Ula Einstein – New York, New York

Vortex # 11:  2015, fire, hot glue, Prismacolor premium on paper 8 x 8"

Vortex # 11: 2015, fire, hot glue, Prismacolor premium on paper 8 x 8″

Briefly describe the work you do. 

Using the inspiration of the material’s characteristics as a starting point, the urge to change, advance, conceal, and unconceal, as the particular work takes form, I’m engaged in morphing, re-metabolizing, and transformation. 

In an expanded art practice I work with new as well as overlooked materials. Lo-tech and hands-on my ‘drawing’ using unconventional methods include fire, thread, hot glue, and bladecuts. I paint, sculpt, create installations, and photograph. Part of my work is text based; some legible, some not. I use a range of materials. I love paper; it is so forgiving.

The body of work Hybrid In(ter)vention, where I manipulate Tyvek, an industrial protective housing material, began after seeing many houses in progress, wrapped in it.  Blading, and heat manipulation all involve a risk; any marks or mistakes I can’t take back. Control and uncertainty; one can over-mess with things. The Unwinding Destiny Project (installation and photography) consists of tattooed text on broken eggshells from all the eggs I consumed over 6 years.  I don’t sketch prior to the work. Gestures of cut, crumple, burn, tear, tape, pierce, stitch, scorch, bind, erase, drawing out, layering, material and process, revelatory of each other, making is part of the content. I’m interested in the humble and the sublime, the micro and macro, the space between 2D and 3D.  My installations – components created in the studio, are not fixed; they are reconfigured in each exhibition. Further stretching the work is exploring the paradox of fragility/substance, destruction/creation, control/uncertainty, light/shadow, absence/presence.

Scales:  2012 mixed media Tyvek, plastic, acrylic 20 x 31 x 2"

Scales: 2012 mixed media Tyvek, plastic, acrylic 20 x 31 x 2″

Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.

I am one of six children raised in a religious home, in what I consider a sheltered environment. I loved singing, which is emotionally closest to my nervous system,  and acting in school plays. I have a visceral sensation of the pleasure  of having my hands in deep wet clay, once a week in a pottery class I took. I kept the first sculpture I made, which was a set of parted lips, painted the color of milk chocolate.    Departure from a strong tradition with specific expectations I didn’t feel cut out for, is not easy. I left home wanting to carve a path, seeking access to something I couldn’t name at the time.  I came to NYC to study acting which I consider to be one of the best educations; to experience being in other people’s shoes. Music is still a strong influence in my work: rhythm, harmony, dissonance, effecting shape and form. I have a background also in design, performance art, and 2 years doing stand-up comedy.

My sensibility is that of a builder;  I am drawn to explore the potential of tools and materials beyond their original function, not knowing ahead of time what will result.  As a visual artist, I am influenced by skin, our point of contact with the world, the layer between the inside, and out. Surface is topical, in a topography it is built up over time. I’m interested in what is not readily apparent; my frequent experience that things are not as they first appear.  I think about the human condition, in motion, beauty, and  edge. 

The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

I’m a self-taught artist.  Some time in the mid 90’s I decided to buy paints and canvas and began experimenting. I used to spend a lot of time in the studio, ‘intuiting and listening’.  In the past 6 years, I’ve included taking work out of the studio, for a change of view, and to work in public spaces. I need to be present to do the work, but I also don’t like feeling confined.  I typically will take small drawings, or components of an installation and work outdoors (in the summer) or in cafes.  Currently I’m interested in making larger works for public spaces.  This is also encouraged by people who’ve seen my work, and turn the volume up on this idea.  I like that it could potentially take me out of the studio, experiment with new materials, and collaborate, i.e. with technicians and other artisans helping to execute the vision.

What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

First is that I would become an exhibiting artist, and having to learn more business skills. Guest lecturing about my work, about art and process, doing radio interviews, interacting with students and the public, participating in panel discussions, all of which I enjoy immensely!  Engaging as a creativity coach, and being a role model for students, who sometimes email me after locating my work on the internet, and asking if I’ll share what I use, and my techniques.  Included in tasks/roles are sales person, proposal and grant writer, networking with artists, galleries, curators, art consultants.

When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?  

