The Fine Palette of New York-Based Artist Petra Nimtz

Artist Petra Nimtz is the first to admit that a career in fine art was about as unfathomable to her twenty years ago as winding up in New York State from her native Germany. The artist has made a path for herself as an abstract painter, following her academic pursuits from country to country and state to state. Currently based both in Hudson Valley and Manhattan, Nimtz carefully pushes her practice forward with a nuanced look at texture and color. She is unafraid to explore alternative processes in her practice as well. ANTE sat down with Nimtz in her Midtown studio to peruse her recent works and pursue the depth of her considerations in art-making.

Petra Nimtz’ painting in situ (image courtesy the artist)

ANTE – Thanks Petra for sitting down with us today! So tell us: How did you get your start as an artist?

Petra Nimtz – I was born in Germany and left in 2002, ending up in Vancouver, BC, Canada. After two years, I began to think I should paint. I took a course at the Emily Carr institute and began sharing a studio, it all came together very naturally…

ANTE – And had you painted at all before that? 

PN – Yes, as a child – as a student in school, but I had never approached it other than as a student…

ANTE  – So not as a vocation?

PN Right, not until I lived in Vancouver. I began to study the basics of painting by starting with acrylics. I began this way, sharing a studio, working in acrylic before moving onto working with oil paints. Once I began working with oil, I was hooked immediately. I then visited NYC and began to study at the Art Students League in New York under Frank O’Kane, I know he’s still teaching – he’s quite a force of nature, and I love his work. I was writing down notes in his classes like a maniac… he mentioned Abstract Expressionists, all this information that was quite new to me – I had never studied art history, had never heard of that. Their work really resonated with me – he told me to study the painters who I liked, and that’s what I started doing and it helped me evolve my practice at my studio back in Canada.

ANTE  – What timeframe was this?

PN – This was about 2005-06 when I began working as a painter, and showing in local cafes in Vancouver. Living there in Vancouver at the time, the abstract art scene was not very active and I didn’t have much to look at, so in 2010 I moved to upstate New York for three months to rent a place to paint – a live/work space. A friend of mine directed me to Woodstock, so I went and spent three months there painting in a barn and going into New York City often. I then decided to move here – exactly ten years ago.

Petra Nimtz works between her studios in Woodstock and Midtown Manhattan

ANTE  – So then have you primarily been working in abstraction?

PN – Yes, I work in abstraction. I am an abstract artist, and I’m not interested in drawing or painting figuratively, or creating work with the human figure. I don’t want to pursue it. 

ANTE  – At the time you began living in Woodstock, were you working on a larger scale?

PN – The largest at that studio was 6×7’ size artwork, working in that barn. Actually when I began painting I started out smaller, but over the years I have become emboldened to try out larger sizes in my painting. I now like working in a 4×5’ format, it’s comfortable for me. 

ANTE  – Observing a work in progress, I do see some pencil and sketching/drawing, are you working with an oil stick as well?

PN – Yes, all of that – this particular work has so many layers. I work on multiple layers as each is still fresh – the paint is still wet, and for some works I’ll be building up, say, ten layers. I like showing layers and allowing them to shine through, giving them a chance to shine through – suffice it to say that I don’t spend too much time hiding the layers.

ANTE  – Can you talk about the brushstrokes you use in these artworks, particularly works in these smaller sizes? There is an expressive energy…

PN – Yes it’s easier for me to use looser brushstrokes – it’s more animated, what I like to call my “messy” paintings. I can work with a more expressive style in a smaller format, using a palette knife and brushes to create a more dynamic work. 

ANTE  – Do you frequently use a palette knife in your work?

PN – Yes, I use the edge of it: I use it to spread the paint onto the canvas directly. I can make strong and decisive gestures, and the paint can be applied more thickly. It allows me to direct my compositions and make certain areas of a painting stronger. This allows a certain side of the canvas to dominate the overall composition. I have been using the palette knife since I first delved into working with oil on canvas.

ANTE  – What is new to your recent work?

PN – The colors I utilize in my practice always change. The color palette varies organically according to my mood. 

ANTE  – Do you feel influenced by working in Woodstock?

