Picturing Evanston

Joanna Pinsky

What brought you to Evanston?
My late husband taught (mathematics) at Northwestern University.

How does your environment inform your art?
Evanston is an open minded and culturally interested community. I’ve lived here for so long, and it’s such a part of me that it’s hard to imagine what my work would be like if I lived somewhere else. Evanston’s proximity to Chicago is important too with easy access to great museums, galleries, and international expositions. Evanston was a perfect environment to create an art education organization. I co-founded Art Encounter with two other artists (Ellen Kamerling and Bonnie Hartenstein) 40 years ago. As Artistic Director, I engage groups in discussions of work by artists who explore diverse ideas  using different methods and materials. When you see such a variety of approaches to creative expression, it frees you to concentrate on your own individuality.

What is your medium?
I work with acrylics.  I’ve always had an interest in shaping two-dimensional pieces. For many years, I created shaped canvases over wooden stretchers; now I’m working on Gator boards which can be shaped any way I want. I also use acrylics on rectangular sheets of water-color paper.  I like the flexibility of combining very thin layers of acrylic that look like water-color with heavier textured areas.

Describe your art, in a hundred words or less.
At the moment, I am creating 2-dimentional shaped boards that resemble architectural fragments and busts of heroes. I like to hang the works in installations so that nothing is parallel or perpendicular to the floor. The arrangements give the impression that the pieces are floating in space like images that float through your mind when you are half awake. I alternate between working on shapes and on the rectangles described above.  In all my work, color is crucial. I begin with areas of under-paint, and then build up a contrasting color on top and scrape off areas of the top coat to reveal underlying colors.

What are you currently working on?
Currently I’m working on architectural fragments from Illinois and images of Abraham Lincoln. As with other heroes I’ve painted, I work from photographs of sculptures. In this way, I am interpreting an interpretation which is much like how we know history. I try to bring the sculptures to life with open eyes and different emotions. I am combining architectural fragments that are recognizable such as the Field’s clock with pieces that are more mysterious.  

Name one piece of art, by any artist, that blew your mind or otherwise inspired you.
An important influence was the first Frank Stella paintings I saw. They were relatively simple but I was knocked out by how the shapes broke bounderies and had a great presence.

Why art?
I always drew and painted and found I was most transported outside myself when working.

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