senses and to see beyond what the real gives us. I then realized that what interested me in science was ultimately the poetry of science, that is, the artistic aspect of seeing things differently and giving a deeper meaning to things. I chose to do photography, always in connection with this goal to see otherwise. I went to Gobelins School where I could learn all the techniques, rather in an advertising approach. I had my first jobs and it worked pretty well but soon enough I perceived that advertising would not be an end. My photos then turned around the Louvre Museum with this reflection about the relationship with time and questions about the apprehension of the image today. I loved to see people chasing photos in the museum and often missing out the essential. This inspired my first series called Art Game where I dealt with the place of digital in the museums and that allowed me in 2008 to take my first steps in the art world.
What is your view of all this technology available at our fingertips?
I find that the technology available today is fascinating and I think we are in a time of hope. On one hand there is the diffusion of knowledge, reflections, a whole stream of very progressive thoughts but in parallel the line in thin and the technology can spread fake news or manipulate the facts. As in any major change of society, you must first burn yourself with fire before mastering the tools. I think we are still at a time when we are burning ourselves with technology: internet and digital are very young. In my opinion, people who put a device between them and the artworks do so, in a certain way, to protect themselves from the art: they use their phone as an illusory means to see everything and in the end it prevents them from seeing.
You are particularly known for your Hipsters in Stone series. What is the story of this series?
After the series Art Game with the Louvre, I had in 2011, this idea to dress up the statues. The Louvre found the idea interesting but there was no question of touching the statues! So I designed the project digitally by taking pictures of the statues and pictures of models that had the same size and who posed in the studio: there was therefore quite a technical complexity. The series worked very well and I had a lot of media coverage. The Louvre liked the fact that I managed to modernize the image of the museum and they gave me access to the renovation workshops where I could make real dressings. At the same time, this series was seen by art galleries which started to sell my work.
What is your message through your work?
I have never wanted to go into politics because I do not consider it my role as an artist even if art often joins politics. I am someone who puts a lot of humor in my approach with a more serious question of substance which is: what makes a civilization collapse? Dressing statues is fun, but it’s also a reflection on the temporalities that meet. It is amazing to see that the past is catching up with us and that there is a form of neo-classicism in art today, as we can see with many artists like Hirst and Koons who started using statuary figures. This corresponds to questions around our changing civilization.
How was the transition to sculpture?
Following the success of Hipsters in Stone, I trained in sculpture in the Louvre workshops. I am from a technological generation and I have both a traditional and a technological sculpture. Today, sculptors have a foot in both techniques and we can arrive at forms of sculpture that we could not conceive without the technology. But the hand is what allows to have a special touch that the 3D will not have, because it is too clean.
You have been invited to the exhibition “Classical Now” at Kings College in London, with stars like Hirst and Koons. Can you tell us about this project?
This was my first museum exhibition. The Kings College in London, in partnership with the British Museum, questioned several artists on the influence of classical art in contemporary art. They invited me to do a performance and dress the colossal statues of the Kings College. These are statues that are huge so it was kind of a crazy challenge. I had an incredible chance to participate to this exhibition and be a kind of outsider.
What would be the project of your dreams?
If we go into the absolute dream, it would be to have a work that is sent into space because space does not have atmosphere or temperature, theoretically the work has an infinite lifetime. .. More realistically, I think I have an art that is still very young and I hope to come to an even stronger work around the theme of beauty. I read this sentence from Hegel in philosophy “the beautiful is a subjective truth that allows the other to become self-aware” and I think in art we have this desire to help people feel alive. If one day I come to that, touching people in that way, that would be the ultimate goal.
What are the public’s reactions and what does this inspire you?
I like the accessibility of my art it’s something that I always want to defend. It’s an art that will catch the eye of a 12-year-old, a more erudite person or not, and I like this idea of having feedbacks that are not related to a specific target. My work is fun and it’s a good thing. I do not mind that some people stop at that. But I have fewer feedbacks from people who are capturing the second-line message and maybe I still want to go further in that direction.
Art has become highly democratized and yet it retains this elitist image that sometimes makes some people reluctant to visit cultural venues. How do you explain this situation?