PN  – Yes, it’s very inspiring – I’m surrounded by nature, blues and greens and whites. In nature, I’m inspired to paint using these colors. 

ANTE  – Do you feel that you are inspired by light in your work? 

PN  – I frequently do use white through the layers of my artworks, and I am often influenced by light in my work. While I frequently use white painting in my work, I don’t often work with purple as a color in my compositions. 

ANTE  –  Interesting to know! And do you work on a single painting at a time?

PN  – Oh no, I always work on multiple paintings at a time because I get stuck. I’ll get stuck on a work. I have multiple works in progress hanging on walls – I have quite a large studio space in Woodstock so it’s easier to move from one wall to another to change what I’m working on when I get stuck on a certain artwork. I have never worked on an easel; I always work on the wall. It helps me to work on several pieces at a time – I’ve always worked this way in my process, since I very first started painting.

Work by Petra Nimtz in situ (image courtesy the artist)

 

ANTE  – Tell me about your approach to painting: you already referenced infusing gesture with the palette knife, what other considerations inform your painting?

PN  – I’ve always worked with palette knife and brush, but now I’ve even used my hands or even gloves to directly apply paint to the canvas. I like working with different methods of application – brush, palette knife, hand – in contrast to create tension and create clear gestures in my work. It’s easier to carefully construct a composition borrowing from these different styles of line and gesture in a smaller format works, however. Smaller size works are easier to control this dialogue within. 

ANTE  – So you only work in painting? Not in other mediums?

PN  – I actually have also worked in monoprint, collage and works on paper. I’ll sometimes create a monoprint. I make monoprints in addition to paintings, but I don’t view this as my main style of work. Painting will always be my medium. 

ANTE – In terms of expanded practice: Do you frequently work in collage, or have you worked in other formats than oil on canvas? 

PN  – In 2015-16 I was working in acrylic a bit in addition to my oil painting, and around that time I started making collage a bit. Some of these works I’ve since covered with oil paint – since 2018, I’ve worked almost exclusively with oil paints. I was working with acrylic before, but it dries so fast and you can’t build up layers, so I returned to exclusively working with oil paints so that I could build up layers in my work. Adding a new element to the work with collage is exciting for me – I was happy to paint over my collage works with oil as it added it an exciting texture for me. 

ANTE  – Can you talk to us more about other artists whose work has inspired you?

PN  – I’m really interested in New York City as a moment in the 1950s and 60s and the artists who lived here then – they inspired one another, challenged one another, and built up a camaraderie. Reading about their lives, they were all wild. They were also great artists. Of course many wonderful women artists of this time period – Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell – continue to inspire me. Among contemporary artists, I love Amy Sillman. In addition to her wonderful practice she also has a great sense of humor that has come through when I’ve heard her speak. 

ANTE  – So what are you working on at the moment? Have you worked more in one certain style over, say, the past six months?

PN  – What I’ve liked recently is that my work has become more gestural, more loose. The style I call “Messy” – I think of Joan Mitchell and her messiness, which I love. I was thrilled to see my style evolve into this messier look – my painting style changes over time without planning out, but the positive feedback I’ve had from others is that while my style changes, it is always recognizable. My changes in style over time do shift, but it remains recognizable and I’m happy to go with the flow.

ANTE  – So a few years ago you mentioned that you had a studio in Bushwick before moving to this Midtown location, can you tell me about your experiences as an artist working in Bushwick?

PN  – Well, Paul D’Agostino who is very knowledgeable came out to visit my studio. He’s lovely and helped me – really became a great resource for me, he’s wonderful. He hosted a few shows at his studios, and suggested my work to other members of the community. I did enjoy being a part of the community as best I could, but I live in Woodstock – I was mostly in Bushwick on the weekends, most studios were closed and most artists were gone when I was working there. Here being based in Manhattan, it’s an easier commute and I can walk to Chelsea galleries and other nearby galleries to go observe the art exhibitions that are on at the moment.

ANTE  – So what exhibitions have you been in recently?

PN  – Well, I participated at a group show in Bushwick, and I’ve also recently shown with Julie Torres in a space just outside of Hudson in Hudson Valley, New York. It’s nice to have a footprint both in Woodstock and in New York City, I can appreciate the benefits of both.

