Fern! So happy to have your work @ Local. Your work is well known 'round these parts. Tell us how and where you began your artistic journey.
I started out at The Brooklyn Museum Art School when I was 11ish. I would ride the Flatbush Avenue bus excitedly clutching the wooden paint box my uncle Herbie gave me. I remember the first time I walked into the art school I was euphoric. It was like, “Wow! I’m allowed to do all of this cool stuff? For the whole day?!?
We spoke (and laughed a bit) together while hanging your work speaking to the art scene in Greenwich Village in the 70s and 80s. What elements of that environment influenced your current state of art?
Well, I was at Pratt in the late 70’s early 80’s and deep into the study of graphic design and working as a waitress in the West Village. I was working so hard I didn’t get out much, so I wasn’t that aware of the art scene at the time. Anyway I’m more of an old schooler-I love the art of the Italian Renaissance, the Post Impressionists, the German Expressionists, Edward Hopper and Fairfield Porter.
How did Bass Arts Studio come to be? What is your proudest thought provided its existence?
After working as a graphic designer for 15 years I quit to stay home and raise my girls. That’s when I started painting again. Then I got divorced and began teaching at a studio in town and found that I really loved teaching. When my ex exited he took his fleet of Porsches with him and I found myself with an empty garage and then...light bulb! I renovated the garage and bought easels and started a school. That was 15 years ago. Such a better use of a garage, dontcha think?
You have a wonderful focus for artistic direction for teens. Not to get too deep, but on a scale of 1 to 10, how important is artistic development for children at this stage?
I think it’s totally important. 10 of 10. I don’t know how I would have gotten through high school without spending 95% of my time making art. It was a lifeline for me. I super identify with my teen students. They badly need an outlet for their angst, the intensity of their emotions, and their hopping hormones. They need to feel seen and acknowledged. I try to connect with them, see where their talents lie and reflect that back to them. Developing technical skills grows their confidence and gives them the tools to communicate their ideas.
For yourself, how can you balance teaching with maintaining a high degree of personal creative inspiration?
I prioritize! I am a very good time manager and a benign neglector. I only do what is absolutely necessary and let the rest go to maximize my time in the studio. I rarely shop with the exception of groceries. I guard my time like it’s the most precious resource I have (because it is). There’s a lot of parallel process and cross-pollination between my personal work and my teaching, one discipline feeds the other. And I drink a lot of coffee! I am lucky my husband is extremely organized and does a lot of household stuff. (I have the fun job-I cook)
Tell us about the work you chose to share with our local community.
I have a thing for Parisian waiters. I love the graphic pattern of their long white aprons against their black vests and pants. And the graceful way they hold their trays and acrobatically move through space. A while back I did a series on dancers. These waiters are serving but their gestural movement feels very related to dance.
What plans do you have around new creative projects?
I am probably not done with the cafe series, but I am planning to do a whole series on dogs.
Since you started, is there one experience that confirmed you did a beautiful thing?
There have been so many, it’s hard to pick. Many of my students have gone on to art school and art careers. That’s very gratifying. Last week an eleven year old in my Drawing Bootcamp was marveling over a large figure drawing she did and said, “Wow, I never thought I could do this!” That was a beautiful thing.
What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage?
I like a nice cappuccino. Whole milk please.
Learn more about the one and only Fern Bass by visiting her website @ https://www.bassartsstudio.com/