In the art of the last 10 years, there is a return to the figurative which is often perceived as more approachable. I believe some people have a slight reluctance to art because the abstraction of the 50s / 60s with Pollock among others, is huge. And to get it totally, you need a strong artistic culture. There has been forty years of intellectual excellence in art, and people see art as a kind of elitism while it is also something that can be understood in an approachable way. I hope to keep this simplicity in my work to invite people to go further. Recently, I also heard this very true sentence from Warhol “the role of the artist is not to explain art, it is to make art“. Art is often an imprint of an era that is often somewhat out of sync with its times.
What projects do you work on?
My recent creations still combine the dialogue with the times, which is at the heart of my work, with the association of an element from the past and another from the present. I have a series of sculptures (Light Stone) that plays on the relationship between the durable stone and the immaterial light. The other series I am currently working on, is going towards the abstract, with marble circles that hold in an improbable balance. There is a dialogue between the gravity of the stone and the lightness of gravity. I reconnect with this metaphysical side of science …
Artist Margaret Zox Brown is a true New Yorker: appreciative of what it has to offer but also conscious of its impact on relationships. Her latest series focuses on the people she gets to see daily and who are all part of her life from her doorman to homeless people. Zox Brown’s most recent large-scale oil paintings have taken the form of these inhabitants — highlights of the humanity in a city often known for its impersonal nature. This exploration marks a new step in Margaret’s career as a painter (one that has spanned more than 30 years), as she dives deeper than ever into her subjects to investigate what is at the core of our human connections. In the last year alone, she has racked up several group and solo shows across NYC, the most recent being at the Kaufman Arcade in the Garment District.
I was happy to get to chat about her artistic path, her latest work and upcoming projects.
You come from an artistic family, how did it influence you? How did you find your own voice?
Indeed, my mother is an interior designer and my cousin was the artist Larry Zox. This has led me to have an eye and interest in art. I have been painting for the past 31 years and showing and selling my art for 26 years. After many evolutions with my art, it has arrived at a place where through all I have learned about color, form, paint application, light, line and how to lead my viewer through each canvas, it now offers and genuinely encourages an emotional connection with my view of the world and my viewers’ personal feelings around what I have highlighted.
Tell us about your latest series focusing on characters of New York?
Being a New Yorker, I’m fascinated by the richness of the entire city. And its people are a huge part of that. I wanted to make a series about the humanity that exists with New York’s everyday characters and the power of my relationships with those whom I know or have met: my doorman, the waiter at a favorite restaurant, the woman from the food truck outside of my studio building, a homeless men…
Do you have an anecdote that you’d like to share?
I wanted to do a painting where a homeless person would be the subject. I went to take pictures but when I looked around my own neighborhood where I live and also the one around my studio I couldn’t find any! So I asked a local Garment District policeman where I might be able to find homeless people for my art project. He told me to go to Broadway between 39th and 41st Streets at the crack of dawn. I went one morning at 6:00am and met so many wonderful people. In exchange for a few dollars, I was able to take many pictures and have memorable conversations. A few days later, I stopped at a red light while on my bike and there was the homeless man I met days before. He remembered me and the thread of our previous conversation continued. The connection was so good; memorably palpable.
What’s your goal through your art?
I have always sought out what I find to be beautiful; a line, a gesture, a mood, the gracefulness of a flower, the sensuousness of fruit… And, I have always offered these things to the world who gets to experience my art. Now, though, that connection with the world is not only what I am doing painting what turns my head, I am also now expressing the magnificence of connection in and of itself. I feel like I am expressing the things that I have found make me the happiest and so I am sharing all of this with the world.
What’s you relationship with the use of social media?
I think Social Media is great. It is really wonderful that people are able to connect more and discover so many artists this way. It makes the world smaller. I use several different Social Media platforms for my art business and I believe they are really important for artists now. Artists can show their work, get a following of people interested in their work and actually sell through this exposure. The cross referencing is also so good for developing a known presence.
What is your dream project?
Having always loved the large Chagall paintings at the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center, large public space acquisitions of my work has been something I dream about. In striving for this, I have had the great opportunity of being commissioned to create 3 large paintings for a New York City commercial building’s lobby. Now, I would love to create large art for a significant New York City building and this time use my some of New York characters in the art. This would really be a dream for me.
You recently had a solo show, what are your upcoming projects?
