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.”



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.



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.





Local Talk: Interview with Local Artist Amy Putman

So excited to have you up at Local! Thank you for sharing your work with us. Tell us, your artistic approach all stems from your experience with your parents. What was it like to have parents that encouraged this direction?

Thank you for having me! I’m a huge fan of Local and so happy to be there.

My parents were a huge influence because they encouraged all things art.  From art lessons and books, to countless museum trips, art was valued and appreciated. My mom is a weaver and she would invite me into her loom-room to talk about design and analyze color. My dad’s interest was photography so he built a dark room in the basement and taught me how to process film and make prints. They also gave me honest, thoughtful feedback about my work which was important. I learned how to listen and figure out what was or wasn’t working.



You have a strong sense of activism in your personal life working on such influential programs like the Million Mom March for Common Sense Gun Laws on the National Mall in Washington DC. How has this mindset worked its way into your art?

I’m motivated by issues of social justice and this past year has magnified the polarization and divisiveness in the United States and around the world. I’ve been working on a number of mixed media pieces on canvas called the “Fence Series” which grew from the debate about building walls. It’s a look at what we love and what we fear, through the perspective of the fences that divide us.



Collage is a recent treatment for your work. It's candidly an area that is a bit of a juxtaposition for me as it seems extremely simple but on the other end - where do you start? So, where do you start and how do you know when it's done?

The process of creating a collage begins with the collection of images that will eventually be used to make it.  I have collected thousands of images in an ongoing, obsessive treasure hunt for whatever inspires me. When I’m not ripping up magazines I’m carefully cutting up the

images, creating puzzle pieces. Imagine having a puzzle box with thousands of pieces in it, but without a picture on the cover for guidance as you put it together.  I never plan what I’m making. It’s a spontaneous process which makes it fun as well as challenging. I always have several collages going at once because I won’t finish a collage until I find the perfect piece.  This can take days, weeks, or even months



You have quite the busy schedule showing locally here in NJ as well as other states but then jump into Europe to show in such richly artistic centers like Berlin.  Do you find that your work is interpreted very differently by market?

There is a lot of international interest in collage.  To my surprise, Instagram opened doors with exciting opportunities. Through it, I was invited to show in Berlin and also featured in a beautiful book called, “Making the Cut | The World’s Best Collage Artists Vol 1” published in Australia.


What has living in NJ meant to your POV on art and the artistic community? 

There’s a large and wonderfully diverse community of artists here and those I have met have been incredibly supportive and inspiring. Montclair has so much to offer for people interested in the arts, including the Montclair Art Museum, the Yard School of Art, and Studio Montclair with its beautiful new space for art shows on Bloomfield Ave. I believe that when you put yourself out there great things can happen, but many of the great things that are happening are because there’s so much interest in the arts here.



Please tell us about the work that you have up at Local?

This is a body of work that grew from my fascination with the surreal. I love the surprise element of the design process and how a collage reveals itself to me as I create it. I try to make art that engages the viewer so they keep looking and try to figure out what’s happening.


What's next? What are you working on presently?

I’m incredibly excited to be collaborating on a new series of mixed media pieces with an LA based internationally renowned photojournalist who focuses on human rights issues.


What’s your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

My favorite coffee is a latte especially when there’s a heart in the foam on top.



Local Talk: Interview with Local Artist Arlene Farenci

Arlene, we met about a year ago when we first opened Local and very happy that have been able to connect again. We spoke at that time about having your work at Local and now excited to share your work in our space. Why is meaningful for you to show your work in a non-gallery/ museum space? 

I think the exposure one gets at a coffee shop can even top a gallery. Lot’s of traffic. People can drink their coffee and look at art at the same time. 

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I’ve felt strongly about Abstract Expressionism for as long as I can remember. It works in two ways for me, first - i can get serious and look for a deeper message OR i can just sit back and appreciate the aesthetic beauty of it. How did you land in this space? 

