Name: Ed Ferszt
Studio location: Studio 8, Helme House, South County Art Association, Kingston
Current/upcoming exhibits: Currently exhibiting a prize-winning watercolor in the Newport Art Museum annual show
What is your background? BFA in painting, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, 1968. Master’s in Art, University of Wisconsin, 1970.
Why create art? Creating and engaging with art (for me) is fundamental to the human spirit. Art opens windows, allows us to see from different points of view, connects us with the past and propels us into the future.
What is your preferred medium? I have always worked with water based media and currently use watercolors on large sheets of watercolor paper stretched like canvas. Why? Watercolor is an underappreciated medium. It can be very powerful and requires a certain mindset. By that I mean watercolor requires you to paint what is not there in order to get at what is. It has a mind of its own. When I work with it, the watercolor and I are engaged in a kind of dialogue that leads me in directions I would never have imagined.
How would you describe your work? My current body of work is abstract and drawn from the visible world. These paintings are not “scenes” but rather more like collages of images and ideas.
What was the inspiration for a recent body of work? My last series of four paintings, spread over two years, addressed each of the four elements. Our western world interprets the elements as external physical forces that we harness to meet our needs. Consequently, each painting focused on what an element produces; fire burns and leaves charcoal, earth is plowed, water is frozen and air is now captured to make plastic bubble wrap. Each painting is a visual manifestation of the way we capture and manipulate these elements for our own purposes.
Whose work do you admire? Why? The list is long, beginning with northern European artists from the 16th century. More contemporary artists include Vija Celmins, Luc Tuymans and Gerhard Richter. They all focus on the surface of the canvas or drawing as well as drawing on their observations from the external world. They are all fearless in their pursuits and produce very powerful work.
If you could experiment in another medium, what would it be? I am really interested in site specific installations. This year Mark Bradford will represent the U.S. at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Bradford is an abstract artist whose work will certainly touch on the political and social context in which he, as an African-American artist, has always been involved in.
What is your dream project? A year ago my wife and I were in the Bahamas for the first time and we came across the roots of large uprooted pine trees on the beach. The Bahamas are prone to frequent hurricanes that literally uproot not just trees but the people as well. The roots of these trees were incredibly beautiful. As we experience the consequences of global warming, I believe a lot of people in the world are going to be uprooted. Consequently, I see these trees as an important metaphor for what is about to come. The trees would make a wonderful statement and another call to action if I could construct a location for them in the Bahamas and in places throughout the U.S.
What do you do when you’re not making art? Cook! I love cooking and eating good food.
What are you most proud of? Why? I have a painting in the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. My career as a painter began there, as did much of my adult life. Philadelphia is a wonderful city and I am so proud to be a part of its amazing cultural landscape.
Do you have a favorite local art spot? Rhode Island – like the Netherlands – has wonderful light from its proximity to the sea. I also feel very fortunate to live in this place on the East Coast of the U.S. Between Boston and Washington there are so many museums and galleries that are so easily available. One of my favorites is the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists? When I was working at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) I had a well-known artist representative tell me, “Never put anything in your portfolio that you don’t like and aren’t proud of. Someone will like it and you’ll end up making art that you don’t like.”