107 Bowers Gallery & Art Space: Artist Conversation with Steve Singer
Steve Singer is one of the artists showing in "Superwoman!"
Opening reception: March 11 4-8pm
Exhibition: March 11-April 29 Sat & Sun 11am-4pm
Who are you and where do you live?
Steve Singer, The Heights, Jersey City.
Are you an artist for your full time work? If not, what is your day job?
I am an artist full time.
What was your pivotal moment in your life that drove you to create “art”?
My first sketch happened on Labor Day, 1953, two months after my third birthday. The whole family was on the beach weeks after a devastating hurricane. The Army Corps of Engineers was constructing a jetty. I picked up an unlined note pad and a pencil and did a line drawing of a steam shovel placing boulders in the surf; the sketch survives in the family album.
Why do you think art is important?
Art is important to me because I need to make it and have it around. Art lovers require it for their homes and offices. History books would bore most young students even more without prints of master paintings or illustrations depicting historical events. Existing art from bygone eras informs subsequent generations. Contemporary art illuminates what is current and keeps those who follow it in touch with the now… The list goes on and on.
What do you want people to know about your or your art?
For some reason I want folks to know that I draw and paint directly from life or from the landscape and not from photographs unless so commissioned. The metal sculpture derives either from life sketches and conceptual designs or the material itself.
Do you have a goal for your art?
My goal is to get started. After that, all bets are off.
Do you listen to music when you create? Any favorite bands/musicians?
When drawing or painting I generally prefer silence or ambient sound, unless some kind of live performance is the subject matter, and then it helps to define the result. As for the metalwork, hard rock, punk, reggae, ska and the blues at significant volume can be helpful. Miles Davis is splendid accompaniment for studio finishes in all genres.
Many people think artist are only “right brained” – what else do you do well?
Some people have told me I write decently enough, but fine art has always been my strongest suit.
Do you have an artist that has influenced your work? Who and how?
There’s something about Sir Stanley Spencer’s work that makes me want to ditch the watercolors at least temporarily and start getting serious about oil paint. Turner, Homer, Sargent, Hopper, Sam Francis have each had a tremendous effect on me as a watercolorist. Philip Guston’s legendary lecture on Pierro Della Francesca changed my life—Very lucky to have been there. I’m a huge fan of nineteenth to mid-twentieth century French painting from Gericault to Soutine and most of them in between. Also the Hudson River School, most especially, Frederick Church.
Back in the day, Peter Agostini really helped loosen-up and energize my drawing at The NY Studio School. I should also mention my friend, Jersey City virtuoso artist Martin Hardy, with whom I have occasionally painted outdoors with and also have discussions about art and technique. The association with him has certainly eased that transition from sculpture to painting. My wife, Andrea Raphael, another brilliant Jersey City artist, frequently persuades my mind to open when it wants to be closed.
Sculpture influences range from the school of Phidias, Roman portraiture, Ife, Benin, Makonde, and Samoan art; Rodin and Barye; Matisse, Picasso and Giacometti; Barnett Newman and David Smith. Also my late friend, Jonathan Silver, whose great work inspired me to explore unfamiliar materials and techniques.
You walk into your favorite art store – what section to you beeline for (regardless of your actual need)?
What art tool do you carry with you wherever you go?
I don’t always go out ready to make art. Art on the trot takes planning, so I pack an abbreviated-to-full kit: Portable easel, palette, brushes, mounted paper, medium, blotters and home-made viewfinders loaded on a collapsible hand truck. I stand on the shoulders of the giants who invented and developed the car.
Of all the artistic jobs you have had, what is your favorite and why?
Most of the art jobs, whether or not I enjoyed them, expanded my knowledge and techniques.
My favorite was working for Ivan and Elliot Schwartz at Studio EIS, where I learned plaster from scratch. There were some great moments designing and fabricating mounts for the revamped fossil halls at the American Museum of Natural History, too. Our crew there had this crazy élan. The morning after the news broke about Paul Rubens’ (Peewee Herman) famous indiscretion in an adult theatre, every one of us showed up an hour early to listen to Howard Stern in the metal shop without having planned to beforehand.
What is the most exciting thing that has happened for you with your art in the last 12 months?
Two 2016 events come to mind: One is that the advent of 107 Bowers Gallery & ArtSpace has brought a professional art gallery and more art to the Heights; and Two—Exploring wet-on-wet technique throughout the process of a landscape painting for the first time late in November out on the meadowlands.
What is your hope for Jersey City and art in the next 12 months?
My hope for Jersey City and art over the next twelve months is that we all get to keep chugging along lovingly, peacefully, and happily.