I always loved gesture, even when I was painting representational work. I wanted to take away the objects and make the gestures the main image. There is really no deep meaning. I hope that the viewer finds them engaging and interesting.


I read on your site that you graduated with a Fine Art degree but moved into Graphic Design as a more practical path. There’s this struggle of should vs. must for all of us. I’m curious - without any of life’s obligations - what would you do differently with your fine art knowledge? 

In my wildest fantasy I am painting on very large canvases in a loft space, in Soho.


Tell us a bit about the work you have graciously shared with us at Local. What was the mindset you arrived at before and while creating this work? 

I work best when I don’t plan ahead. The Mokulito technique is fun because there are lots of possibilities. I usually start out with painting gestures or marks with a brush and see where it goes. I can print one plate or I can combine it with another one and even drill into the wood (ie, “This Way and That”) or I can add color ink directy to the plate  (ie, the large unframed “Untitled”) and treat it like a monoprint. 


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The concept behind Mokulito is somewhat perfection through the imperfect as wood can produce different images based on variables like materials, pressure, temperature and humidity. How did you come to discover and use this process in your work? 

An artist was giving a presentation at the Manhattan Graphics Center where I do my work. I was immediately attracted to her expressive style and later took a Mokulito class with her. I gravitate to that medium mostly because I like the textures that come from the wood. It is also not highly technical and I can work fast. 


Can you tell us about a project you are currently working on and the genesis of the work? 

I have a bunch of boards ready for me to sand down and start painting on. I have thought about using the drill to carve the edges of the wood plate, so it’s irregular and not smooth.

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Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield and the surrounding communities have a strong sense of art, culture and music. What is it about living in this area that is important to you as an artist and mom? 

It's a great place to raise a child. I made lots of friends through my son and we still remain close. I have to say, living close to the city is important to me as an artist. That’s where I am from and where I do my art. 


Tell us something about your craft that only you or a few people know. 

Mokulito can only be printed in one day. You cannot print the plate one day and again the next day. So it is quite an intense process, getting as many prints as I can in one session.


What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage? 

Iced Decaf Americana



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Local Talk: Interview with featured artist Ben Olson

I'm happy to say that you were one of our first clients at Local and we immediately connected. There was this candid openness while speaking with each other and learning how each of us spend our  time. How has this openness to life in general contributed to the genesis of your work?

My work often relies on a certain tension. The tension between public and private…

I have not always been so open. I am naturally shy, and have to work to put myself out there and be open. Maybe the openness is inspired by my peers and my kids. I don’t want to be known as that closed-off dude hermitting out in the corner!!!


Your work is articulated as a peek through a door cracked open which is wonderful honesty but could also be a bit scary because of the associated vulnerability. How do your subjects deal with this transparency?

Peeking through a door cracked has been a theme for me for a long time. I love finding that awkward and completely honest moment. The one where no one is posing or making a cute face.  Beautiful imperfect moments.. There is a delicious honesty when you glimpse someone when their guard is totally down and they think they are alone!!


It is amazingly intimate to paint someone.

I paint in layers, many many layers. It is the nature off the acrylic paint, but also it is a metaphor for a person. We all have so many layers.  Each one is a little transparent. I like to build those layers with paint. Each one building on another, masking it just a little. Within a painting, I will add one layer right after another. More blue. Just a little more red. More white until it is just right, then flood it with spraypaint. Drip drip drip!

For many years I only painted exquisitely personal subjects…very personal portraits and self portraits. It was an extreme way to show vulnerability.

I made a deal with myself a long time ago: No matter what I portray, I never hold back and always paint what I see…every wrinkle, crease and fold.  That may be abstracted by the process, but in my head it is super real.

Honestly, I think that the people that I have painted have been so so absolutely open to anything that I am the one somehow trying to hold back. I find I am maybe the vulnerable one, even though the subject is being exposed and examined.