When i first began mid 90’s I’d work for long stretches at a time; only remembering food when I became faint.  This has changed; I don’t have to finish something in a day. Being at a fellowship residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute; where I had a huge studio, and could work daily was perfect at the time. We are not static; things change often as we change.  I’ve had to work diligently before solo or 2-3 artists exhibitions completing pieces.  Now my best time is in the morning, it is not every day, as there are so many life/admin/marketing logistics to handle.  This has taught me to be more flexible, work in the time frames I have.  Small amounts of time; even an hour or three can be very productive. This winter, I’m been more free being with my work on the weekends.

Incubatory States:  2012 archival digital print 16 x 20" (installation + photography)

Incubatory States: 2012 archival digital print 16 x 20″ (installation + photography)

How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?

I hope the work has developed and deepened. I still work from the Inside/Out, and am interested in the micro and the macro. My work continues to be labor intensive.  I don’t call myself a painter; instead ‘I use paint.’ What remains is my interest in the space between painting and sculpture, and the creative tension in fragility/substance, and ambiguity.   In this past year, after a back injury, I returned to color, doing small drawings with fire, and hot glue. I am more aware of being an impatient person, yet in our culture of speed, my work is repetitive, ritualistic, and process oriented.  I’ve noticed how much I enjoy photography, when I’m doing it spontaneously. It is a different energy.  I photograph my installations, which are temporarily ‘set -up’  but I’ve begun other kinds of work, i.e. shadow shots. I still like to mess with things. I like the raw, and the refined.  I hope my work will continue to develop, expand and grow. 

My life and art are not separate.

How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do? 

I already want to apologize that I won’t name everyone. Eva Hesse is my kindred spirit, which I didn’t know until studio visitors began referencing her when they saw my work, and I researched her work.   Robert Henri, for The Art Spirit. Ana Mendiata for her philosophy and quotes about art being the way we establish our bond with the universe.  Judy Pfaff.  Ann Hamilton, re-affirming that we ‘have to trust what we can’t name.’ A word or a line in a novel, Simone Weil, Krista Tippett’s numerous podcasts On Being – great interviews from people from all walks of life. David Foster Wallace, Neil Gaiman,  Ghandi, El Anatsui’s work and philosophy resonates with me. These are a few. 

Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests? 

I have an eclectic background in design, theatre, singing, and comedy. I could still be pulled in the direction of acting and singing, because I like collaborating; where everyone is called on to do their best for the sake of the work!  I did stand-up comedy for two years. As a virtual unknown I landed an audition for Saturday Night Live and became a finalist for key player.  That is not something I would ever return to.  After not singing for years, I was chosen in an audition,  by Dara Friedman for her Public Art Fund project, Musical, to sing solo on the streets of NYC in 2011.

I enjoy writing, and still consider it a big learning curve.  I enjoy interviewing people. I like the stories behind film; how things are made, how cast and crew work. I am curious about science, philosophy, music, spirituality, nature and archaeology. All these inform me in my work.


UlaEinsteinProfileIn 2014 Einstein’s work was included in The Piece as a Living Object 3-artist exhibition at the DeKalb Gallery, Pratt Institute, NY and in If You Build It, with Art in Flux and No Longer Empty, NYC. Einstein’s work has been included in solo and group exhibitions in galleries, museums, and non-profit art spaces around the country, including Everhart Museum of Natural History, Science and Art, the Delaware Center of Contemporary Art, and the New York Center for Architecture.  Her art, (and interviews) has been featured in numerous publications in print/online including The Village Voice, The New York Times, Easthampton and Southampton Press, NJ.com, La Biennale TV.   Her work is included in many private collections.  Feb 12 – April 1st, 2015 Einstein’s work is included in ALL / TOGETHER / DIFFERENT, Manny Cantor Center in NYC.



All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.  



About 365Artists/365Days

The purpose of this project is to introduce its readership to a diverse collection of art that is being produced at the national and international level. Our goal is to engage the public with information regarding a wide array of creative processes, and present the successes and failures that artists face from day to day. The collaborators hope that this project will become a source for exploring and experiencing contemporary art in all its forms.
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3 Responses to Ula Einstein – New York, New York

  1. Bela says:

    I love this interview! I am especially drawn to Ula’s description of her work, and how it captures the processes themselves in so much detail. Her emphasis on materials, their qualities, and their unforgivingness depicts the strenuous part of art creation and reminds me of the real-life parallel: the process can be rough! She provides great imagery of artist and materials, push and pull of working hard and “letting it go.” Prints and photos of Ula’s work are often of specific details of larger pieces, and I think the words above mirror that approach of seeing art as a way to glimpse into details-of the artist, our world, ourselves. Ula’s works and words truly help me access this part of myself!

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