Local Talk: Q+A with iconic Montclair artist: Fern Bass

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?

 (yes, indeed)

 

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. 

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 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.

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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/

 

 

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Local Talk - Q+A with artist Cathy LeCleire

We're so thrilled to have you post at the shop - both as a friend and accomplished artist. At what age did you first know that you had the interest and desire to take your thoughts and create something?

I’m probably showing my age but the first time I realized that art could be anything you wanted it to be was going to the World’s Fair in Queens and seeing Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup cans and Claus Oldenburg’s huge fan made out of vinyl. I really felt I could be an artist too.

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What were the first projects that you worked on?

I’m not sure of my first project because there are probably so many. I’m a printmaker so that means I work in multiples. I first went to college and studied Political Science and went back to Art School after I graduated. I feel my first projects tended to be political in nature. Printmaking has always had a political background because it was always about protest and bringing information to the masses.


How did you take this interest and apply to greater learnings at the educational level?

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I have always enjoyed teaching and found I was good at it. Educational institutions are the greatest place for pollination and stimulation. I find my students are my greatest inspiration and I hope my mentoring and encouragement leads to greater creativity of ideas.


So, you now teach  printmaking and book art techniques  at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Given that the world has become more and more digital - how has your craft evolved?

Printmaking is always evolving and taking on contemporary mediums. We embrace the digital age with dot screens, filmmaking, zines, etc. Students are always looking for the printed word as social media. They print large editions many times that are mass-produced and can have an immediate response. I think many printmakers are at the forefront of the digital age but also enjoy traditional methods such as etching, lithography and screenprinting.

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As a teacher, what is the most interesting thing you have learned from your students?

It took me a while to trust my students and allow them to make mistakes. I once received the best evaluation from a student. She said I did too much for the student and I should let them fail because failing is the best way of learning. So now I always say “have fun and make mistakes!”


Please tell us about the work you have so graciously offered here at Local - Endangered Species.

I have recently been interested in the dangers of plastic and the fact that it cannot decompose. By using it as a printing surface I created a mural of animals that I feel are in danger of disappearing. With the use of contemporary, unmistakable and repeated images combined with global awareness, I have created statements of the ecological consequences in our daily lives.


What's next? What other projects are you currently working on?

I shouldn’t say but I’m back to political art in these dangerous times. I’ve been making sashes like what the suffragettes wore in pink with slogans for issues such as gun control, women’s rights, me too movement, etc. And as with printmaking they are controversial!

Learn more about Cathy here

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Local Talk: Q+A with artist Bonnie Maranz

Where were you born and raised? Describe your upbringing and impact on both your art and where you are in life today?

 My life began in an urban neighborhood in Newark, NJ. Large crowded apartment houses, small family owned grocery stores, bakeries and a soda shop on every corner dominated. When I close my eyes I can still see the dark passageways surrounding our apartment building, the tight close proximity of neighbors working and struggling beyond dark days of the Depression and World War II.  Long shadows that continued to overcast our lives. Looking back I realize it was my public education and the people living in that apartment house—389 Leslie Street—that I will never forget. Many helped forge a love of art and a vision of a life beyond the everyday.

In particular, across the hall from our first floor apartment lived a young couple—Nathan and Ruthie Kruger. Nathan Kruger owned an art gallery, Rabin and Kruger, downtown Newark where he partnered with an art conservator Bernard Rabin. Ruthie Kruger was an art teacher. Rabin and Kruger represented the famous artist Joseph Stella. Nathan helped to broker the sale of Stella’s iconic painting “The Brooklyn Bridge” to the Newark Museum. Ruthie started giving me private art lessons when I was three years old! They give me my first art book which I still have with the inscription: “To Bonnie (the little artist) we hope you will grow up to be a big artist and this book will help.”

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When did you know you were interested in pursuing an art career?

