Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday Treats: Alex Goldberg

Introducing the very fascinating and ever-evolving design and mixed media artist, Alex Goldberg. I have known Miss Goldberg for a couple of years now and in that have time have seen her make gusty, sometimes painful strides to define the life she wants for herself which has only strengthened the voice she is finding in her art. When I first met Alex, she was a little reluctant to show me her work, most notably her final project at Boston University, a sexualized painting that explores the body. I remember at the time that she was nervous because her work was somewhat "dark" and in the context of our day-time jobs at a sunny elementary school, there never did feel like an appropriate time to cross that bridge from colleague to friend, co-worker to fellow artist. But sitting down with Alex today as she flipped through her portfolio for grad school that she will be submitting in just a few short weeks, I was not only amazed in how confident she has become in her art and how unapologetic and fearless she was in discussing it, but how awesome her work truly is. Alex's work resonated with me on many levels but most importantly as a woman and someone (like many, many women) who has struggled with body issues.   

Alex had a harder time discussing her older work, like the above mural, because it feels like a former life, which sounds about right since one could argue that Alex lives in her paintings while in process. "The work occurs and then I figure out what the pent up reasoning for it was. It's like a form of therapy in a way," she explained. If you flip through the course of her work you can see the mountains and molehills she has overcome in her early twenties as she approaches graduating to her mid-twenties. While earlier work explores and challenges "body," other pieces (that I also resonated with) depicted a woman, beheaded, shirtless, with an "x" over the vagina. She has come to call these paintings "The Chastity Series" which I love both for its irony as well as its compartmentalized sexuality (And again, another big theme that hits me at my core). The head is not attached to the body but the vagina is also silenced. Neither can speak, so what is left is the body in between, the body as vessel. What I love about Alex's paintings is that although her art is specific, her themes are universal. While she may not know exactly what a piece is about when at the beginning of the process her subconscious informs the conscious, the painting informs the artist as well as the viewer. 

But what I really admire is her most recent series, a collection of liberated feminist pieces that as Alex puts it, "are not as tight, but more comfortable in my own voice." She added that in contrast to her earlier work that started while in a long-term relationship, her recent series began when she was newly single. However, it is not just about a single woman's liberation, but a further examination into the layered, often unspoken complexities of female relationships in the context of being a woman in a patriarchal society. About these pieces, Alex said, 'They are my most political work in terms of feminism, but it is also about women hurting women, women not supporting other women, and if we don't support each other who will?" Amen, sister. 
When discussing Grand Dillusion, Alex talked about being interested in women's image in society versus reality, the often twisted truth, and what is happening to women on differing economic levels. Women and class, body and perception, are both reoccurring themes throughout her work. When I asked Alex why she was drawn to these topics she told me that she used to be a dancer. Up until she was sixteen she did modern dance, jazz, ballet, tap, African... when I asked her why she stopped she bluntly replied, "I started parting." But she further elaborated that the feminist views she was brought up with were conflicting with dance as a form of artistic expression for her. Once puberty hit, she was told to lose weight. In addition, she confessed, "You are working so hard physically but not saying anything ever. You are just being directed." However, Alex still uses dance as part of her process when painting and when asked if she had any influences she admitted that she was hugely inspired by Pina Bausch, especially her last piece Vollmond which ran at BAM last year. But with painting, Alex said, "I can have my body in whatever way I want it to be and still do this."
Grand Dillusion
Last summer, Alex took a collage course at Parsons, (collage being an art form she used to look down on) and felt an uncertainty at first and now a complete embrace of this new form of expression. She uses a combination of her own drawings cut up and combined with text from newspaper tear-outs (which often inspire the title) and magazine and acrylic paint. And I love the skeletons that have been popping up in her new works which also may be a bridge to her upcoming work. In this painting, called The World As He Finds It, Alex used a drawing from a model who at the time was anorexic. She was criticized for her drawing's "proportions being off" because the model was "unnaturally thin." Alex took this and ran with it, the result which is incorporated into this piece which also seems to explore the issues of class. My favorite part is the woman donning a tiara made of dominoes. 

In her most recent completed piece (which I die for!!!) Alex used newspaper, magazine, acrylic paint, colored paper, feathers, gouache and ink. While Alex is forging her own path at the moment and could not cite any artistic influences she did say that in creating these collage pieces she has been reading a lot of Louise Bourgeois whose ideas about women and sex align with her own. How I love the bones at the center of this piece!
I Am Woman
 For Alex's upcoming work she is exploring the idea of pain. Growing up in a "nuclear" family with a father who is a doctor and a stay-at-home mom, Alex is curious to explore the relationship a profession has on family dynamics. Having been shown medical slides and engaged in commonplace conversations regarding pain or what should and should not be painful, Alex will be using medical slides, pointillism, and more skeletons! Her gravitation towards design and architecture was also something she felt a pull towards while in school at Parsons. She took packing tape and created these photographs which then progressed into an impressive pointillism drawing.

As you can see, Miss Goldberg is well on her way to an exciting artistic life and career that both breaks the mold and blazes a new trail. Alex, thank you for your friendship and for doing the kind of art that talks, especially to women. We need your voice out there.

You can follow this amazing (and super fun!) artist on twitter at @alexrgoldberg or shoot her an email at alexrg19@gmail.com.
Stay tuned for her website and upcoming shows!!


carole cohen said...

New York has a new artist to be considered. All the signs point to an awakening talent. Well written and analyzed critique.

dancerdoc said...

I would say we need more artists that are brave enough to express their ideas and explore different media to do so. I appreciate this insightful commentary- I have seen Alex's great artwork but this was an opportunity to understand more deeply the thoughts beneath the work and how they evolved. Much more than just great talent and hard work! Thanks for sharing,

Dahlia Hirsch