I am going to be in a group show in 2019 at a gallery I show with in Sag Harbor. And other than that, I am still working on my series of New York characters, seeking out just the right venue to bring these all out to the public.
A first look at Adelaide Damoah’s body printing work immediately evokes Yves Klein’s 1960 anthropometries performances. Where Klein created paintings thanks to (white) women models used as living paintbrushes in his iconic Blue. Damoah’s work and her performances is a feminist response to his work since she becomes the creator and actor of the paintings while Klein’s models where passive assistants.
Yves Klein Antropometry performance
The young British artist of Ghanaian descent, combines African and Western influences that highlight social issues such as race, sexuality and identity and uses her body as a starting point. She defines herself as a painter and performance artist. “The painting and the performance are linked. When I’m painting I’m performing and when I’m performing I’m painting.” She combines body printing with texts in her mother tongues from Ghana as well as English and collage of images of the past and the present.
Her current career is the direct result of her personal journey: after graduating in Applied Biology, she went on to work in the pharmaceutical industry and during this time, was diagnosed with endometriosis- following many years of chronic pain. Damoah’s time spent convalescing allowed her the opportunity to develop as an artist like Frida Kahlo did and whose influence Damoah fully acknowledge.
Her African roots and their legacy will remain at the core of her next artistic journey “I want to keep pushing my work further”. A promising artist who has started to gain recognition and that we recommend to follow.
What are according to you the plus and the minus of having had a previous career before being an artist?
That’s a good question that I never had as is before! Obviously it depends of the career you had before. As for me I was working in the pharmaceutical industry and I had world class training in sales, speaking to people, presentations skills… and then the practice of speaking to doctors and the practice of being rejected and not being put off by that. All of that was a good training and set up to have the tenacity and the will to keep going when things are difficult. It helped me built a tough skin. In terms of negative of not being trained as an artist, things have probably taken longer for me to acquire the skills, even though I was practicing since I was 16. On the other hand, not having that training freed me up and helped me thinking outside of the box. I do what comes naturally and feels right to me as an artist.
What were the steps toward that goal of being an artist?
It certainly was not in a day… in my naivety and not knowing anything about the art world, helped me in the sense that once I made my decision, I went to a business conference full of millionaires because it’s what I knew! So I went to connect in 2005, with my portfolio and business cards with the goal of selling works. I was naïve and had no idea if I was any good!
In doing that I met a businessman, Emile who thought I was ready to have a solo exhibition. I wasn’t sure at all that I was so I was shocked! From that point, we had a few meetings and before I knew it, he introduced me to people who helped me to design my website and we organized an exhibition. It was in the space of a menswear designer who was friend with Emile. The space was beautiful and looked like an art gallery. He got sponsors for the show, my sister helped me with the public relations and I got a lot of interviews and coverage from the press as a result. So that was my first step into the life as an exhibiting artist and from that point on, I continued with the attitude of I’m going to organize my own exhibitions, with of course the help of many friends.
That started in 2015 through my friend Enam Gbewonyo who is the founder of the collective. She invited me to join and since I really believe in collaboration and relations I said yes! Its goal is to provide a platform for female emerging artists of the diaspora to showcase their work and let the world know they are here.
You are one of MTArt artists, how did you start working with them?
That was the result of an interview. In 2017, I met with Roby Wilton who was working with Katrina Alexa co founder of AWITA (Association of Women in the Arts). While I was chatting with Roby, my assistant was chatting with Katrina. Once I finished the interview, we connected and soon started to collaborate. She helped me work on my communication among other things. One day she invited me to the opening of an installation made by MTART at the London Bridge where she introduced me to Marine Tanguy. We kept in touch and when I did my performance at Unfold Space exhibition for Frieze week in 2017, Marine came and told me she loved it. Within a few months we were working together.
How important is social media for you?
When I started as an artist, social media started to be really big and I was on Facebook and MySpace since the beginning. I was networking a lot through social media and I started to network more and more with artists and go to exhibitions. I started interviewing artists and gallerists as well. All that process of forming relationships with people and sharing it, really helped me and accelerated my journey. I also learnt a lot through Katrina Alexa who helped me to have a strategic approach of Instagram. I realized that in the art world, people want to look at your Instagram before your website. So it has to be aligned with your aesthetics and reflect your work.
