Ula Einstein (pronounced "oolah") is a New York City-based artist who is remarkably in tune with her process http://ulaeinstein.com/. I would say she does a better job at describing her work and inspirations than many artists I’ve interviewed to date. So, let’s get right to it. Here’s Ula…
“I have decided the underrepresentation of women in the art world can't stop me and that concern can't be my main focus. There is a range of global issues that require our concern. My agreement with myself and my activism is to be part of the creative solution.”
MICHAEL: Hi Ula, First of all, I love your name. Ula Einstein. It sounds like the name of a very wise and beautiful woman ... but am I more impressed by "Ula" or "Einstein"? What does your name mean to you?
ULA: Michael! Thank you and second, this might be the first time anyone has asked me what my name means to me. Usually when people comment on my name, I just respond with a smile and occasionally I twinkle, "It works for me." Thank you for even commenting on the name! I like that the two names put together have a certain blend and a creative tension. I'm a work in progress. A blend of beauty, music, rhythm, lyricism, thought, inquiry, wonder, exploring, uncovering and still becoming…
MICHAEL: Beauty, lyricism and becoming. We should all be so blessed. These are definitely among the hallmarks of your work. I also get a sense of fragility from your work. The sculptural wall hangings seem so delicate. What inspires your work?
ULA: Thank you Michael! People see the ethereal and ephemeral in the work. I am engaged with fragility and substance while exploring the connection between destruction and creation. This process is where the creative tension lies and excites me. I use new materials as well as employ discarded materials (i.e. broken eggshells).
In an expanded art practice, engaging a range of tools and materials, I am using the inspiration of the material’s quality or characteristics as a starting point; the urge to change, advance, conceal, or unconceal, as the particular work takes form, stretches materials beyond their 'original' purpose. It's as conceptual as it is visceral. My inspirations are also extracted from an array of influences (skin, spheres, lines, fossils, codes, arteries, the spine, nature, filters, water, fire, air, traces, webs, text, hybrid works, both organic and synthetic).
With gesture, drawing out and layering, material and process, revelatory of each other; making is part of the content. My installations – set fragments created in the studio, are reconfigurated in each exhibition. The parts creating a whole! In further stretching the work, I explore the paradox of destruction/creation, substance/fragility, shadow/light, rupture/repair, empty/full, conceal/reveal.
I am drawn to where the ordinary meets the sacred ... the humble to the sublime.
MICHAEL: What you just said sort of reminds me that there's nobility in almost any material, even discarded ones we feel no longer have any purpose. However, how do you tell the difference between mere material or even junk ... and art?
ULA: While I include the breadth of working with new materials as well as discarded ones, everything has a 'potential.' That's what's exciting. I don't have a fixed way of working. An idea will dictate what to use and experiment with. I work within the state of uncertainty and unknowing. That "things are rarely as they first seem" is also a strong influence for me. I try to translate this in my work. Listening for what wants to come through is important. Getting out of my own way. I don't sketch before I work. I connect directly with the material; let the process guide.
I saved broken eggshells from all the eggs I consumed for six years before I had any idea why I was collecting them. I soak them for hours to release their membrane. I didn't know they would become one of the source materials to place text in The Unwinding Destiny Project.
In my own undertaking, it's the process and mystery of transforming any material we're working with or on, which has the potential to result in art. It's a muscle that has to be exercised.
MICHAEL: Do you feel that there's inequity in the art world between male and female artists? I mean, ideally, when you look at art, if you don't know who the artist is, unless it's gender specific, does it really matter?
ULA: When you look at art and whether you're moved by it, is determined by the work, and not about gender. Agreed. Included in my experience is that gender, background and personal history bring information and an opening to what we can appreciate in a work.
Regarding inequity, there is no doubt, it's factual, inequity in the art world exists between male and female artists; from museum/gallery representation, exposure, prices commanded for the work and sales. I don't know if it's improving.
