Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Eileen Goldenberg: Artist Interview

Eileen at work in her studio
Lynette (LH): Eileen, where do you live now and where do you make your art?
Eileen: San Francisco

Array 61
12 x 12"
©Eileen Goldenberg

LH: Did you receive any formal art training?
Eileen: Yes, I have a BFA, from Alfred University and an MA and MFA, from the University of Iowa in ART. I also took the 5 day encaustic painting workshop from R&F Paints

LH: Was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist? At what point in your life did you become interested in making art?
Eileen: I knew when I was 5 years old that I was going to be an artist. My mom tried to talk me out of it, but no dice…I started with ceramics, and did that professionally for over 35 years. For the last 10 years I have been painting with encaustic. The ceramics is losing to the painting. I just love to paint so much.

Array 75
24 x 48"
©Eileen Goldenberg
LH: What is your media?
Eileen: I paint with encaustic, a paint made with beeswax, damar resin and pigments. The paint is melted on a hot palette and you fuse it with heat and when it cools, it is permanent. The Damar resin makes the bees wax hard and durable.

Array 70
24 x 24"
©Eileen Goldenberg

LH: Can you describe bit about your work in general?
Eileen: My work is abstract, based on a matrix that I build up with thousands of tiny dots of paint, then layers and layers of more wax. I love the effect that has on the finished surface. It adds richness, pattern and depth to the work.

LH: Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?
Eileen: I am always drawing, sketching, thinking, if I feel “dry”, I go to a gallery, museum or read. I know that when you are an artist there are ups and downs. I don’t get worried, I have so many sketchbooks filled with ideas and concepts I can always flip through those and see what looks interesting. I also study art from other cultures, Australian Aboriginal art, bark paintings from the Mbuti women in Africa, etc.

LH: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
Eileen: I try to do art every day, either drawing or painting. Of course I have to keep up with show applications, shipping work, applying to art fairs, etc. the business of art. I listen to books on tape when I paint, it seems to keep my left brain busy while my right brain can paint. And I am reading while I am painting. I know that the book ends up in the art somehow, but it is hard to say where…my studio is always set up and ready to go…

LH: What is your current work about?
Eileen: The latest series is called Array, because of the rows and organization. I can change colors, the size of the dots, it is endless. I also work in mostly a warm palette, reds, yellows, oranges, etc. The pieces are mostly white on white, very minimalist, with one line or arrangement of dots in a distinct color towards the bottom of the work, I feel it gives a feeling of calmness, serenity.I love when people look at my art and they get in real close to see the depth of the surface. The wax creates an optical depth because of its natural translucency.

Eileen's palette
LH: Can you share with my readers a little about yourself? Where did you grow up and what were there any early influences on your work?
Eileen: I was born in Brooklyn NY. I went into Manhattan regularly to the museums and galleries; New York is so rich with art, a great place to see all kinds of things. I had a great art teacher in High School, Ms. Last. She taught the practice of “more so” basically to keep pushing your ideas to the maximum level, and then back it out to where you like it.

I went to NYU for my first year of college and the best part was being in Greenwich Village and wandering around that area of the city. I also went to school at the Brooklyn Museum and learned ceramics there. The school is gone now but I remember going on Saturdays. Then I transferred to Alfred University, to the College of Ceramics. They have everything there for every kind of ceramic technique: wood firing, Raku, electric, wheel throwing hand building, glaze calculation classes, etc. And the studios were open 24 hours a day.

Helen Frankenthaler, Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin have been my inspiration. I feel that my work is getting minimal, doing more with less.

LH: What is your workspace like?
Eileen: I work at home. I have the entire downstairs of the house, still too small, but I manage.

LH: Describe how you work in your studio. How do you get "in a groove" and what inspires you?

Eileen: I get up early; maybe 5-6am, have tea, maybe draw a little, and then head to the gym. On my way back through the studio, I turn on my palettes and then have breakfast. I check emails, do business stuff for about an hour, until the paints are melted. Then paint for a few hours. Our dog has to go for a walk in the afternoon, so I take a break and we go to the park. Usually a nap, have tea and do some reading or drawing. Then more computer work until I make dinner for my wife. What inspires me is life, ideas come to me and I try them out. I work in series; the Tea House series has over 350 paintings. I am up to about 85 in the Array series. I keep trying different ways to express my concepts and voice.

LH: What are you reading right now?
Eileen: The Lay of the Land, The Girl who Played with Fire, The Double Comfort Safari Club… just finished, Where the Wild Things Are, De Koonings’s Bicycle, so many books…

LH: Do you have other jobs other than making art?
Eileen: I teach ceramics one day a week to children and I teach encaustic painting in my studio.

LH: Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
Eileen: I will have 5-6 more galleries, have my work in a few museums and I will be awarded more grants.

LH: Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?
Eileen: I will be at the Salem Art Fest, Salem OR., July 17&18, American Crafts Council San Francisco Show, August 13,14,15, Celebration of Craftswomen in San Francisco Nov 28,29 and Dec 4,5. also I have a piece in Private Eyes, Artist's Visions at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art. I have had work in about 10 gallery shows this year, such as the Texas National, Cole Art Center, Juried by Judy Pfaff, Nacogdoches, TX, Exploring the Triptych, Lux Center for the Arts, Lincoln NB, Luminous Layer, Exploring Contemporary Encaustic, Lakewood Center for the Arts, Lake Oswego, OR, Working with Wax, Santa Rosa Junior College, Santa Rosa,5th National Encaustic Invitational, Conrad Wilde Gallery, Tucson AZ.
And a One Woman Show at Hallway Gallery in Bellevue, WA.
LH: How long does it take you to make a painting? (Eileen suggested this question)...
Eileen: I often get asked how long it takes for each painting. People don’t realize that it takes the training, many, many hours of school, developing your voice, painting hundreds of paintings, developing and perfecting a technique, etc to do art. The time it takes to do one piece is irrelevant. A Picasso was just sold for $104 Million and they said it took him one day… I really hate that question, I usually say “a long time”.

LH: How do you help people who don’t “get” abstract art?
Eileen: With abstract work some people feel the need to “find Wendy” in the work, free associate, try to find figures or pictures. My work is about feelings and emotions not about looking for an object. My work in NON objective, if they just look at it, they will find that the work speaks to them in non verbal ways. After all, art is a visual experience we are always trying to be verbal about it, reviews, critics, etc. try to translate the visual into words. It is really about just the pure pleasure of looking at art.

LH: How do you title your pieces?
Eileen: Coming up with titles is a challenging aspect of art making. I usually think about what is the essence of the work, what am I trying to say. I name a whole series with one name and then I start numbering them as I paint them...If the paintings change significantly, so they feel like they need a different name, I will come up with a new title. I use a thesaurus to help come up with words.

Thank you!

You can see more of Eileen's work at any of these web sites:

1 comment:

Nancy Natale said...

Excellent interview! I enjoyed reading more background about Eileen's working habits, inspirations, history of making art, etc. And that question!

I find it interesting that the Array series is so minimal and the Teahouse series is becoming more maximal - a great trend in both directions.