Michelle Weinberg's vibrant work crosses into a wide range of media, and while perhaps centered mostly in painting, she has completed numerous public art projects and design commissions, ranging from traditional gallery exhibitions to designs for a terrazzo floor at a Miami-Dade fire department. She shares with me some ideas about her practice here!
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Hi Michelle! First, I'd love if you told me a bit more about yourself! What first interested you in making art?
I've been an artist since I was a little kid -- always painting, but I've had experience dancing, singing, performaing, and I still do collaborate with artists from those disciplines.
Your practice spans painting, design, and interiors -- and in a variety of media, but with a basis in painting. They all share an interest in pattern, stylized forms, and a bright, high-contrast palette. Have you found a few motifs that continue to appear in your work?
I find certain color relationships repeating for me - any combo of pale pink and black for some reason is very sticky with me! I think I’ve come upon something new, and then I find I’ve landed there previously in my career. Being an artist is always about having obsessions.
I really love the tension between depth and flatness in your work, always hinting at angles and space, but sometimes tricking the eye just enough to remind the viewer it's a flat surface. How much do you plan your compositions ahead of time?
This type of shallow space is very consistent in my work. From architecture to a theatrical stage kind of space, I’m always exploring figures against a backdrop, as opposed to figures floating in infinite space that recedes away from you. I was drawn to paintings by Matisse and to Persian and Indian miniature paintings from an early age. Decorative surfaces, stacked planes, a crowded stage - this seems to be embedded in my perception.
Can you describe a bit more about your process? What are you favorite materials?
I’m pretty material agnostic - I’ve worked with oil on canvas, with found paper collage, and lots of paint on paper. I draw with ball-point pens in sketchbooks that I make that now number 65. I love making large drawings with pastels - it’s very close to painting and the colors are so vivid. Lately I’ve begun drawings in graphite, playing with the gray scale, mark-making, as opposed to flat areas of color. I taught myself paper marbleizing a few years ago, and that’s been really thrilling - messing with a traditional craft, stamping it with my own palette, my own ideas. I like to change it up. Each new material is another engine for the generation of drawing, of patterns.
Do you collaborate often?
I do collaborate, and I love accessing the techniques and thought processes of other artists. Dance and theater collaborations are very rewarding. And the new type of audience my work is exposed to via the collaboration is really fun and new. I like stepping outside the art world.
What is the most exciting or rewarding aspect of pursuing your art practice? Or in other words, what drives you to pursue this art thing seriously?
I believe that artists mostly have no choice - it’s the obsession to make something, to see it. Perhaps the greatest reward for being an artist happens for me when a work in public space is completed, or when I’m teaching someone something and they get excited. Aside from the private eureka moments that occur in the studio, I love when I’m involved in something bigger than myself.
On the other hand, what is, or has been, the most challenging aspect of pursuing art seriously? Have you worked to overcome that?
I think it’s challenging to make a living as an artist, to make peace with a truly open-ended game plan. Standard gauges of success don’t apply neatly. There’s a lot of risk involved - personal, financial. An artist has to be comfortable living with a certain amount of doubt about their enterprise.
What is your studio space like?
At the moment, I have the best studios I’ve ever had. A super large space in Miami that I’m just moving into. And a fantastic loft in New York with Hudson River views. I feel quite lucky. The space one has defines the possibilities in a way - although I really cranked out a lot of large and installation-based work in my previous 250 sq ft studio over the past 15 years!
What does the word "success" mean to you in relation to your art practice?
I guess I touched on this in the earlier question. Success for me is health and energy to pursue my creative projects. It’s a privilege to live in a time and place in which being an artist is even possible. I’m aware of that every day, and concerned about the immediate future in the US with a new administration that seems thin-skinned and may be prone to knee-jerk censorship. I benefit personally from interfacing with a community of artists, of students, of the history of art and thoughts on art that are published in books. I’m a huge book-learner. If I can keep myself afloat financially, if I can work in art-related areas, and if I can continue to grow my work and see it manifest in new ways, then I’m quite content.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects you're currently developing?
I’m planning to work in the studio pretty intensively in the coming year, focusing on new work - returing to oil on canvas, working on large-scale drawings with graphite and pastel. I’m developing a project of a small, table-top theater - collaborating with writers, dancers, sound, actors, puppetry - a mini-opera in a set I will design and build.
Find more at michelleweinberg.com!
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