Art Copy is pleased to welcome Marie Vartenberg for an interview with an artist with an astonishing imagination. She discusses the alternative world that she creates, how her art operates in a world gone mad, her inner need to be creative, and more. In a recent article, Salon magazine asserted that in an era of uncertainty, art is humanity’s most powerful weapon against apathy. Marie also stirs her audiences creativity by leading them into unchartered territory within their own imaginative selfs. Please join me in welcoming an artist with a remarkable vision, style, wit, and who is never, ever, boring.
In his commentary of the artist’s work, Gery Van Tendeloo says:
She records, visualizes and critiques the global society and the world by creating highly personal beings, metaphors for humans, and a step further than humanoids, baptized ‘strontanoids.’ She creates disorder, chaos in a way, inviting the viewers to ask questions using their own imagination — like a subcutaneous injection — it really doesn’t hurt, but you feel it. In her idiosyncratic content, she avoids any morality and messages.
Marie Vartenberg lives and works in Antwerp Belgium.
Art Copy: Welcome to artcopyblog.com Marie Vartenberg. Would you like to introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
Marie Vartenberg: I create from an inner need, this is the best way I can express myself. I would describe my creative process as very impulsive. Direct from my mind to hand, immediately. I never have a problem with finding subjects, my head is always full of stories, characters, etc. I like to work with. If we talk about painting the moment itself, I develop the painting to what I really like. When I’m not satisfied, I paint it over the same day, until I’m satisfied.
I work with metaphors — my ghost-animals-beings resemble contemporary society, also the behavior of humans to each other. I name my beings “strontanoids” derived from humanoids, with the addition of the shitty behavior we now see all around us. Creating a non-existent world from humanity, or society has no message at all. I don’t want to give people a message, I record what I feel around myself.
I believe that the best art doesn’t give a particular message, but that creating another world with other agents that tease the imagination in new directions. Even the transformations of icons in our Western society, In Hillary Mice, Donaldine Crump, and other of my paintings, urge the viewer to think past the icon itself.
AC: You don’t have to look far for ideas?
MV: I don’t search. These ideas come automatically to my brain every day. I think it is due to the impact of a daily life mixed with my emotions.
AC: It’s intriguing when an artist urges their audience to see in a different way, I think. In the last century, we saw the power of the imagination realized in Einstein’s inventions with him guided by creative discovery rather than artificial intelligence. I’m curious to see the results of the current advocacy of creativity suggested by observers like Salon cited above. For me, I’m curious if it will lead to a contemporary Renaissance, or if the market will be flooded with mediocre art or any number of things that are presently hard to predict. Do you feel that your art reflects your personality?
MV: Definitely. There is no other way – I create in full balance with myself, in full contact — what is in is out.
AC: What do you feel are some of the most inspiring things happening at present?
MV: We are living in a particular time, unfortunately not in a positive way with so many current wars and conflicts. I don’t believe in inspiration, but rather what is going on around us. It has a huge impact on us whether we want it or not.
AC: What’s the last art object that you purchased?
MV: Several pieces from the installation, Jesus Had A Sister Production by Canadian artist Dana Wyse.
AC: It’s interesting, for me, that you’ve collected from another artist who recognizes the absurdity everywhere around us. While that style nods to strong graphic design and is amusingly kitschy, you express yourself with fine art painting.
What was the last show that you saw and how did you like it?
MV: Carsten Holler’s Video retrospective with Two Lightmachines. It was an interesting show. His audiovisual work often focuses on scientific and sociological experiments with animals and people. Experiments, involving for example, birds, monkeys, children, friends, and tests with psychoactive ingredients provide the subject for several of his videos.
AC: What is your favorite viewer response to your art?
MV: There is no favorite response. Every reaction is important to me. When people try to describe what they see in my paintings, I’m surprised every time! Silence is also significant. And simply — “I love it!” also.
Carol Roullard is among a generation of artists recognized by Artspace Magazine who realized their profession relatively late in life. The article likens them to a fine wine perfectly aged and ready to be decanted. Carol enlarges and translates eye-catching visual landscapes that she discovers through her scientific lens into works of art that allow her audience to see the brilliant colors, textures, and so forth, made visible to her with a microscope. In the below interview, she discusses her passion, process, experience, realization, positive vision, and more.