ANTE  – So what exhibitions have you visited in recent days and months that you enjoyed? 

PN  – I finally went to the new MoMA, and enjoyed the Amy Sillman-curated section “The Shape of Shape” that they have on view now. Recently, I went to an interesting show in Chelsea (NYC) at Albertz Benda, “Substrate”. The show was really beautiful. I also did get the chance to witness the show at the Katonah Museum of Art, “Sparkling Amazons.” It was an intriguing show and I had the chance to learn about artists who were not previously known to me. There was also an intriguing show recently featuring artist Cat Balco, “My Exploding Stars,” at Rick Wester Fine Art.

Spiritual Awakenings: Langdon Graves’ “Month’s Mind” at Victori+Mo

In Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” the story’s protagonist, Mrs. Alving, is a woman driven nearly mad by the profligities of a husband since deceased. Her suspicions, agonies and fears manifest into lingering presences that she summarily labels as ‘ghosts’. “I am inclined to believe that we are all ghosts,” she mutters to a family confidant. While for Ibsen these ‘ghosts’ allude to one man’s sins, ghosts have remained a frequent reference point in literature throughout the centuries, as ghosts and hauntings have persistently crept into society’s consciousness. Every culture has held onto their own form of ghost stories. Yet, can ghosts remain congruent to our present reality in which data and security camera leave little room for subjectivity and conjecture?

“Month’s Mind” solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view at Victori+Mo (toward the rear of space)

One artist who is convinced they can is artist Langdon Graves, whose formidable solo show “Month’s Mind” remains on view at Victori+Mo through January 18, 2020. The subtlety of this curious exhibit lingers in the mind long after a visitor encounters Graves’ work. The exhibit features seemingly everyday objects often with a peculiar twist: pencils bend around tables, while maggots crawl through lifelike apples and flowers. These works appear in suprising configurations and cavalcades, locked in a frozen procession – a funereal march across a pastel-tinged space. Rooted in a carefully meted blend of autobiography and research-based practice, “Month’s Mind” marks an exhibit that hints at the delicate relationship between macabre and memorial, grief and the occult. The title itself refers to an old English practice of marking the memory of someone one month since deceased, and the contrast between soothing and morbid – a ‘finger’ hangs suspended from six feet below a spray of daisies on one wall of the exhibit – shifts its weight carefully throughout the expanse of space.

Another carefully balanced juxtaposition held firmly in place by Graves’ sure hand is the dissonance separating empricism and the supernatural. While data can indicate correlations, it cannot always explain: Graves knows as much from life experience. Raised with a strong memory of her grandmother, who recalled the artist’s great-grandfather’s mortician vocation and the religious experience of boarding school life at Georgetown Visitation Monastery, the artist recalls her grandmother’s tales of gruesome hauntings. Her earliest memory of her grandmother sharing a haunting occurred at a young age: as she recalls, her grandmother remembers that after a close relative passed on, she fell asleep only to awaken to gloves emerging from a nearby wardrobe. This mysterious tale became lodged firmly within the artist’s consciousness, spurring her onto a greater understanding of death: the attitudes toward it and how grief and trauma are processed.

If one seeks the very core of Graves’ practice, it rests rooted in the ideals we hold about the world around us. “All of my work starts out about belief, ” notes Graves, “I’ll study one subject and it leads into the next thing.” Here, the procession of research that Graves uncovered marches in step much like the ethereal arrangements spanning “Month’s Mind.” Spiritualism and women’s rights hold court alongside floriography, figures of speech and medical protocol. Most notable about the exhibit as a whole is not what is necessarily displayed physically, but how each work holds a palpable psychological presence that presages what is absent. Substance emerges from these objects, yes, but also from the shadows of meaning they cast.

 

“Month’s Mind”: a solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view at Victori+Mo (rear of space)

Another masterstroke of Graves’ exhibition is the seamless connections between seemingly disparate aspects of the works on view: a custom-made, sculpted “pencil” bent around a table’s edge references the Spiritualist movement of the late 1800s and the mediums of Lily Dale, New York. A bar of soap reaching out from the wall toward the viewer in the next room portrays women’s rights icon Susan B. Anthony. These two seemingly disparate objects contain a shared reference point in Lily Dale, New York. The town just one hour south of Buffalo, NY, was a canonic site for Spiritualists of the late 19th century, and a generative, supportive site for the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  Susan B. Anthony herself had close friends and supporters based in Lily Dale: she spoke at the memorial service of a dear friend and fellow activist who passed away in the town in 1890. Graves forms tightly held associations that link together her artworks as surely as we are linked to those who maintain their presence in our lives, yet just as tenuously as we hold onto those connections that fade with time after the passing of the ones we love.

