Artist Sara Zielinski uses a variety of media, including painting, printmaking, drawing, collage, and assemblage, to explore both the universality and the complexity of human relationships. Her suggestive combinations of figures and text probe the motives and feelings behind relationships, whether romantic, platonic, sexual, or somewhere in between. At the same time, Zielinski is deeply interested in process. In a world which is increasingly dependent on technology, she deliberately focuses on the tactility and imperfections of the handmade.
Sara Zielinski lives and works in New York City. She has shown at Find & Form, Childs Gallery, and Samsøn Projects in Boston, Mobius and Gallery 263 in Cambridge, and the A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn. Zielinski recently transformed her own apartment into an immersive printed environment, covering every available surface with her work. This solo apartment show, ONLY IN HEAVEN, was recently featured in the Huffington Post.
WHO INFLUENCES YOU AS AN ARTIST AND A PRINTMAKER?
Who knows? I regularly revisit works by Frida Kahlo, Henry Darger, Ana Mendieta, and David Hockney. There are a few artists whose attitudes and writings I find myself thinking about almost daily: Tracey Emin, Ray Johnson, and Lee Lozano. With printmaking, I’m inspired by Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin, Kiki Smith, and Pablo Picasso. I find their lines to be very expressive.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SUBJECT MATTER, AND WHAT IS IT ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS THAT INTERESTS YOU AS AN ARTIST?
My work is about human relationships and things we say and things we don’t say. Relationships, or relating with other people, is one of the most universal experiences. And yet it’s so complicated! We each enter every interaction with our own set of associations and moods and anxieties, leading to any number of outcomes and interpretations. I imagine and express some of the motives and feelings that are often unsaid but can weigh heavily on friendships, romantic relationships, and encounters with strangers. I like to play with the play between relatability and individuality.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S REACTIONS TO IT?
For the most part, I really enjoy people’s reactions to my work. I learn a lot from what people say in response to it. It’s interesting to hear, say, six people tell you they relate to a text piece and then hear six different reasons for how it speaks directly to them.
Text enters my work naturally, often coming to mind simultaneously with images. Other times, I’ve held on to a phrase for weeks, trying to think of the appropriate image to accompany it. Some of the text I use comes from notes I wrote years ago, originally notes for poems. I studied poetry writing in college so I have a lot of notes to pull from.
Text operates in conjunction with my images in many ways – sometimes it may add ambiguity to a scene, sometimes it provides clarity, sometimes it brings humor. Depending on the image and what I want to say, I might use Spanish or Chinese. Many of the artists I admire use text in their work, particularly Kara Walker, Tracey Emin, Frida Kahlo, and Lee Lozano.
YOU HAVE SAID PREVIOUSLY THAT YOU ARE OBSESSED WITH PROCESS. WHAT FASCINATES YOU ABOUT THE CRAFT OF PRINTMAKING?
I love creating and working with multiples. For an etching, you draw an image, maybe draw many studies, then etch the image onto a plate, then print and print and print the same image – you see a lot of it. The repetition involved, both of the actions and of the image, appeals to me. Even though there is a lot of labor involved in creating each print, knowing that there are many makes each one feel less precious and more approachable. Each print is slightly unique and then, once you have many of the same image, if you choose, you can alter each one using other media.
I always love drawing. That’s not to say I prefer it over any others, but that’s usually where everything else starts. At the moment, I’m really interested in combining many media in a single project.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
Right now I’m working on a few new paintings and etchings and starting to work on building an oversized dollhouse. I’m excited about the dollhouse. I first started making a dollhouse almost fifteen years ago, so it’s overdue. It will be fully decorated, furnished, and populated.
I think a lot about Internet technology and what it’s doing to our society, and those topics are becoming increasingly present and dominant in my work. I’m reaching back towards an earlier time, trying to get to something more analog. The dollhouse is part of this theme. For me, in addition to being a lot of fun, it’s about tactility and childhood fantasy and “old fashioned” ways of kids entertaining themselves, and it’s about imagination.
SO WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO INTERVIEW YOURSELF, AS YOU RECENTLY DID FOR THE HUFFINGTON POST?
At first it was nerve-wracking, but then I realized I had complete control – that was more fun than I’d expected!