Art Copy: Welcome, Carol Roullard. It’s great to talk to you again. Would you like to introduce yourself further, who are you and what do you do?
Carol Roullard: Right now I am an artist, fashion designer, mad-scientist, and author. I’m having a wonderful time being able to do what I always dreamed of doing. I have a few more dreams and if I can figure out how to add them into what I am already doing, I will!
AC: Why do you do what you do?
CR: Dreams and passions can be difficult to deal with. They must be nurtured and managed or they may undermine one’s happiness. I could not allow myself to get to the end of my life without trying to fulfill my dreams. Even as a small child, I wanted to be involved in science and create art. I became very interested in artistic photography around 12 years of age. I continued through college and then let it languish. I had responsibilities. I focused on a career with stable income and health benefits. But a time came when I could afford to retire and finally take the time to do what my heart wanted to do.
AC: How do you work?
CR: My family and friends might say I’m all over the place. They might be correct. In order to stay focused and on-task, I make a ‘To Do’ list most every day. I assign the expected length of time to complete and then prioritize each task. I’m sure it seems anal, but for me it frees me up from having to remember what I need to do and prevents me from missing deadlines. I cross out each item when it is completed. This way at the end of the day, I know I’ve done something. Then the next day I have my uncompleted items and either copy them over to a new list or just add.
As for creating my art, I first research different chemicals. I need to determine if they will crystalize and if so, display color when I apply polarized light. Once I have one to play with, I experiment with different methods to grow the crystals and start viewing them through the microscope. I have my camera all set up so that if/when I find something I like, I can immediately start taking pictures. Might sound simple but I assure you it isn’t!
Many chemicals won’t crystalize. Those that do, might not be photogenic or display great colors. Those crystals that look good at low magnifications might not look artistic when using higher magnifications. And then even those that do won’t always translate into a printed piece. I have learned a lot about chemistry and making crystals. I have greatly increased my photographic, microscopy, and polarized light knowledge throughout my experience making art. I am forever looking to expand that knowledge.
AC: Do you feel that your art reflects your personality?
CR: Yes, I do. I’ve noticed personal trends. I always feel inspired by nature and gain a sense of spiritual connection. I love seeing nature’s colors and patterns, their juxtaposition, and flow. I feel intense wonderment when witnessing nature in motion, and amazement that it all exists around us. For me, life is full of opportunities to find beauty. When I first saw crystals through the microscope, I felt instantly enthralled and in love with the intensity, iridescent colors, and uniqueness. This was a hidden world that needed to be seen.
AC: How has your practice changed?
CR: My art keeps evolving. I started with four chemicals to work with and now I have more than ten-fold the number. I started creating series like my Elements in Wine and recently started my Elements of Life series, which consists of amino acid crystal images. Soon after my first exhibition, people started to encourage me to have my art on clothing. Then I was asked about having my art on cell phone cases. Recently I was selected to presenta proposal for a public arts project. All of these adventures are very exciting. I love a challenge and am excited to expand my art into these arenas.
Don’t get me wrong I love creating my art. But there is only so much I can create before my house and hard drive is filled. Part of my adventure is to find ways to do more with what I create. I recently created several collages by digitally taking parts of different pieces and combining them to form a new picture. I enjoyed the challenge and want to create more.
AC: What are some of the most inspiring things happening at present?
CR: The most recent inspiring occurrence was being selected as one of the five finalists out of more than 250 applicants nationwide for the University of Utah’s Crocker Science Center Public Art Project. Although my project was not selected, the fact that a very prestigious university’s science art committee recognized my art as worthy gave me great affirmation in the artistic and scientific value of my work. I am seriously considering looking for more public art opportunities. Proposing for public art commissions is very different to being invited into an art show. I know I still have a lot to learn.
AC: That’s fantastic, congratulations!
Would you please tell me how you view the artist’s role within their community?
CR: I might have a different view on this than others. Some people want to be at the forefront of their community and others wish to be more in the background. Everyone has his or her own comfort zone. My view is that artists should be like everyone else. They should participate in the community as they wish, subtly or substantially.
AC: Do you identify with a particular style?
CR: Art that inspires positive emotion.
