BZ: I think the short answer is storied organic abstracts. My current work is informed by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Amazon boxes, pole signs, old art frags on paper, a drop cloth—I’m using materials at hand that would normally be discarded. Interested in materials that have a previous life, I want to make art that is interesting or oddly beautiful from things not typically thought of in that way. In doing this, I’ve transformed the items, given them new meaning, a new narrative. The works are small because we’ve all retreated into small safe living spaces. We are all living through this unique historical event. And when we come out of this, our lives will be different.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
BZ: The inspiration comes from a lifetime of travels, experiences and memories. My earlier paintings were landscapes inspired by the beauty of the Outer Banks, barrier islands along the NC coast. I spent summer vacations there as a kid. After a trip to China I was inspired by Chinese ink painting and calligraphy that drew me into working in a more abstract way. I later used fragments of the abstract ink paintings with acrylic paint on paper and graphite to create a series of small works called “if trees could talk.” These were inspired by walks in the woods near my home in Maryland. The ink paintings were recycled into larger works where I explored the contrasts between the architectures of nature and man. I incorporated spray paint into the work along with ink monotypes and gestural marks in the “motif mash-up” series. These were inspired by the street art and graffiti I saw on the backs of buildings while commuting to downtown DC on the subway.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
BZ: I like working with a limited palette and specific materials because I am interested in how these constraints help to focus my attention and force me to find more creative solutions. For example, when I work on a collage piece and I’m close to something that works, I’ll ask myself “what can I remove that won’t change the essence of the work.” And then I start removing things. I try to take the “less is more” approach. Chinese ink painting is a lot like this although because you can’t remove a brush stroke, you have to know when to stop.
BZ: I would like the viewer to slow down and appreciate the stunning imperfections and beauty in the things we encounter every single day. I learned this while studying ink brush painting with a local Chinese calligrapher and landscape painter named Bertrand Mao.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
BZ: I spend a lot of time working alone in my small home studio. Although, since the lockdown my family has been home with me and it’s been really nice to have the company. When I’m not working on a painting or a series of works, I try to use the time to experiment and explore new ideas and materials. Some call it a low stakes creative outlet. It allows me to push beyond my comfort zone, make mistakes, and especially fail. I love the Albert Einstein quote: “failure is success in progress.”
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
BZ: My process involves both. With collage it’s planned. I start with a part of a painting, image or drawing that I find interesting. This is usually the largest shape or a focal point in the work. I then try to work off that—adding, moving and removing other pieces, shapes, lines, textures while working through compositional issues. When I’m happy with the result, I then start gluing things down. When painting, I work much more intuitively. I make a mark or shape and the next mark is a response to the first. There is a kind of call and response happening. The end goal is the same for both approaches. I want the work to convey a sense of energy, unpredictability, and history.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
BZ: I’ve learned that you have to show up every day and do the work. Sometimes it feels like a numbers game in that I have to make a bunch of bad ones to get some good ones.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
BZ: There is a lot of talk among artists about developing a personal style. I think it’s difficult for an artist to recognize their own personal style because they are too close to the work. Everyone else can see it but the artist. I think that as long as one is creating work in a truly authentic way (and not trying to copy someone) then you have a personal style. How can you not? That said, I think that connecting with the viewer is most important. I want people to experience my work the same way I do when I see an artist’s work that excites me. When that connection happens to me, it feels like my brain is lighting up, tingling.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
BZ: The hardest thing I find about being an artist is having to juggle all the responsibilities—maker, marketer, seller, accountant, office manager, photographer, designer, social media expert, website designer, purchaser, content writer, planner, shipper and negotiator–when all I really want to do is paint.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
BZ: I love having the freedom to create whatever I want and allowing my curiosity to take me to new and interesting places.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
BZ: There are so many, but if I had to name a few of the usual suspects I would say Joan Mitchell, Cy Twombly and Henri Matisse. There are many artists on IG whose work I love to follow such as Luc Pierre, Rob Szot, Jane Cornwell, Daniel Anselmi, Monica Perez and Yvette Asmira, just to name a few.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
BZ: Not so much for me in the creation of art, but certainly useful on the business side. Technology and especially social media are essential tools for artists today. For someone like me, it’s fantastic to be able to make something and post it on Instagram and have it seen by artists, collectors, curators and gallerists, across the world. It’s also a great way to connect with other artists and collectors.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
BZ: Perhaps, but more importantly, I think that as an artist I have a unique opportunity to interpret and express my ideas in ways that are universally understood.
BZ: I love traveling. I once spent a summer cycling around the Scottish Borders with a small bicycle touring outfit. The Borders region is full of stately homes, abbey ruins and lush, rolling hills. In between tours, I rambled around Edinburgh–one of my favorite cities for its coal smudged buildings, gothic castles, and stately Georgian buildings–the old and the new separated by a swath of lovely green park. I am sure that these memories inform the work I make today.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
BZ: I recently finished reading Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel. It’s a great read for anyone interested in the abstract expressionist movement and the women artists of the time who made huge sacrifices to make art.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
BZ: I’d like to scale up and make some larger works, but I may need a larger studio space to do that.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
BZ: I am grateful every day to be able to make art.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
BZ: Duckpin by Charm City Junction.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
BZ: I want to make art that is interesting and oddly beautiful.