Supporting emerging and mid-career artists is a way to stay in touch with what it’s really like to be a working artist–and to see some great artwork being created. At SRI, we support several artists-in-residence as part of our Artist Patron Program. We provide the artists with logistics services for their exhibitions, store their artwork at our facilities and purchase their work.
This month, we’re putting the spotlight on one of SRI’s artists-in-residence: Steve Zolin, an artist from Manhattan via West Orange, Tallahassee, Santa Fe and St. Louis. Here’s a Q&A of our conversation with Steve on what he’s working on and where he finds inspiration.
Q: How long have you been working in the arts:
A: It’s been 42 years since I made a giant smiley face on the wall with my mom’s best Borghese lipstick–it never came out.
Q: What mediums you work in?
A: I draw often with china markers, paint with oil and acrylic, and sculpt using a mixed-media additive approach that has been comprised of different materials such as metal flashing, found objects, shrink wrap, tissue, plastic panels, and whatever else I can get my hands on. I just took a welding class, so we’ll see what comes of that.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I am working on a dozen small paintings right now. They’re getting there. There’s no “done”–there’s only where I stop. I just saw “The Final Portrait,” a film about Giacometti, who apparently felt similarly.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: Other art, mountains, rivers, deserts, my own inner turmoil, the great cityscapes of NYC, Rome, Madrid…the list goes on. How much time do you have? Some inspirations are old and some are new. I’m still working through how when I was a child, I was lying under a tree at my grandmother’s house in autumn. The yellow leaves spiraled up and up. I’m still trying to capture that feeling in my sculptures.
Q: How does SRI support your as an artist?
A: I have been storing my art with SRI for many years. They have also installed my work, transported it locally, and arranged for it to be shipped both nationally and abroad.
Q: What are the benefits of using SRI to help with installing your work?
A: My most recent install would not have been possible without SRI. The installation was of three large sculptures at a hotel. SRI supplied specialized drilling equipment, as well as the expertise necessary, to core-drill the hotel lobby’s stone floors for the metal bases of the sculptures. And, they provided enough experienced hands to physically move and install the sculptures.
Q: What is your favorite museum?
A: The Met, of course. They have deep collections of all kinds of art, as well as unparalleled borrowing power that allows me to enjoy unique shows like the spectacular Fragonard drawing exhibit a while back as well as the unbelievable Michelangelo drawing show that recently ended. There’s always something amazing to see. Curator John Carpenter has assembled a number of amazing shows in the Japanese Art galleries, including a recent jaw-dropping show of woven bamboo. Also, the Costume Institute puts on its own mind-blowing shows. At the Met, I can visit old friends like Pollock’s “Autumn Rhythm” or Rodin’s “Adam,” or find a new gem in some hidden-away gallery I’ve scarcely been before.
Q: What is your favorite gallery?
A: Gallerie St. Etienne on W57th in New York City. I love German Expressionism, which they specialize in. But they also go off on related tangents, which is fun. Also, the people are nice.
Q: Which artists inspire you?
A: Michelangelo, Bernini, Rubens, and yeah I’ll say it: Monet. My favorite Monet is at the Met. It’s a river scene with roughed in clouds and sky. It’s the bushy weeds on the riverbank that are the real treasure: an explosion of brushstrokes attempting to bring order to this wild din of undergrowth.
My favorite contemporary artist is Andrew Goldsworthy. His artistic process seems to blend hard work, play, and curiosity in equal measure. He has an intimate relationship with his materials and subjects: rock, water, earth, things that grow, and the effect time has on them. I just saw his latest movie, “Leaning into the Wind,” and it was as divinely inspirational as his last film, “Rivers and Tides,” which I saw 16 years ago in Santa Fe. That first film was supposed to have just a two week run, but it was held over for months because everyone just kept going back!
Q: Can you tell us about your next project?
A: I’m working on a new panoramic painting of Verdi Square in Manhattan. The buildings there are just so Grade-A awesome. They don’t build them like that anymore. I love playing around with perspective and they’re such a fun subject to do that with. I also have plans for more hanging abstract sculptures. I’m still playing around with materials and methods, but I have a vision for the forms.