AC: What’s the last art object that you purchased?
CR: My husband and I don’t travel very much but when we do we try to purchase something from a local artist or artisan. Our last trip was to Utah where we purchased a plate painted by Tom Batey.
AC: What work do you most enjoy?
CR: I enjoy the hunt for a crystal image that will become my next artistic image. I love the anticipation and excitement of searching through the crystals. And then when I find a potential image, I enjoy trying to make it work by playing with the lighting and alignment. Sometimes I’ve got it and sometimes I don’t, but I love the process.
AC: Do you have any creative habits or rituals?
CR: I let myself freely doodle, particularly during phone calls, and always make sure to have pen and paper handy. My doodles are very simple and abstract. They often cover the white space on my to-do lists. I don’t actually focus on the drawings but just let my hand freely decide the shape and size of each stroke. I have done this for many years. My daughters used to collect them thinking they were art.
AC: What was the last show that you saw and how did you like it?
CR: Recently went to the local Moorpark High Street Theater to see the musical Footloose. Thoroughly enjoyed the show. For a small town live theater, they have excellent stage shows.
AC: Do you employ specific themes and symbolism?
CR: I believe many things affect your health and well-being, including art. I wish to create art that helps people feel good, helps to heal the day’s rough edges and soothes personal pain. I want to surround myself with uplifting scenes and strive to create them. So I select crystal images that make me feel good, optimistic that tomorrow will be a good day and/or helps to calm stressful moments with the hope that they will also help others.
AC: What is your favorite viewer response to your art?
CR: I enjoy hearing from my viewers what they see in my art. And I find their responses amazing. I quite often will see a scene in the crystals, like a flower. But sometimes someone sees something totally different. Those surprises are some of my favorite responses.
AC: Could you tell me about your most memorable response to a work of art?
CR: One person told me that they were fighting a serious illness and that they found my art very soothing and improved their well-being. I was incredibly touched by this.
AC: That must have been truly gratifying, I think.
I was wondering what do you dislike about your art?
CR: The only time I ever experience a negative emotion when working on my art is when I do not find an inspiring scene in a new crystal slide. I can feel my excitement build as I put a slide with crystals on the microscope’s stage. The anticipation grows as I turn on the microscope and adjust the objective lens. And then I start searching the whole slide looking for something that moves me. I rarely find a winning picture but I usually findsomething I still find moving. So when I don’t, I feel a bit let down and dismayed but it is fleeting, as I am so grateful for all the beautiful scenes I have captured through my micro-crystal fine art.
AC: One of the things that I love about your art is they way that you transport your viewer to another beautiful universe.
What do you think that future generations will recall about the art world today?
CR: I believe future generations will look back at this time and notice the start of immense artistic diversity including the expansion of photography and digital art.
AC: Where do you find ideas for your work?
CR: Pretty much everywhere! I am constantly inspired.
AC: Do you collect anything?
CR: Yes, I collected teapots, baskets, figurines and unique plants when I was younger. But now I’m in the stage of reducing my material possessions and instead I focus on actively collecting wonderful experiences and memories.
AC: Do you have any grievances with the art world and how it operates?
CR: Just one and it might sound petty. Some people separate artists and photographers. I’m not sure if it is one side or the other or just people trying to include everyone but I consider myself an artist whose art medium is photography. It isn’t a simple art medium and for many photographers such as myself, we have to first create and then stage our subject matter and then make the camera perform according to our artistic criterion.
No, it doesn’t sound petty. When I was researching Allan Gorman, I was surprised by the lack of critical material about the hyperrealists. Big magazines like ARTnews promote this group while offering minimal commentary. I digress. I was surprised by the lack of conversation surrounding photography in the larger art world.
AC: How do you view creativity? What does being creative mean to you?
CR: Creativity is taking an opportunity or idea and building a solution or outcome. Creativity is not limited to just creating art. A singer/songwriter could come up with new lyrics or melody. A computer programmer could design and code a new application. An author, chef or scientist can all be creative.
AC: Have you always wanted to be an artist?
AC: What do you wish to communicate with your art?
CR: I wish to communicate inspiration, joy, hope, happiness, positive well-being.
AC: Thank you, Carol!
For more information about Carol Roullard, please see: