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Meet Barbara Strasen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Barbara Strasen.

Barbara, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am an artist. Like lots of artists, I always wanted to be one since childhood. I grew up in and around New York, and the arts were available and were part of daily life. In high school, I also studied music intensely (piano performance and literature) which, to this day, has somehow shaped my art-making focus. I went to college and graduated from school with a visual art focus.

I taught college and university for some years and went free-lance after moving to Los Angeles after the LA riots. Before moving, friends said, “You are like a rat jumping onto a sinking ship!”. But I love Los Angeles and am happy to be here. It’s a great city to be an artist, with more affordable workspaces than a lot of other cities, a particularly cheery attitude toward novelty, and full of dissonances and incongruities which I find nourishing.

I make art both “on spec,” where I work from a hunch or core of ideas, and for public or private commissions. My main medium is painting, painting combined with collage, as well as the use of lenticular processes where the work changes as the viewer moves.

Whichever the media, my intention is to find visual or cognitive connections between unlike images.

Has it been a smooth road?
I would never claim that it has been a smooth road. Because I am an artist and also classified a business, I need to wear multiple hats, and the only hat that really fits is that of “artist.” Learning the business part and keeping my expenses in line with my income is always a struggle. But I have been at it a long time, and every day I look over my shoulder and think “Wow, still at it!” I go to the studio each day with a plan or concept. I find that most of my best ideas occur around 4 am.

Once I begin, it’s a conversation and compromise between the idea/intention and what actually happens, what the thing looks like. Sometimes I begin the day feeling blank, but once I start fiddling around, things start to happen—ideas and forms jump out and ask for inclusion. We ALL have creative ideas that we discover once we start getting specific about giving them a form, whatever form that might be!

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I am actually most proud of keeping it going, through thick and thin. I may be most known for a certain way of combining unlike images and have had some large commissions using the lenticular format, recently filling Terminal 2 of LAX, as well as in other cities. I find that I can find plenty of ideas while at the same time working within the constraints of a commissionable situation. I am also proud of keeping to deadlines and delivering on promises. This is helpful to form bonds with the gallerists I work with, as well as the people offering commissions.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
The “business” of being an artist and it’s resulting creative output produces a visual identity. I have never been interested in limiting what I do in order to create a consistent “look” or brand. I find that an essential core of ideas and concerns, as well as built-in ways of making marks and choosing color, makes the work identifiable. I like to chase down an idea and give it form. This pretty much happens whether the work is “on spec” or related to commissions.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
My proudest moments are when my work is given wider acknowledgment. Most recently in the LA area, I was awarded a City of LA Artist Fellowship, had a solo exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art, and executed a large lenticular commission for LAX Terminal 2.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
LA Cultural Affair, Apollohuis, NL, Steve Strasen

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