There are deep grooves in our cultural conditioning and what people will do in their beliefs and concerns for running a 'business' and how the art world operates. Women want more visibility. I can't control the prejudice or beliefs around this. And we do have unprecedented social media tools to get on the radar. So there are things we can do to help find our audience and for our audience to find us. And it happens often in surprising ways!
I have decided the underrepresentation of women in the art world can't stop me and that concern can't be my main focus. There is a range of global issues that require our concern. My agreement with myself and my activism is to be part of the creative solution. Our role in the web of influence. I am lucky to have my work exhibited, glad to learn that my work moves people, and invites questions.
The vastness of the world influences how I am multi-disciplinary in my approach to my work. I use edgy processes such as burning and blade cutting; marks that I can't take back or erase.
My need and desire to create is different than it was 14 years ago. There is so much to be curious and interested in and I'm looking at what's next to create.
Human beings have achieved so much in so many fields. Perhaps the fragility you mentioned in my work is my way of illuminating that we're vulnerable, there is so much uncertainty, a reminder to value life and not take anything for granted. The creative impulse is intrinsic to who we are.
Where the rubber meets the road is whether we are focused on our vision, being, becoming and doing our work, contributing to people’s lives, connecting, communicating, bringing beauty and provocation. No one said it would be easy.
MICHAEL: How does the inspiration to create strike you? Are you mainly motivated through your emotions, intellect or spirit while you're creating art?
ULA: The inspiration striking is fairly unpredictable. Shapes will arise while I hear music, experiencing morning shadows and light, a line I'll overhear or read in a book. An image surfacing in a dream, the processes of nature from incubation to decay, mold. Skin - the layer between the inside and the outside. The elements, especially of fire and water. Giant ice. Vestiges. Aerial views while on a plane. A broken mirror. Mistakes or accidents that occur in the work along one route, which lead to something else. Topographies. I'm inspired by certain materials I come across, to explore what I can do with it. Sometimes it's wanting to respond to anything I've seen in the arts, as if I want to dialogue with it. Today, it was seeing flute mushrooms at the Farmers Market in Union Square - their form and texture dazzled me. I stopped to photograph them. I like paint coming out of a tube. And in buckets. Spheres, vessels, and lines. I'll have an idea before I know how to execute it.
Children squealing during recess in the school playground down the block, catching something out of the corner of my eye, reflections in a window, the moon, falling snow, the ocean, bare branches and those watered smooth sands along an ocean, the space between.
My working process is organic, I'm motivated by my instinct, intuition, and emotions. I try to stay out of my own way, for something bigger to take over. A collaboration with spirit is ideal. I'm an idea person, but the intellect I hope, operates before the work and maybe while I'm looking at the work in progress. It's multi-dimensional.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world and art market and how they function today? Do you feel accepted or alienated by them?
ULA: I’ve noticed that I can't fully keep up with the art world and think I can also do my own work and live; more information deluge. How it functions? Beyond my comprehension, frankly. I can't really give an in depth comment. I make work and try to build relationships around me and with those I meet. I had three satisfying studio visits this month with art professionals. Steps and the next steps. Today, having built up steam, I will go be with my work, before I hurt someone and we can't have that!
MICHAEL: Hahaha. I totally understand. You know, so many people today don't "get" contemporary art. They think it's silly or pretentious or not relevant to their lives. What do you think about this?
ULA: Let me see. There are a lot of people who don't get a lot of things! We can't really control any of that. Education and knowledge can inform change. And we're in a left-brain, dominant culture. People have to be curious and interested and if they're not, you move along. Not everything is relevant to me either or even appealing. People not only have subjective taste, they are on different levels of consciousness, perception and world views.
MICHAEL: That’s for sure. Ula, this has been a great pleasure. You’ve done a spectacular job at describing your process.
ULA: This has been great. I've spent a lot of time pondering, writing and editing answers to your questions.
Check out Ula Einstein at http://ulaeinstein.com.