Tuesday, July 12, 2011

.the artist's voice :: an interview with erica steiner.

It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute whatever for  force and beauty of its process.  ~Max Eastman

When I think of the word reverie, often times the first thing that comes to mind are the imagery of paintings by California based artist, Erica Steiner.   I've been following Erica's work for several years now and over time, her art has simply continued to inspire.  There is such a spiritual quality to each of her paintings. The eloquent connection between the artist's hand and soul is evident with each brushstroke, and every detail, as if the painting itself is a beautiful conversation.  And perhaps this is why I adore her artwork so much.  Not too long ago, I finally decided to ask this talented sweetheart to share a bit about herself and her creativity with us.  Here is what she had to say.  [click on the images for a larger view]

KEThere are many that say they knew very early on in life that some day they would become an artist.  Is this true for you?  At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to become an artist and what motivated you to pursue it as a full-time career?
ES:  Deep down I think I always knew I had it in me, but I definitely haven’t always been as in touch with that knowing as I am now.  Although there were times  in my youth when I was passionately devoted to making art—I’ve loved art, I think, since birth—it was not until I was in my late twenties, hiking on a mountain trail in Kauai, that I had an epiphany, a moment of clarity, and realized that it was time to make art my career.    Since then, things have been simpler—not always easy, of course, but simpler, and happier—because art gives me such a strong sense of purpose and continuity, a refuge, and a kind of psychic root system that keeps me grounded.

KEYour paintings are a wonderful explosion of color and texture!  One can easily get lost in your detail work.  Tell us a little bit about your style.

ES:  I try to achieve a sort of romantic or lyrical coming-together of artistic genres: abstraction, ornamentation, landscape, representation, with subtle elements of street and folk art, informed by an expansive, anthropological sensibility, and an essentially Californian, vibrant, Technicolor spirit.  There is definitely a strong decorative aspect to my work, which I consider essentially feminist at its core; my work is also very concerned with integration, with synthesis, with bringing together disparate stylistic elements whose origins span time and space (combining, for example, aspects of Aboriginal painting with elements of Victorian fashion, or images inspired by medieval Catholic illuminated manuscripts).  The influences can come from anywhere and are continually evolving; they come through experiences I have in my everyday life, or simply, from the ether.

KE:  Every artist has a Muse.  What would you say are your greatest sources of inspiration? 

ES:  I grew up on a farm in northern California which was fairly isolated, and I think that in a way, I felt more connected to nature, to land, than to people.  The land—our land, our farm—was so familiar, so intimately ours… not because we owned it (I don’t think people ever really own land), but because we belonged to it.  Perhaps for that reason, the natural world has always been, and probably will always be, my most vociferous muse.  These days, since I’m living on the coast, it’s more and more the ocean, the movement of it, the dangerous beauty of it that inspires me; the more time I spend here, the more its energy seems to inhabit my work.  

KE:  Your recent collection of work Heaven is Not The Wide Blue Sky has just recently been exhibited in Los Angeles at Edgar Varela Fine Arts.  How would you say this new series differs from your previous work?
ES:  I think because just before I started this series, I moved to a place that is both rural and relatively close to the city, the new work incorporates the ever-present influence of nature, as well as, for the first time, more industrial/ human-made landscape imagery.  This was a big change for me, and one that I had resisted for a long time, but the images were persistent in their wanting to be painted, and I finally relented. The result is a juxtaposition of geometric and human-made elements with the more feminine imagery of rebirth and renewal that has long been the mainstay of my work (lush floral imagery, psychedelic and textile-inspired patterns, gold leaf).  In addition, the work addresses the rapid environmental degradation currently taking place on the planet, incorporating occasionally catastrophic or apocalyptic imagery, including erupting volcanoes, nuclear reactors, and flooded land and city scapes.

KE:  In any of your travels, is there one particular memory you have that stands out in your mind? 

ES:  There is one, sort of hauntingly beautiful memory that comes to mind. I was nineteen, and staying in a losmen in a remote agricultural region of the Indonesian island of Flores.  It was a clear, chill, early November night, and, having arrived in the village after sundown, I decided to go out for a walk and explore.  By flashlight, I found a path through some nearby rice paddies, which lead to a footbridge and beyond it, a patch of forest that obscured the sky.  Finally, I found myself in a clearing, and spread out in front of me, a cemetery flush with candlelight, altars of flowers and photographs and clusters of saint’s candles flickering in glass jars.  The graves were not marked by stones but by wooden crosses, but still it seem­ed to me that they were very old, and as my eyes gradually adjusted to the light, human figures began to take form, standing, kneeling, embracing one another, and processing quietly like apparitions among the graves.  Later I would realize that I had encountered the ritualized celebration of the night when the veils between the worlds are said to be at their thinnest, All Saint’s Day, the Day of the Dead.  But in the moment, the beauty of the scene was so potent that it was all I could do to take it in.  It was a truly a dream-like, waking moment, a moment when I felt reality give in, just a little, and let me in on a secret.   

KE:  For fun, what is your all-time favorite movie?
ES:  I don’t think I could ever choose a favorite movie, but the movie that comes to mind, the first movie that really captured my imagination, was the infamous 1970’s musical, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  It was a spectacularly awful movie (renowned to be one of the worst ever made) based on the songs of Sergeant Pepper as interpreted by the Bee Gees.  My Dad, who was, and still is, a huge Beatles fan, took me to the Plaza movie theater in Petaluma to see it when I was five years old, and I fell madly in love with the music of Sergeant Pepper, my first passionate love affair with a work of art. 

KE:  Any words of wisdom?

Speaking of The Beatles, they taught me this when I was little, and I still think it’s true: All You Need Is Love. (Think about it.)

Find more of Erica's work, as well as dates for upcoming exhibitions, by visiting her website.  Also, be sure to check out Erica's  Facebook page.  Thanks so much for hanging out with us today friends!



  1. THis is so pretty!! thank you so much for sharing her work!

  2. these are so vibrant, so alive! beautiful. her connection with nature really shines through.
    great interview too.


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