Detail image from “Month’s Mind” : a solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view

“Month’s Mind” is on view at Victori+Mo through January 18, 2020; the gallery is open on Saturdays 10-6 pm and by appointment. This marks Langdon Graves’ second solo exhibition at the gallery. Graves is a visiting professor at Pratt and teaches at Parsons School of Design, and her studio is in Brooklyn, NY. For more information, please visit the gallery’s website.

Space and Body Merge in Julia Betts’ “Ruptured Holding” at GRIDSPACE

December 15th marks the debut show at GRIDSPACE for artist Julia Betts, a sculptor based in PA. An MFA, Sculpture graduate of RISD, Betts brings her striking juxtaposition of body and material to this architecturally-driven space. This solo exhibit at GRIDSPACE, titled ruptured holding, presents an interdisciplinary window into the artist’s practice. Betts’ work relies on the contrast between the instability and unpredictability of materials presented to the public at this space, precipitously cast on the rapidly changing neighborhood of northern Crown Heights. The erasure and reclamation of identity present in works such as “Detritus” find their home within the context of a Crown Heights that even ten years ago counted very few art spaces among its residents.

From 4-6 pm on Sunday, December 15, GRIDSPACE will host a reception for Betts open to the public. Drawing from her undergraduate degree in studio art from the University of Pittsburgh toward her more recent MFA in Sculpture from RISD, the artist has a firm and mature approach to materiality and concept. In discussing the objects she employs in her practice, Betts explains her aim to destabilize existing frameworks, noting that “my work…. create(s) a uniquely precarious situation whose exact results are ambiguous and actually lead to disruption and upheaval.”

“Detritus” Julia Betts (10’x10′) 2015, ground self-images

In Betts work, the material holds as much weight conceptually as the object they comprise, daring the viewer to consider the implications of the final artwork confronting them. Mining from the same veins as pivotal artists such as Ana Mendieta, Do Huh Suh and Isa Genzken, Betts’ work advances installation farther into our current moment and inviting us to question what is presented to us for consideration. The works seem to mesmerize by their very undefinability, forming a hold on one’s psyche and creating an opening for more inquisitive looks into the very fabric of reality that surrounds us in everyday life.

 

Works such as “Accretion” reveal Betts’ engagement with pushing material to the breaking point, engaging with the adhesive, industrial material of masking tape to reveal the limits of the body. Implied motion and abstracted form combine to create the sensation of an unknown woman’s body traversing space. The labor-intensive practice also implicates the artist’s own bodily limitations in the work.

With inclusion in multiple group exhibitions in New York City such as at Re:Art Show, Microscope Gallery, and Flux Factory, Julia Betts has made her mark on the NYC art scene. She has also exhibited nationally in numerous solo shows such as at Unsmoke Systems (Pittsburgh, PA) and Bunker Projects (Pittsburgh, PA). Betts has also completed artist-in-residence programs at Millay Colony for the Arts and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

GRIDSPACE is an art space that serves as an architecturally specific outlet for experimentation engaging the rapidly changing neighborhood of northern Crown Heights. Located at 112 Rogers Avenue in North Crown Heights, the closest subway to the space is the 2,3,4,5 to Franklin or the S to Park Place. For any inquiries about the space, please contact  cg@cgwk.net

Phos Hilaron Brings a New Religion to the Heartland

On first impression, Ventiko’s Phos Hilaron: From the Masses Rise the Saints installation transports visitors to an altered state of Indiana. On view at Schwitzer Gallery, CCIC, 1125 East Brookside Avenue, Indianapolis, IN through November 29, the project draws from religious source imagery to transport viewers to an art experience for the masses. 