I always knew I was an artist and would continue painting and drawing, but I never really thought of art as my career. As an undergraduate, I planned to teach art to children as a creative way to make a living (combining a love of art with the need to earn money). It wasn’t until I was graduating from Kean College (studio art/education) that I decided with the encouragement of my mentor, Dr. Pearl Greenberg, to pursue a Master’s Degree in Painting. As I was preparing to graduate she said, “You are really talented, you should just concentrate on Painting and pursue a Graduate Degree”. Advice I embraced.

It was when I started classes at Montclair State University that I really began to think in terms of career—how to grow and seek opportunities, concentrating on developing series of expanded work, learning more about artists and trends and haunting museums as much as possible. At that time the requirement to earn a Master’s degree was “to do work never done before”. What a challenge! Big thank you to professors Carmen Cicero and Jonathan Silver!

 

Describe your role as professor and the enjoyment you obtain from teaching.

As a college professor I have the privilege of teaching Art (Appreciation, History, Drawing, etc.) to the most vital group of our future country. I teach the value of appreciating visual language in it’s many forms, how it intersects with history and innovative critical thinking. I help students connect patterns of revolutionary breakthroughs in the humanities starting with Cave Art. Their insights are revealing, refreshing and often revelatory!

 

What generally inspires you and influenced your work? Tell us more about the “Edge” and how you arrived at this philosophical approach.

During the five years I was studying at Montclair State—concentrating on a “breaking through”, I really began to understand how difficult innovation is to achieve. Copying is really much easier.  Getting an idea of course is exciting. Then implementing it—making technical choices, lots of disappointments and experiments, the tremendous amount of work involved. So, into the fifth year when Carmen Cicero congratulated me on making a break through I was thrilled. He told me “A lot of people don’t every breakthrough.You will leave a lot of people behind and lose their support, but not to worry you will meet the people you need to meet.”  I didn’t understand the scope of this advice but I became addicted to searching for the next breakthrough. This still colors my work.

The “Edge” is a metaphor for many things. It started when a close friend observed that “I was the type of person who would approach the edge of a precipice, stare a it, be mesmerized but never jumped in.  What does that mean? More questions than answers. Do I have to jump in? Are there real boundaries and definitive stop signs? Can I go wherever I want in my mind and imagination?

 

What artists have inspired you and influenced your work?

Just this week I watched the National Geographic series “Genius”. Albert Einstein’s story. Over and over he declared it was his imagination and visualizations that helped he come up with many equations and formulas. Like the power of a visual to “travel on a wave of light” in his mind.

Of course, the greats: Van Gogh, Michelangelo, DaVinci, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Malevich, etc,  as well as great women artists like Frida Kahlo!

More personally contemporary and modern artists are the ones I revisit all the time. Especially Yves Klein, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Ad Reinhardt and the lesser known American Impressionist Albert Blakelock.

 

What message are you trying to communicate with your art? What do you want people who see your work to think/feel?

I want them to react to the language, color and mood I am trying to convey. Forms that verbal language cannot express.  I welcome their reactions and interpretations. Often my work is broken into modules that can stand on their own or combine. Works on walls that wander while remaining grounded as backdrop or anchor.

Ultimately I believe a painting is a state of mind.

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If an art curator came to your house tomorrow to organize and catalog your work, what are the three most important things to communicate to that person?

My work is my ongoing journey away from the ground we stand on while at the same time being firmly rooted on the horizon of our existence.

I am articulating the underpinning Modulus of life as I imagine it—using paint and canvas.

Attempting to surprise and delight the viewer and myself!  

 

Describe the medium you work in and the materials you use. Why that medium and why those materials?

Using oil paint on paper and canvas. Slow to dry, I love the fact that oil paint can be manipulated and the colors are often gorgeous!  Still works for me! I believe we all still love the seduction of   painting!

 

What’s the future direction of your art? What do you plan to do next?

Still studying and looking at Hubble Telescope images. Can’t wait for the next visual discovery out there in the Cosmos.

 

What do you want your legacy to be?

I don’t think I can predict what my legacy may be. I want to be remembered as part of a wonderful community of artists that just had to create in our time and place.

 

http://www.basemeantwrx.com/new-events/2015/7/24/bonnie-maranz-gallery-night-oil-paintings-on-canvas-paper