Pocos conocen fuera de Estados Unidos a esta artista anglosajona, pero realmente es la persona que esta detrás de la sección dedicada al mundo cultural del portal el Huffington Post, uno de los sitios de agregación de noticias mas vistos mundialmente, quien en esta entrevista para Culturamas, nos habló sobre su llegada al portal de noticias, sus inicios en el mundo del arte, su visión sobre la educación artística mundial, los próximos retos tanto como arista y editora, entre varios temas.
My great grandmother on my mother’s side, Corinne Werthheimer, was a painter and I have one of her watercolors. It was a different time and she devoted herself to helping the women get the right to vote in America. My father, Leonard Shlain, also painted but was a surgeon by profession. Then he went on to become a best-selling author, the first of which was his seminal book called “Art & Physics” which he dedicated to me and the inspiration for which he attributed to my budding talent and incessant questions about art as a child. I’ve written about it here:
How did you start with an interest in the visual arts?
I can only answer that by saying that I was just born this way. I was always looking at the shape of things and trying to see if I could recreate what I saw in my head. I was always staring at the clouds and drawing on everything.
How´s a normal day in your life? How do you divide your time between your art and the Huffington Post?
I wake up very early, make coffee and walk to the edge of the waves on the ocean. When I come back, I spend the early mornings responding to emails and getting various gyroscopes in motion. But I use the day light hours I paint. While I definitely devoted a burst of time to launching the arts section in June 2010, it is a much bigger operation and it is run by an incredible team mostly out of the New York office. Now I play a different role and can devote most of my time back to painting.
Do you have any hobbies?
I love to cook. And when I read cookbooks and recipes and I can taste what I read as the words reach my eyes. I love talking walks by the ocean and spending time with my family.
Do you was inspired by some artist in particular?
This would be a very long list, worthy of its own book. So let me keep it short by saying that I truly admire David Hockney, Bonnard, Bacon and Fischl.
Which is the technique do you work the most?
My technique is constantly evolving and each new series presents it’s own new challenges of depiction. One goal is consistent though, to convey the most amount of emotion with the fewest amount of strokes. I want it to appear effortless.
Why are you interested about fashion in your paintings? How you inspired yourself to make your portraits, do you have a special moment for this?
One of my early solo shows was about my mother and her friends in the 1970s called “Mom’s Friends”. I wanted to capture the era of when women were really coming into their own. It fascinated me that the aesthetic language of clothing captured a revolution in attitude. I continue to explore that idea in “The Stylist Project” by focusing on subjects that are highly articulate in the language of fashion. I asked famous stylists to style themselves are pose for their portrait. In my most recent series “Thread” I use fashion as a point of deconstruction. It was not a focus but a starting point, as if visually I was breaking an egg.
Do you prefer to work as a visual artist or as an arts journalist?
I don’t consider myself an arts journalist but i do like to think about other artists work and interview them. Around 2007 I decided that my writing muscle needed flexing so I made writing about other artists’ work a part of my art practice. After about seventy interviews, this is what led Arianna Huffington to ask me to launch the arts section for the Huffington Post. At the time, I was one of a handful focusing on the artists whereas everyone else was writing about politics and business.
Which is your perception towards contemporary art today?
This is such a loaded question I cannot answer it in a paragraph. But I will say this: I think contemporary art is flourishing right now especially because technology has allowed images to be airlifted out of their geography (studios, museums, galleries, etc) and into the blinking eyes of a world audience. This is causing the visual language of art to become more sophisticated and to progress more. Only ten years ago no artists had websites. Oddly, it was considered taboo. Now everyone has one.
If not an artist, which could your other career?
I almost became a doctor like my parents but that profession was not for me. If not an artist, I think I would like to be a classical music conductor.
Which could be your suggestions to approach young generations, especially children with art?
Children should be exposed to making art and music very young and all through their education. A big problem in America is that many children aren’t exposed to arts education because the focus is on reading, writing and arithmetic. This will kill the spirit of a child. Furthermore, the concept of talent should be destroyed and demystified. Kids should be taught the truth: that anyone can do anything with the right amount of dedication and passion.
Which is the best way to use new technologies wisely?
Technology has and will continue to obviously revolutionize our world in so many ways. However, I think when technology is not used a tool (photoshop, word processing, coding, etc.) but used for communication (email, social networking, etc.) that screens should be limited, especially for children, and people should pursue a life that compartmentalizes such interruptions as much as possible. I have a timer on my iPhone and I don’t allow myself to be interrupted by email or the phone for hours on end. People who allow themselves to be constantly interrupted are disallowing themselves to have a fertile creative brain environment.
What are the most concerning aspect with the financial crisis?
I most fear the erosion of the middle class and the polarization of wealth. It has also had a distorting effect on the art world where more people are seeing art as an investment vehicle and fewer people can afford to buy it.
Should world governments must give more money to arts and culture?
I sincerely believe that creating a positive and nurturing environment for art and artists would help heal so many of the ills in our world. Whether or not the government, per se, should be responsible for the distribution of funds is a complicated question. If anything is done smartly, it will have a positive impact. For example, In America we have a huge problem with overpopulation in prisons. In California, specifically, they’ve realized that when children have arts as a part of their eduction they’re less likely to drop out of school. The term they use for people who drop out is “truancy”. People who stay in school are less likely to get involved in drugs, gangs and violence. They’ve been able to make a direct correlation between crime rates and truancy rates and now they’re making a concerted effort to bolster arts education programs to solve the problem of crime and the prison population long term.
If you were the NEA director, how you could solve the arts budget for orchestras and arts?
I believe the root cause for the problem of orchestras in our country is that the culture is not doing enough to support classical music to children at an early age. The exposure is thin at best even though every study in the world shows that children who study classical music will help them in every aspect of their education, especially math and writing. The NEA created Americans for the Arts which is an advocacy program to promote why we need arts as a part of education. However, all the funding goes to supporting the concept the goodness of arts in schools, instead of putting the money into arts programs themselves. I would support creating a better means of supporting consistent funding for arts in education. If you raise a generation of children who love classical music, you won’t see such a high ratio of grey haired people in the Orchestra. This a huge part of what is what is creating such a deteriorating condition of the orchestras. I have been a long time board member of a model organization for arts education called P.S. Arts (www.psarts.org
) which raises money to provide arts education in the local public school system in Southern California. We have had a dramatic affect on the over 22,000 children we serve. I see the results first hand.
Why do you decide to merge arts and culture section at HuffPost?
The Culture section was created to be a parent section of Arts, which I created, and Music, TV and Film which came after the merger with AOL. What ended up happening is that we were cannibalizing the content we should cover. It made more sense to have one “Super Vertical” so Culture was folded into the arts section.
Which is one of the special moments during your HuffPost careers? What do you learn each day?
Launching an arts page on the Huffington Post was hugely important to me (Huffingtonpost.com/arts
), I knew that it was the beginning of something big. I turned out to be right. I was so happy to provide a forum where artists around the world could be shown and reviewed in front of such a large audience and such an important part of our popular culture. I believe every artist shares my dream of showing her work to the most amount of people. Last year I launched the science section, in honor of my father Leonard Shlain. That was also a truly exciting moment. The other exciting days were when we launched separate daughter pages including ones for Painting, Architecture, Film, Design, Female Artists and Art Meets Science. It’s been an amazing experience.
I’m focusing on two new bodies of work, one is an extension of what I’ve been doing and another is entirely new.