I am maybe the one looking through the door…


As an artist, how do you see your work evolving as you grow in experience and knowledge?

When I first started painting my work was about one single, honest, situational moment. I was interested in what it was like to view that moment from the outside, when the door cracks. I would make up a situation and narrative that was usually really dark.  Lots of blood and tears, Now,  I am more accumulative in my process. I watch, listen , Observe and collect and remember. I am more interested in the all the things that add up to blow that door open, so everyone can see.

Currently, I feel like my work is less tragic and more of a diary and journal.  Maybe a tiny bit less dark. Somehow it is more fantastical and dreamy, but a lot more true to me. In the past I made things up, and in that journey I was trying to be honest, but maybe it was just a front I put up.

Seems like I am now projecting outward, instead of working inward!


Do you have a work that you have created for sale but then ultimately couldn't part with it?

Yes, absolutely…

I do believe artists should hold onto a piece of work here and there..  To document major bodies of work or personal journeys. Art and artists live and evolve and it is important to document that. I am not the same artist I was 10 years ago. I have been interested in different things, and even my painting technique has evolved. It is great to have that documented. I have always thought so.

One example of a piece that I have held onto is the first portrait I ever did of my wife. I have done many works with her since, but that first one is special. It is an important reminder of a very intense part of my life too. I truly cherish it!


I'm fascinated with the scale of your work; did you always work at these extreme ends of the art spectrum?

Scale as in size? I have always felt that a piece will tell you what size it wants to be if you give it a voice. I have always been more into actually painting larger work. I think it works for me to paint with my body. When you paint smaller work, say something that can sit on a table, you paint with your wrist and you often hunch over the work and stay close. But if you paint larger work, you tend to paint with your body, wrist to elbow then to shoulder and so on. You also tend to need to back away to see it all…that works for me. I need a painting I can dance in front of.

Scale as in scope? I currently have three major themes in my work. I have always loved portrait and figurative work. The body and face are the ultimate way to express for me. I have been drawing or painting people since fourth grade, you can do the math as to how many years that is.

I also paint a lot of balloons. This body of work is really the opposite if portraiture for me. It can be easier for an Audience to digest and also easier for me to just get into the painting process.

I also have painted flowers for quite a while. They started as very realistic still-livesbased on the “language of flowers” from Victorian days when people would communicate with bouquets of flowers, each flower has a meaning. Now the workshave moved to a very fantastical, wild and juicy spot. They are very personal to me, my own visual diary and journal. Each flower representing a moment in my life.


What has living in Montclair meant for you and your work?

Montclair has been wonderful for me and my work. The work has somehow gotten much larger since I have been working in my barn (studio). II have found a community that I didn’t expect to find.  There are so many wonderful people!! I fell like I can do anything with my art right now and am so excited about that feeling. I project out since I have lived here, instead of caving inward. It was an amazing moment for me when someone asked if I can call it homeand I said (without hesitation) YES!

I always have music on…it is very influential in my work. When my studio was in Brooklyn I listened to Hip hop almost all the time. Now, in my barn, I find that I still play a lot of hip hop, but a little miles davis can comfortably creep into the mix and live there. Dylan lives with Biggie in my studio now! Living in Montclair has somehow put a beautiful balance to my life…


Conceptually, what does being local mean to you and how does it play a part in your process?

Being local is a support system. Feeling comfortable and supported with where you are in life and also where you actually are. Not feeling transient. Feeling rooted and growing instead of blowing in the wind.

Being local makes me smile!


Tell us something about art that only you or very few people know.

I have always been fascinated with light and how it bounces through your eyes and brain. The Raft of the Medusa by Gericault is my favorite painting of all time. He painted all of the water drops with three strokes of paint-red, yellow and green-in certain shades so that they vibrate when next to one another. The water droplets seem to sparkle because of this! Brilliant!


What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

I like ‘em all!! But really, just a good cup of coffee with cream is the most delicious thing in the world.