Phos Hilaron Altar View: Installation View at Schwitzer Gallery, CCIC, Indianapolis, IN
Phos Hilaron Altar View: Installation View at Schwitzer Gallery, CCIC, Indianapolis, IN

Corn hangs suspended from the ceiling, forcing the viewer through – all the while upending expectations the viewer may have of Indiana and its people. Once through the corn, the viewer is confronted with a scene reminiscent of a sacred Roman Catholic grotto. Candles are arranged delicately on an altar, draped with dark velvet and gold trim, and sacred relics used in the photographs on the same candles are displayed alongside them. As Santa Geri Berry, the Patron Saint of Inquiring Minds notes, “transported through the lines upside-down corn stalks and feeling immersed in them reinforced associations with the harvest, suggesting a very different sort of sacred realm, just as the Saints are very different from any usual idea of a Saint and a very different image of people from Indiana. I couldn’t help making a connection with Sukkot; it was like an altar in a Sukkah: a bringing together of a Jewish space with a Catholic type practice.” 

The references are intentional. Ventiko, the artist who organized Phos Hilaron for this Indianapolis iteration of the project, grew up Jewish in Indianapolis and first made a Sukkah out of corn stalks with her temple youth group when she was in high school. Returning to Indianapolis to expand upon Phos Hilaron: From the Masses Rise the Saints, this iteration focuses not just on the beauty of difference and individuality, but emphasizes homogeneity is not harmony: rather, that harmony is respect and inclusion of all. (The first iteration debuted at Chinatown Soup in Manhattan during the first 100 days of the Trump administration and featured a cross section of 100 urban creatives.) Over a four week period Ventiko photographed 59 ‘Saints’ from Indianapolis in intimately customized sets, helping them visualize their ‘Saint’ concept. The entire project was a collaboration between the artist and the Saint. The mythology of the Saint and the vision of the artist culminated in the installation, and also resulted a more intimate piece: a book. Organizing artist Ventiko reflects on her gratitude that so many creatives were excited to participate in this version of the project. “I am grateful to have been blessed by the beauty and power of so many wonderful Saints,” reflects the artist.

 

Artists who participated in the project have expressed the impact of their encounters with the artist as she was setting up the project. Santa Akilah, The Patron Saint of Patience, remarked, “When I first went to the photo shoot I didn’t know what to expect. As soon she started taking pictures I felt so comfortable and safe. She was able to capture my inner goddess in the picture.” Ventiko herself comments on this process of photographing her “Patron Saints”: “I see myself as a catalyst for the exaltation of the beauty of difference and elevation of the preciousness of individuality rather than one constructing or constricting the identity of any ‘Saint’ or person. It is a respect for difference, including freedom of thought, as well as idiosyncrasies that will ultimately lead to the unification of the human race and foster in a time when we all can work towards solving our global crises rather than consistently focusing on pettiness and being manipulated by propaganda.”

The project is successful on many levels, as reflected in these personal and meaningful reflections from participants. By opening up new avenues of communications for creatives in the Heartland, Phos Hilaron functions as a grassroots confirmation of the talent present in the vibrant city of Indianapolis. Bringing community together and thwarting expectations that outsiders may have of the area captures the double success of both re-affirming and introducing local talent to each other and to a wider audience.  “From day one, I knew this cutting edge, contemporary photography installation would take Indianapolis by storm. After hearing the various layers Phos Hilaron presented in NY and adding special dimensions for the Indianapolis chapter, I envisioned a communal based project that would uplift an entire state,” remarks Tony Quintana, The Patron Saint of Growth. Others including curator Maria Behringer have commented on the measure of warmth and acceptance this project has brought into their life. “Ventiko’s concept of community and inclusivity surrounding her Phos Hilaron project is exactly why we wanted to collaborate and bring her exhibition to Indianapolis. Her strong work ethic and creative process can easily be seen through her photography and the final Altar itself. We completely trusted her vision through the entire process. We are extremely grateful to have collaborated with her.”

