Diane Barcelowsky, is a Brooklyn-based artist and teacher, gets her inspiredation from by nature, history, social context, and literature. She teaches art at The Trevor Day School, a “green” school in upper Manhattan and also enjoys performance art. Her artwork has been featured in various magazines, including The New York Times, NY Arts Magazine and Anthem Magazine, as well as in galleries in LA, NY, Miami and Chicago among others.
Q&A With Diane Barcelowsky
What are your interests outside of art?
Literature, deep thoughts, music (both making and listening) film and video (both making and watching)
What are your inspirations for your art?
I am inspired by nature, history, social context and literature. Living in New York gives you a constant visual overload. It becomes over stimulating. This inspires me to go into a room that’s calm and cozy and create places where I would rather be. I love looking at textiles, or looking at early Asian religious artwork were the drawings and paintings are telling a story and the figures are much more cartoony then realistic. I also get a lot of inspiration from old picture books. I just got a photography book of American landscapes that was published in 1972, the colors of the leaves in the Catskills are amazing not just because they are yellow and gold from the fall but because of the camera used which cause the sun flare and pixels from the print. I’ll use these pictures as my starting point sometimes and add in a story or just take pieces of landscapes and put them all together adding things from my imagination.
What is your process when you begin to create a piece of art?
I have to make sure everything is organized before I start. I color coordinate my pens and pencils. Refill my water for the gauche. Clean all the pencil shavings from the floor from the day before get rid of all my old coffee and tea cups. I put the radio on or listen to a CD, I will listen to a CD on repeat for a whole day while working and never know how many times I went through it. The music becomes the theme to whatever series I am working on. For example I have about 10 drawings that were made while listening to a Kevin Ayers record, and another five that were made listening to Robert Wyatt and three to Tchaikovsky. I can listen to them and remember exactly where I was and what I was doing each time I hear those musicians.
Was being an artist your dream? Were you artistic as a child?
When I was little I wanted to be a clothes designer for birds and my parents gave me their blessing. I was just a really weird kid. I made thick books of birds modeling their clothes just like the JC Penney’s and Sears’s catalogues my mom use to get in the mail. I loved art but I was never that kid that could draw a perfect horse, my horse would be creepy looking wearing a neck tie playing golf or riding a moped or something. My mom always brags about an art contest I won in middle school for creating a paper Mache mask. She emphasizes that fact that it was an art award but I won because mine scared everyone that voted. In high school I had a band with five friends and recorded 4 tracks in my friend’s basement. We made videos and created record covers for our music. We listened to bands like Bikini Kill, Sonic Youth and Bauhaus. These bands taught us a lot about art. We where constantly productive and it has never stopped.
How did you begin as an professional artist?
My parents say I was always drawing. My parents have always supported my brother and me to follow our dreams. When I was in high school they let me go to Philadelphia for a summer to take photography classes at the Philadelphia Art Institute. After high school I went to the School of Visual Arts for photography and then switched to Fine Arts. Marilyn Minter curetted show for SVA seniors and she picked my friend and I (we collaborated on huge drawings playing off of exquisite corpse) The show was on Wooster St. and we wallpapered the whole back room of the gallery with drawings. We sold one piece! From then on each time a show ended, someone asked me to be in another show and kept continuing that way.
Why did you become a teacher?
For me my artwork could never be my “job”. I really isolate myself from the world when I am making art. Teaching is my job and what an amazing job it is. I have worked in places where it felt like I wasn’t growing, learning, or getting any justice out of what I was doing. Teaching changed all of this. I know how it feels to create something and feel really excited about what you’ve made. I see this in my students and push them to make mistakes and to challenge themselves while taking chances and making artistic decisions at an early age. It really bothers me when people say “I’m not arty, I can’t draw or paint”. Yes you can! Art is much more than drawing and painting and in my class art is open-ended, we dance, make videos, use wood and wire. You might not be able to make a realistic interpretation of a soda can right away but I am sure you can find what you like to do and become your own master. Plus once you practice at anything and you set goals for yourself, you’ll succeed.
The school you teach at is a GREEN school, was this important to you?
The school I teach at has been making the switch to become a GREEN school and this was something that enticed me even before accepting the job position. My students are very conscious of themselves and the world and constantly remind each other to recycle and not to waste. It’s beautiful to see our future acting so responsible! As a teacher you’re always thinking long term of what you do and what you want to see each student doing as the future of our society. It’s an important role we are both taking. I have kids that bring me in new music to listen to and show me things with new technology; you’re always up to date when you are around kids.
How do you view the world, what is your philosophy?
I am a true optimist. I try to find the best in anyone and everything.
Any other interesting facts about you?
I have a green eye and a blue eye and I was born on my dad’s birthday.