Saturday, November 24, 2012

Krista Svalbonas: Jersey City, NJ


Krista Svalbonas

with her Penumbra series at the Vermont Studio Residency Program
*Click on photos to view larger

Please share a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what were any early influences on your work?

I was raised in Pennsylvania,  outside of New Jersey in a town called the Christmas City, Bethlehem. From a very young age,  I was always experimenting with some kind of art media. My parents encouraged and supported my curiosity with the arts, allowing me to try my hand at sculpting, painting, drawing and photography. In middle school I had a fascination with metalsmithing and took an after-school class in the medium at a local arts center. For a little while I had a soldering and crafting station in the basement. In high school I fell in love with photography and set up a mini darkroom in a closet under the stairs. I had, and still have, a thirst to learn and try new things. All through my education I was an alchemist, combining media and devising experiments. My mother was a huge influence. Although she never pursued a career in the arts, she is very artistic. I grew up with art all over the house. If it wasn't my mother's drawings I was looking at it was was step father's paintings and pottery. Television was a forbidden medium in the house, so my time consisted of art projects or reading books.  At one point in time my mother was part of a program sponsored by the Philadelphia Art Museum called " Art Goes to School". The program introduced elementary students in Pennsylvania to various artists through show and tell poster prints. My mother had all sorts of prints of paintings and sculptures laying about the house. I remember falling in love with Chagall as a child.

Cooper Union AIR exhibit and installation

Where do you live now?

I live in Jersey City, NJ which has a great deal to do with my work. It also has a lovely art scene and some really great restaurants!

Gravy Studio and Gallery Installation

Did you receive any formal art training? If yes where and what did you major in?

I received a BFA in Photography and Design and an MFA in a hybrid program of Photography, Video and Design. When I left my Masters program I was an installation artist working in all sorts of media: resin, dirt, sound, video, rubber, photography.... And now I'm a painter. That still boggles me. Painting wasn't really in my radar until I took an encaustic course with Lisa Pressman.  At first I started painting over my photographs but as I developed a voice and a body of work the photographs disappeared. I'm now experimenting with ways to incorporate photography or aspects of photography back into my work. As I mentioned before I was definitely an alchemist in my education, there wasn't a medium that I didn't want to know about and try and I desperately wanted to connect them all. What got me hooked on wax was its wonderful ability to mutate, it can be sculpted, drawn on, carved away, and best of all it plays very well with other media... Here, at last, was a medium that allowed me to do all the things I wanted to do in one form, and it was far more portable then my installation work. Although, that may also change soon, as I'm starting to bring a little bit of installation back into my work as well.

Anima 1, 30x30

wax, graphite and pastel

What is your current work about?

My urban environment is an immense influence on my work. Cracks in the pavement, patterns in windows and fractured views of buildings all manifest themselves in my work. I am fascinated with the architecture of the city landscape, it's tiny spaces, it's overlapping structure and it's constant rebirth. I am painting the  infrastructure of humanity  in search of the areas where we become aware of our own presence in the world. Working in wax I often feel like I am building my pieces layer by layer, methodically. The process to me feels connected to the subject and identity of the work. The consistent building up and tearing down of surface can be likened to the continual excavation and renovation of the urban landscape.

Transparency 1

36x36, wax and pastel

What is your workspace like?

My workspace is the living room of my apartment. I have a nice wooden table with drawers that I use as my main painting table. Another fold out table that houses paintings in progress and a rotating easel that also holds in progress work. I work on as little as three pieces at a time and as many as six at a time ( depending on size). Having a studio at home has its pluses and minuses. I enjoy taking a few steps and being " in the studio" but outside distractions are easy to find and the space is less than ideal. As I am writing this, I just finished  artist residency  program at Cooper Union where I completed a new body of work. Being in a space that is tailored for artists puts me in a state of hyperdrive. I feel mentally energized and wholly physically present, everything in my environment is stimulating my practice and my work. I will dearly miss that space.

Svalbonas' Studio

Are you involved with any arts groups or communities? If yes, what do you gain from that affiliation and what do you contribute to it?

I'm involved in the arts community here in Jersey City as well as an arts group based in Montclair NJ. Jersey City is very welcoming to artists, there are some amazing studio spaces, arts tours and all the local restaurants and small businesses support the Arts. I've participated in the studio tours, career development opportunities and attend the gallery openings. In Montclair I participate in a critique group, which just started so it's a bit too fresh to comment on but I have a feeling it will be fun. In both cases being a part of these groups gets me out of the studio/house, allows me to meet new artists, to network and to feel like part of the larger community of artists. The process itself is a give and take and I believe that I give to it as much as what is returned to me.

Transparency 2
36x36, wax and pastel

How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?

Participating in the above mentioned groups helps as well as regularly attending openings and supporting other artists commitments to their work. As often as I can I like to collect other artists work. Currently I'm working on a a couple curatorial proposals that I'm very excited about which will also provide a great opportunity to support my fellow artists. Residencies have also been a great opportunity for me to build artist communities. I've only participated in two so far and look forward to many more, hopefully. In both cases I have met some wonderful people, shared inspirational ideas and have connected with artists and writers in a very meaningful way.

Do you have other jobs other than making art? If so, please give us some details.

I've taught at a number of colleges on the east coast and currently I'm a full-time faculty member of the Art Institute of New York. I teach Photography and portfolio related courses in the Graphic Arts. Teaching has its own sense of community and demands. I do enjoy it very much and have had some really wonderful students, some of whom have become steadfast friends and amazingly talented individuals. Seeing my students succeed has been a wonderful gift and has brought me the greatest sense of joy. I have had some very influential teachers in my day, that I believe have taken a great sense of pride in my successes. I certainly hope that I am returning that care and inspiration to my students.

Current Exhibition:

Substance and Shadow
November 20th - December 20th
Opening December 6th 1-2:30pm
980 Fremont St., Monterey, CA 

Photos from Substance and Shadow installation:

Upcoming exhibitions:
Phenomenology of Place at Firehouse Gallery, Rogue Community College in Oregon and a TBA solo exhibition at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Colorado.

My process as well as photographs of the installations will be viewable on my blog at

You can see more of her work on her website.

Thank you, Krista!