Patron Saint of Inquiring Minds, Santa Geri Beri, part of Phos Hilaron on view in Indianapolis, IN

To make this project a reality Ventiko collaborated with the Indianapolis-based curators Quintana-Behringer. Ventiko’s studio was in the CCIC building (https://circlecityind.com/), a creative hub in downtown Indianapolis where Quintana-Behringer are located. Santo Aaron, The Patron Saint of Technodeath describes working with Ventiko: “It was serendipity how we met. The chance encounter of coming into a space and meeting another creative that was on the hustle and making something huge and fantastic honestly inspired us at Soundspace to do better. Instead of this being an empty office having Ventiko here made it feel more like a home.” Two weeks into the project Soundspace (https://sndspc.com/) moved in to share the space which is Soundspace Beta and soul connections flourished. Ventiko looks forward to expanding the exhibition to London in 2020 as there are many more Saints to canonize their, bringing the project to a new community ready to embrace their inner Sainthood. 

 

 

 

Word Up! A Standout Moment for Text-Based Art at C24 Gallery


In an era rampant with political protest and 
the multitudinous voices of social media, Word Up!- co-curated by Sharon Louden at C24 Gallery, knows what’s up.

Installation view featuring installation “Moral History” by Karen Finley for C24’s Word Up!

Word Up! marks an exhibition that takes risks and is rewarded with a keen grasp of contemporary self-expression. Considering a contemporary art scene saturated more than ever with sociopolitical viewpoints, the time is more than ripe for this exquisite-and timely-exhibition. Featuring works by Liana Finck, Deborah Kass, Karen Finley, Meg Hitchcock and many more, this exhibit marks fearless departure into the diverse ways in which words infiltrate and emerge in contemporary art.

Spanning interdisciplinary artistic practices, this contemporary survey show featured video, photography, installation, painting and mixed media. Karen Finley’s incisive, provocative and genuinely humorous installation, located on the exhibit’s lower level, provides a stunning focal point from which to consider the contemporary art lexicon engulfing the viewer in Word Up! Comprised of archival materials assembled as a centrepiece – a la Judy Chicago’s Dinner Table, if you will – Finley has annotated the materials she has presented to create a thought-provoking work centered around representation, identity and exclusion. Clever illustrations by renowned artist Liana Finck and the inundating, undulating works by Meg Hitchcock also prove to be standouts in this stunning exhibition. Presentation is key, and visitors are grabbed at the entrance by a video work by artist David Krippendorff, whose work also inhabits space on the lower level near Karen Finley’s installation. Hrag Vartanian  and Deborah Kass, art critic and artist and notable public artist respectively, also have work on view in this carefully curated presentation of works written expressly into the social consciousness that forms the fabric of contemporary text-based artistic practice.

“Persephone” Meg Hitchcock, installation view in “Word Up!”

Word Up! is on view at C24 gallery from 9/26-11/9/2019.

 

 

Neon Love: Indira Cesarine x Le Board curated by Jenny Mushkin Goldman

Valentine’s day promises to bring vivid red and pink hues to the forefront, and nowhere are these bright inviting tones more welcome than at Le Board for the opening reception of works by Indira Cesarine in Indira Cesarine x NEONOpening Thursday, February 14 from 5-8 pm, and on view through April 13 at 800b 5th Avenue, the exhibit presents original neon artworks by Cesarine, and signals the inauguration of Le Board’s artist in residence program in partnership with Untitled Space. Curated by the renowned Jenny Mushkin Goldman, of KIN + GOLD, Indira Cesarine x NEON  features stunning recent neon compositions by the artist. Opening night also includes carefully crafted cocktails by McQueen and The Violet Fog and Mi Campo, and even a surprise experience by Receptra Naturals.

INDIRA CESARINE “lust (violet),” 2018.

 

Displaying Cesarine’s perceptive eye toward feminist topics and witty wordplay, Indira Cesarine x NEON proves to be a formidable survey of contemporary neon installation artworks dealing with activism and social justice. Considering the weight of words both heavy and light, these neon expressions give voice to contemporary issues while engaging directly with contemporary culture. Under the precise eye of Mushkin-Goldman, Indira Cesarine x NEON allows Cesarine’s works to shine and reach a whole new array of visitors.

 

Sponsored by Le Board, a Part French-part Greek, New York living brand founded by John Aghayan and creative directed by Sofia Karvela, this partnership is sure to light up a brand new experience for art lovers and those who live inspired by culture, fashion, and fine art.

