Briefly describe the work you do.
I am a painter and a story teller. My current work touches upon our cultural obsessions with the various rituals and talismans that we subscribe to for protection, good luck and safety in our daily lives. In most of my paintings and drawings, I incorporate signs, symbols and reminders of the precarious nature of life and our need for all kinds of faith — be it good luck charms, daily devotional practices or tarot readings. I create paintings and installations of drawings, objects, and collages that aim to chart the reality that our lifetime is limited. Despite our constant desire and need to predict what is going to happen in the future, the only sure thing we can expect is change.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up in Los Angeles, surrounded by the natural beauty of the canyons and the ocean as well as the superficial beauty of fashion and all things Hollywood. I have lived in some of the most gorgeous cities in the world: Florence, Italy, New York City, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, and finally here in Santa Cruz, Ca. I have been blessed by having two daughters and I have spent the last few decades making paintings about images of women, beauty, landscape and culture. The work has always had an ironic, surrealistic tone because I have always been conscious of the seduction and irony of culture, sexy people and places. My roots are in Renaissance painting and feminist art as well all things subversive. I am essentially a frustrated comedian who loves to paint.
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 see my role as a cultural sampler— I enjoy visiting the grand ‘smorgasbord of life’. I need equal time walking in nature as well as exploring vibrant cities, absorbing and tasting. Living in Northern California is paradise: Santa Cruz has the best climate for outdoor activity, so I spend a lot of time hiking and being continually inspired by the natural landscape and the shifting light throughout the day. Access to San Francisco allows me to stay in touch with all things urban but mostly art and culture. I teach in Italy every summer, so visual inspiration via travel plays into the work as well. My studio time at home is the place to download and feel the freedom to assess and respond. I have a good balance between work and play and I see how they continually influence each other.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I never had any expectations about role playing or being an artist. I have stayed true to my spirit which affords me the opportunity to engage equally with work and play. I know that being an artist takes fortitude and blind faith. I am a pleasure seeker and I have discovered the secret is finding the sweet balance between the two. I have been teaching art to adults for the past 30 years and this too seems like play to me. I enjoy spreading “the gospel’ about how satisfying and necessary it is to make art– it gives meaning to our life. I always knew I was good at teaching and I knew that I had to paint. What I didn’t know how inextricably linked they would become. For me, making art and teaching are like breathing— I get energized and inspired. I love the people’s stories. I also love the quiet time to reflect on what all the stories about living mean.
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?
My studio has always been in my home for as long as I have had children (20 years). I have been quite dedicated to being in the studio when I am not teaching or being fully present for my children. Days in the studio are luxurious and I adore the notion that I can just peek at my work at all hours of the day and night. I work when I can and I am very efficient whenI have studio time.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work is in a new phase right now because my children have grown up. They are the ultimate barometers of time. For the past 20 years, my work was about feminine beauty and destiny. I think the theme of women was a direct response to having girls and questioning cultural ideals of representation and beauty. Now that I see them moving on and I am (painfully) aware of my own mortality and how notions of luck and change complicate and determine the course of our lives. My recent work explores different stages in life…the significant and the banal. Using symbols such as barometers, tornados, Lucky 8 balls and rabbit’s feet, I am revealing how little control we have, despite wishes and prayers. I guess this is what middle age is all about.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My family, my daughters in particular, have incited and inspired the work I do. I feel that I have been a strong role model for them by questioning cultural stereotypes and using my work as commentary. I read the NY Times daily and much of my imagery and storytelling comes from those pages as well. Artists who continue to inspire me are painters who use notions of politics as well as interesting formatting devices to tell stories. Some artists who I respond to are Nancy Spero, Ida Applebroog, Marlene Dumas as well as William Kentridge and Shazia Sikkander… many of whom who are exploring notions of installation and fusing drawing with film and animation.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I feel so lucky to be able to live this life. If I weren’t a teacher, I would be a therapist. I love people’s stories and I think I am a pretty good listener. I also love to give advice and make people laugh. As an artist though, I fantasize about some aspect of filmmaking— either documentary or fiction. The problem is, I have a nasty habit of painting and I love being home.
Andrea Borsuk is a painter whose work explores notions of climate, time and destiny She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from UC Santa Cruz. She is an Art Instructor at Cabrillo College and a Visiting Lecturer at The Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, Oregon. She is the 2010/2011 recipient of the Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship. Her solo and group exhibitions include: The Riverside Museum of Art, The Nevada Museum of Art, Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Monterey Peninsula Community College Art Gallery, and the San Jose Institute for Contemporary Art. Her work is in numerous private collections.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.