You’ve just closed your solo show Genesis in London. What are your upcoming projects?
I’m working on different projects; one is a sculpture about the image of my great grand mother that I use repeatedly in my work. I’m also having interesting collaborations coming on: one with a science company and another one with an art company. Beside from that, I want to keep pushing my work further. I have recently worked on a series for an exhibition in Gallery Different in London, about Picasso’s Women. Most of the information about them has usually been negative in favor of Picasso, when he treated them poorly. The work I made for that show, was a bit different and I want to push that new technique further.
In term of subject matter, I’m thinking about the history of Christianity in my families in particular and the history in Africa in general and how it changed things there. I’m really interested in going back before colonization and dig into the spiritual practices then and where they are now. I’m not sure how long it will take me because it’s a wide subject but one that is important to me.
Marie Petitot est Amoureuse de l’Histoire, et particulièrement des histoires de ces hommes et femmes aux parcours extraordinaires et de leurs personnalités. Depuis 2015, elle anime le blog Plume d’histoire suivi par de nombreux fans où elle partage des anecdotes piquantes, des faits historiques célèbres revisités, des critiques de biographies. Pour tous les amoureux, comme elle, de la petite et de la grande Histoire. Elle est également chroniqueuse dans les revues Napoléon Ier, Napoléon III et Château de Versailles et vient de publier Royales Passions (éditions Tallandier) son premier ouvrage, qui présente dix portraits captivants qui étonnent et renouvellent notre perception des grands personnages de l’Histoire en partageant leurs passions, ce qui les faisait vibrer. Saviez vous que Louis XIII était un compositeur et graphiste de talent ? Que Napoléon III était passionne par l’histoire et l’archéologie ?
Rendez vous sur le blog Plume d’histoire pour en savoir plus et pour les parisiens, une soirée de lancement, avec petits fours et champagne, aura lieu le 14 novembre dans la librairie Albin Michel à Paris 7e.
Votre premier livre Royales Passions vient de sortir. Pouvez-vous nous le présenter ?
Royales Passions présente, au gré des chapitres, 10 têtes couronnées de France et d’Europe, en les abordant de façon un peu différente de la biographie traditionnelle. L’angle d’approche est celui des passions de ces personnages, leurs goûts personnels, ce qui les fait vibrer chacun à leur époque. Une perspective qui propulse le lecteur au cœur de leur intimité. Ceux qui découvrent ces rois et ces reines sont invités à le faire d’une façon plus originale, et ceux qui les connaissaient déjà appréhenderont de nouveaux aspects de leur personnalité.
Comment vous est venue l’envie d’écrire ce livre ?
Le détail et l’anecdote me fascinent. La petite histoire dans la grande, en somme. J’ai toujours voulu connaître les hommes et les femmes qui se cachent derrière ces rois et ces reines parfois si lointains. Et quoi de plus personnel, finalement, qu’une passion ? Raconter leur histoire en se basant sur ce qui les définit le mieux les humanise grandement. Si la politique et l’exercice du pouvoir ne sont jamais loin, j’ai voulu montrer qu’en grattant le vernis de ce que nous savons ou croyions savoir sur eux, se dévoilent tout simplement des êtres humains, avec une âme, des envies et des lubies.
Vous êtes également la rédactrice du blog Plume d’histoire : pourquoi l’avez vous crée et comment a-t-il pris son envol ?
J’ai créé Plume d’histoire en février 2015, tout simplement pour pouvoir partager mes lectures historiques tout en satisfaisant mon appétit d’écriture. Et puis rapidement, au delà de mes lectures, c’est ma passion pour l’Histoire au sens plus large que j’ai voulu exprimer. Je continue à écrire des articles sur des biographies, mais ce sont surtout les anecdotes sur les grands personnages qui font depuis 3 ans le succès du blog. Les débuts n’ont pas été évidents, il faut savoir s’imposer et trouver son style, ce que je pense avoir réussi : j’ai aujourd’hui une communauté assidue, notamment sur Facebook, peuplée de gens bienveillants en attente de nouveaux articles. C’est un vrai bonheur de lire leurs commentaires et de recevoir leurs messages !
