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I paint to create a space “to be,” a space to reflect and connect me back to the physical world. My images spring when I pause to be “in the moment” and absorb where I am and what’s happening. When making cursory sketches or snapshots, I’m drawn especially to characteristics that transcend time and exist outside of narrative and that mix the everyday and the transcendent, the scripted and the spontaneous. The impressions are often from my travels, televised sporting events, and music or jazz performances. These set the stage, so to speak, where I distill out most referential detail and through abstraction explore the relationship of space and light in search of a simple yet pervasive expression of the experience.
Soccerscapes: FIFA World Cup Series
My series on FIFA World Cup developed as the memories from living and studying in Italy. Beyond being exposed to its great art traditions and history, I witnessed the enthusiasm building up through the matches in 1978 to Argentina’s victory, and then again in 1982 to Italy’s spectacular triumph over Germany. In these years a creative seed was planted that surfaced during the 1990s in New York.
With each new series, I shift my approach to open up new possibilities. I chose watercolor for its fluid and immediate nature, very much like the energy of the matches themselves. The event that these works spring from is full of action, an amalgam of pageantry and people, rather than a fixed moment and place. Also, unlike most of my landscapes and urbanscapes that are revisited and developed over months, these compositions are created with a self-imposed constraint that they be completed within the duration of the match.
In 1994, when USA hosted the World Cup, broadcasts of the matches were ubiquitous in delis, bodegas, and all type of workplaces, homes, and bars. The visual beauty and choreography of the matches captivated me as I was swept up in the excitement of the multinational population of New York, and I began to fill a sketchbook. I superimposed and collaged images of the fields, flags, and uniforms in ways that expanded my approach to landscape. In the following months, I revisited the images and motifs of select compositions on canvas in oil paint and eventually came to refer to these as “soccerscapes.”
Each subsequent FIFA World Cup drew me in again, and in 2006, I fully committed to capturing the individual energy, field angles, and pageantry of participant countries’ colors in each and every match. Working in the abstract tradition and using prismacolor stix and pencils, I created a series of large-scale works on paper.
Shelley Himmelstein: Born in Broomall, Pennsylvania, I have independently developed and, also, formally studied as an artist. During high school, I attended the Barnes Foundation, whose art appreciation lecture course focuses on the universal language of color, form, and texture underlying all art traditions, and emphasizes looking and learning firsthand — premises that still guide my art practice. I furthered my studies at Sarah Lawrence College (BA, Dec. 1977) and Tyler School of Art in Rome. After graduation, I moved to New York City and attended Hunter College (MFA, 1982). I continue to live and work in New York City and Italy. Regularly moving between environments, and seeking the contrapositions between them, underlies my personal approach to landscape style and imagery. My work has been exhibited in numerous shows since the 1980s. I’ve exhibited in numerous shows in New York, Italy, and Spain. My work is also featured in two monographs published by Editorial Grupo Pandora of Sevilla. Currently, I exhibit at Medialia Gallery, Sideshow, and Figureworks, among others. Significant solo exhibitions include 76 Varick Gallery (1999), Casina Pompeiana, Naples, Italy (2001), Ben Shahn Galleries, Wayne, NJ, (2003) and Magazzini Criminali, Sassuolo, Italy (2010). Selected group shows include Elizabeth Harris Gallery (1995), Rosenberg and Kaufman Gallery (1995, 1996) and NurtureArt in Brooklyn (2010). In 2001 I was awarded an art residency from the Hedda Sterne Foundation in the Springs.
- Website: http://www.shelleyhimmelstein.com/index.html