First interested in the arts at 16 and still painting nearly every day at 93 years old, Anne Lyman Powers has had a prolific artistic career – to put it mildly. Born in Boston and educated at institutions such as Vassar, Columbia and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Powers devoted any free time she had growing up to studying, painting and sculpture. An early influence on her work was politics, reinforced by her experience traveling in pre-WWII Europe. In 1937, at 15 years old, Powers got a firsthand glimpse of Nazi Germany and its propaganda campaign against contemporary art, branding the work of modernists and expressionists as “Degenerate.” Powers herself would explore expressionist work in her painting, and back home in Boston, aligned herself with the Boston Expressionists. Later, changes in her personal life also meant changes in her art. Once married, Powers turned to her everyday life to mine it for subject matter – capturing vacation spots, social gatherings, and her family. However, her eye for political satire didn’t remain dormant for long, and she continues to explore political themes in her work to this day.
Sean Flood is a former street artist turned fine artist and somewhat of a local celebrity in Boston. His dynamic paintings of urban scenes and cityscapes are a reflection of his roots in construction and graffiti art. Flood harnesses the inherent intensity of graffiti, using line and form to build his paintings like the high-rises he depicts. Fresh off two very successful solo exhibitions at Kobalt Gallery in Provincetown and Childs Gallery in Boston, Sean sat down with us to discuss his art, his experiences, and his musings on how he got started as an artist.
HOW OLD WERE YOU THE FIRST TIME YOU PICKED UP A PAINTBRUSH? AND A SPRAY CAN?
I was a pencil guy from an early age – drawing as young as 8 years old – because painting scared me. I actually had my first show at 9! The Priscilla Beach Theatre [in Plymouth, MA] hosted a show – so it was coffee and hors d’oeuvres and then my doodles and cartoons on view.
I picked up a paint brush and a spray can – both probably around 15 years old.
WHAT WAS THE MOST EXCITING ASPECT OF BEING A GRAFFITI ARTIST?
Oh, definitely the rush of trying not to get caught. Then seeing it the next day, knowing you had gotten away with it. There’s a speed to graffiti art.
DID YOU EVER GET IN TROUBLE WITH THE AUTHORITIES FOR YOUR GRAFFITI ART?
Yes. I’ve been arrested three times, spent a couple of nights in jail, paid fines, had a probation officer, etc. One time I was painting the pier on Old Orchard Beach in Maine, during a camping trip, and I’m painting away and don’t notice a cop next to me until he taps on my shoulder.
I had to do community service sometimes. One of the best punishments I got was painting a mural for Boston City Lights – a dance studio in the South End. That was a great gig for a graffiti artist.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO MOVE FROM GRAFFITI ART TO FINE ART?
It was really about getting caught, and I moved to painting to try and stay out of trouble. I was good at graffiti art, bad at getting away. Graffiti art continues to influence my technique though. At first, I would try to include hidden graffiti in each of my paintings, but now I just take inspiration from the quick technique and shapes of graffiti.
WHY CHOOSE THE CITY AS THE PRIMARY SUBJECT OF YOUR ARTISTIC IMPRESSION? AND HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE IN CONSTRUCTION INFLUENCED YOUR ARTISTIC VISION?
I’ve always been interested in buildings. My dad has been a builder in Boston his whole life. For me, growing up with that and working with him over the years has really drawn me to architectural subject. The perspectives and deep space alone excite me. In school, I tended towards figurative painting, but nowadays, I’m more drawn to cityscape paintings – there is more room there for me to develop ideas than with figurative painting, for now….
DO YOU PAINT FROM OBSERVATION OR IMAGINATION?
When I started out doing graffiti, I was focused on using the alphabet, and these raw, expressive marks. With my cityscapes, I’m trying to infuse some of that same expressive abstraction into my observed settings. Actually, right now I’m working on some paintings that are much more of a fleeting glance of a scene, a quick impression. There’s more room for imagination there.
WHERE WOULD YOU SAY YOUR ART IS GOING NOW?
In the short term, I’m hoping to get some inspiration from an upcoming trip to Europe. I’m headed to Rome, Naples, Venice – for the first time, Umbria, Basel and Ireland. I’m going to see the shows while I’m travelling – the Biennale for example, but also I’ll hopefully get a chance to paint some new places for me.
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE HISTORICAL ARTIST?
In school I always liked Giacometti [Alberto Giacometti, 1901-1966], because of his expressive lines. He builds up forms through all of these different lines.
This is a tough question though. I mean I saw Van Gogh’s work in person in Amsterdam, and I was like “holy shit.”
Watch below to learn more about Sean: Video courtesy of Chris Engles
For the full interview watch here:
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