 

For more details about the event and to RSVP please visit the event page. 

In Its Right Place: The Playful Collages of Nat Girsberger

Swiss artist Nat Girsberger is no stranger to creating visual harmony from the seeds of chaos. The artist, currently based in Brooklyn, New York City, holds a degree in visual communication from NYU and specializes in analog collaging, taking commissions in her Bedstuy studio for clients such as Universal Music Group, NYU and Magilla Entertainment. Girsberger also works as an installation artist and production designer, and is a committed student of meditation and yoga.

Gisberger notes, “applying an instinctive process, I artistically adventure into the infinity of my psyche to break the structures that externally limit my inner vastness.” Her work utilizes collaging to create new links between the subconscious mind, juxtaposing elements which do not usually go together. Girsberger’s New York City exhibitions include solo shows at the Storefront Project (2018) and at Ivy Brown Gallery (2017) and group shows at Carrie Able Gallery, and Wallplay, and her work has been covered by Bedford + Bowery and Whitehot Mag, among others.

ANTE. sat down with Nat to discuss her practice, learn more about what influences her conceptual approach and gain insight into her evolution into an ever-present emerging artist on the New York art scene.

rising stars, nat gisberger
“Not What I Expected” (2018) Nat Gisberger, analog collage (image courtesy of the artist)

ANTE. We’ve been following your works for some years now and noticed that you center your artistic practice around the medium of collage. Have you always been drawn to this process?

Nat Gisberger. I arrived at analog collage after playing with many different mediums. I went to school for photography and worked in film, behind the camera making sets and constructing installations. In 2017, I held an exhibition at Ivy Brown Gallery which integrated all of these mediums into one environmental installation. Shortly after the show, an old copy of LIFE magazine caught my eye at a local thrift shop. I have always been interested in magazines, even utilizing them for source material in the past. With the encouragement of my collaborator Kurt McVey, I began collaging found photographs and commercial images to make my work.

I really enjoyed the intuitive process of collage, and how it managed to combine diverse aspects of my previous work. Looking through that particular LIFE magazine – as well as the many more I found after that – I began to notice patterns: a visual subtext which revealed a lot about consciousness of a certain time. Much of my work prior to using collage revolved around describing a collective consciousness, so this is something that immediately inspired me. One of the first things I noticed was the sexually charged portrayal of women. I made it my quest to alter the historical narrative and drawing attention to these faults through collage.

After that initial project which centered around reclaiming the female image, I was hooked. I instinctively ventured to do the same in regards to my own inner world I started making work that expressed the transient, expansive terrain of my psyche, something which is influenced by what I consider to be ‘the collective unconscious’.

ANTE. What are some techniques you use to construct an image?

Gisberger. I fell in love with the process of analog collaging, hand-cutting found imaged and composing them into new planes, new realities. I found a parallel between the process of analog collage and how the psyche stacks and re-arranges experiences. I find it incredibly satisfying to layer my own psychology through found imagery. Through collaging, the subconscious mind finds new relationships, juxtaposing images that do not usually go together and then liberating them from the boundaries of rationalism. My collages challenge reality by encouraging the dialogue between ego and that which is unknown to it. Because I am limited by my material,  when I make my analog collages I try to apply an ‘automatic’ unconscious process. I naturally pick and choose images and then assemble, rather than having a clear plan in which the ego would interfere. By doing this, it allows for all of the imagery to ‘pour’ out of me.

 

“Intruders of the Night”, (2018), Nat Girsberger, digital collage (image courtesy of the artist)

 

ANTE. You also translate your artistic practice goes beyond visual arts and into your practice as a yogi. Can you explain the crossover between image and physical body, and how this crossover manifested in your recent solo exhibition “Close Your Eyes” at Storefront Project?

Gisberger. For me, art has a lot in common with yoga and meditation: it’s about tuning into the multiple dimensions of being to enhance our overall experience and better engage with the physical world. Both art and yoga nurture our physical, spiritual, and psychological layers to keep them all balanced. Breath is a helpful tool which helps one drop down deeper beyond those physical layers and begin to appreciate the subtleties within vastness. This concept of vastness allows me to expand beyond my inner world to connect experiences with a new level of consciousness.