Vous faites un focus sur les histoires personnelles des femmes et hommes illustres. En avez vous quelques uns/unes que vous aimez plus particulièrement et pourquoi ?
J’ai un faible pour Louis XV et Napoléon III, deux hommes souvent incompris, du grand public comme des historiens, même si depuis quelques années les biographies les plus sérieuses réhabilitent les deux souverains. Ils ont chacun leur chapitre dans Royales Passions, ce n’est pas un hasard !
Quels sont les livres ou films historiques que vous recommandez ?
Beaucoup de livres historiques me viennent en tête ! Dans la catégorie des romans, « La Bourbonnaise » de Catherine Hermary-Vieille arrive en tête. L’histoire de la comtesse Du Barry est retracée avec une grande justesse et des descriptions merveilleuses. Les biographies et études historiques dignes d’intérêt sont légions. C’est avec le « Napoléon » de Jacques Bainville, que j’ai eu envie d’en savoir plus sur l’empereur. Les travaux plus récents de Jean Tulard, Thierry Lentz, Patrice Gueniffey, Pierre Branda, Bernard Chavallier, Vincent Haegele et Charles-Éloi Vial sur le Premier empire sont des valeurs sûres. Sur l’Ancien régime, je dirais que les biographies de Jean-Christian Petitfils et Simone Bertière sont des incontournables. « Juger la reine » d’Emmanuel de Waresquiel fait partie de mes coups de cœur : j’ai une grande admiration pour la plume de cet historien, et je suis très fière de partager le même éditeur, Tallandier.
La régence de Philippe d’Orléans, période pourtant cruciale dans l’Histoire de France, est rarement évoquée au cinéma. Il existe cependant au moins deux très bons films à visionner absolument. « Que la fête commence… » de Tavernier, sorti en 1975 reste un incontournable avec Philippe Noiret en duc d’Orléans et Jean Rochefort en abbé Dubois sont fantastiques. Plus récemment « L’échange des Princesses », adaptation du roman de Chantal Thomas, est un film fabuleux. Il montre bien la stratégie du duc d’Orléans, et dévoile à quel point les enfants royaux étaient victimes de la politique. Au delà du fond, la forme ! Lumière, caméra, jeu des acteurs, c’est un pur régal. Et l’excellent « Mademoiselle de Joncquières » avec Cecile de France et Edouard Baer.
Chateau de Fléchères
Votre lieu historique français préféré et pourquoi ?
J’ai récemment découvert le château de Fléchères, au cœur de la Dombes. L’histoire de ce château qui a failli disparaître est incroyable. Les fresques Renaissance qui ornent les murs sont d’une rareté et d’une beauté à couper le souffle. C’est un lieu qui mérite d’être connu, et je travaille à un article sur le sujet.
Quel est le projet de vos rêves ?
Acheter un château, le rénover, et l’ouvrir au public, rien que cela !
Quels sont vos projets à venir ?
Continuer l’écriture, avant tout. Je réfléchis déjà à l’éventualité d’un tome 2 pour Royales Passions, car j’ai pas mal de personnages en réserve… Pourquoi pas une vraie biographie dans quelques temps ? Là aussi, j’ai quelques idées. Je songe aussi à me lancer en indépendante, c’est un projet à mûrir.
Want to own an artwork by an established artist like Marina Abramović or Rob and Nick Carter and many more established or emerging artists? for a starting price of $65? plus participate to a charity?
If the answer is yes, then Art on a Postcard Secret Auction is for you! The association gives you the opportunity to bid on postcard size works of art made by artists — usually out of most people’s budget — all in aid of The Hepatitis C Trust. The previous editions have welcomed the participation of Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry, Harland Miller and Cicely Brown.
The artists behind each postcard are kept secret until after the end of the auction on November 15th. Will you be able to spot an artist style? Did they on purpose make something totally new for this occasion? It’s also a great opportunity to discover emerging artists and follow your instinct as an art lover.
I am very happy to be among the participating artists at the invitation of Gemma Peppe, curator of the event. The works can now be viewed at www.artonapostcard.com and will be on display in London at WeWork Building, 8 Devonshire Square EC2M 4PL from November 13-16th.
Here a a few of my favorites and hurry the auction is already live on Paddle8