The shared goal between my visual arts work and my yogic practice is to create a reality which inspires others to tap into their full potential. I structured (the exhibit) “Close Your Eyes” as a visual meditation, following the typical chronology of meditative practice. This creates an experience: something that gets a viewer into an expansive feeling by visually drawing her inward into herself. My work shows unconscious energy, freed from the structures of ‘reality’ for an ultimately fuller experience of life.

ANTE. As a Swiss artist living and working in New York City what was it like to develop your practice? Looking back on your experience what advice would you give your past self?

Gisberger. Run while you still can? – just kidding. At least, mostly kidding. The thing is: I couldn’t have. If I could wake up one day and have the desire not to be an artist, that would be a relief in a lot of ways. I find it quite painful at times to create. The words, “only pursue art if it is an absolute necessity”, from Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet really resonate with me. Making art is a deep, inner work – a process that is never easy. At the same time, it is fulfilling to my whole being. Life being alive, experiencing the human condition— it’s so difficult and yet infinitely rewarding at the same time.

New York City has had an influence on me from an early age perhaps because it embodies a powerful energy: it’s pulsating nature, diversity, magnitude, and honesty fascinates me. Even though I am Swiss, I often feel like I ‘grew up’ in NYC — I moved here when I was 18, right out of high school. I feel that I learned many of my bigger life lessons here, and I feel inspired to establish a dedicated art practice here. I also view the adventures and difficulties of establishing myself in a new country as a part of my inspiration. In the end, I believe that all my mistakes benefit my wholeness and growth. I would want myself to make them all over again. I’d be that annoying person that wouldn’t give young Nat any advice if I met her.

“Road Trip”, (2018), Nat Girsberger, analog collage (image courtesy of the artist)

ANTE. Talk to us about your social media presence: you’ve managed to amass a large Instagram following (almost 12K and counting). How do you utilize social media? Do you consider it an extension of your practice or a marketing tool?

Gisberger. I finally caved when I knew I wanted my art-making, my collages, to pay my bills. In art world circles it can feel as though social media carries a negative connotation. I think this belief is rooted in nostalgia, and that notion that technology is disconnecting us from our physical reality. Although I’ve felt that in the past, I am quite interested in the invisible energy and psychology surrounding the rise of social media. I saw how empowering it could be as a tool after watching a close friend of mine, Julia Hunt, make a full-time living as a blogger. She is someone who is doing what she loves on her own terms.

I began viewing social media as a simple part of my overall marketing strategy. I felt it was really powerful sharing what I care about without it being edited by someone first. We no longer need agents to do our advertising for us. Instagram, because it is so visual, already lends itself to artists. It’s a low-stakes portfolio review, basically, that informs your audience as to who you are. My followers didn’t appear overnight, and I put in a lot of work to understand the best ways to get my works seen. I read about the subject and learned how to encourage growth on the platform – i.e. how to use hashtags and when to post: all of that stuff that makes most people cringe. Eventually, my following started growing on its own. I now make a large part of my income through Instagram – either through direct sales or commissions. In regards to my practice, it pushes me to produce work and to respond to themes I observe.

ANTE. Who are some contemporary influences on your work? What’s next for you in 2019?

Gisberger. I am a lot more inspired by life than the art world, actually. I have synesthesia, and so my senses constantly explode: I get inspired by my interactions with the world itself. Psychology, especially Jung, and philosophy and spirituality influence me. Don Miguel Ruiz and Michael E. Singer have both impacted me. To be honest, travel is probably my biggest passion next to my artistic practice. By changing environments I get to see the world in a new way which then inspires what I create. I am also really inspired by music — I love The Beatles, Queen, Pink Floyd, Patti Smith, Dylan, David Bowie and more modern bands like Beirut, Beach House and First Aid Kit – their sound gets me going. That’s why I’m very much into making album covers too, I love giving a musical piece a visual. I am currently working on a number of commissions including some album covers. I recently started a long-term project in the studio which will merge the 78 cards in Tarot card with my analog and digital collage sensibilities. If all goes well then later this year I plan to make an immersive 3-D installation which cross-pollinates my collages with a performance artist, so stay tuned. Lastly, I plan to take the “Close your Eyes” exhibit abroad.