As I was born into a family of artists, there was always an expectation that visual art would be my path; you go with your strengths, and this is the form of expression that I do best, love best, and have been exploring since I was a child.
My grandfather was a well-known artist in his native Germany, his career interrupted by war, loss, and displacement, and reinvigorated afterward. He has had a strong influence on any family member who pursues visual art. Visits to the Met were frequent in my childhood, and my parents presented art making and reading as the perennial solution for indoor activity. When I was young, my father offered me a place to paint in his studio on the conditions of silence and the acceptance of criticism (and the likelihood of having to repeat an image until it was "right"). My mom, on the other hand, painted in a corner of the living room, and was more likely to compliment and encourage. I took music lessons because I had to, ballet because I loved it (until I didn’t); visual art, however, was forever.
The High School of Music and Art provided me with several teachers whose lessons still resonate today. My friends and I cut school to head to MoMA, the Met, the Guggenheim. Museums were free then, and that access was truly priceless. We sketched and discussed. Everything was a discovery: we drank in the Renaissance and Old Masters, wandered through Egypt, sketched Roman and African sculptures, and on and on.
These experiences combined to cement my resolve to be a visual artist and get a liberal arts education as well. I graduated from Cornell University, where I channeled my creative efforts into writing. I then studied at The Art Students League and the New York Studio School, before earning my MFA in painting from CUNY/Brooklyn College.
Grad school gave me the first genuine opportunity to pivot; to create art that made me uncomfortable and also gave me the freedom to discard, paint over old work, and try different things. I had to defend my efforts and choices in critiques. The cohort of MFA students and incredible professors were a terrific community for the exchange of ideas and questions, and led to the blossoming of my practice.
My subject matter and materials have changed over the years, and they have led me in a variety of directions. I work with ever greater freedom and sangfroid because I am enjoying the process; I work for myself, I create because I must. I’ve begun injecting more opinion into my pieces - the meaning may be one thing to me and signify something entirely different to someone else: I am delighted in the variety of reactions to my work.
Artist residencies and teaching have provided me with renewed interest and vigor in the making of art. My studio is something between the ‘room of one’s own’ championed by Virginia Woolf and JK Rowling’s ‘room of requirement’; I am so fortunate to have materials and light in this messy space with its one long wall to work on and four enormous windows which look out over the garment district.
Oil and Acrylic
Working with oil paint represents the slow, patient, right brain process of technique and dedication. I find that oil provides the most intense and luminous colors, the greatest range and depth of pigments of any medium I use. Oil stick allows for some of the fluidity and vigor I find in charcoal drawing, and the supports I use, whether paper, wood, or Mylar, have an influence on the appearance and feel of the paintings themselves. The speed with which acrylic paints dry makes them suitable to fast, expressive work. I often move back and forth between dry media such as charcoal and wet but quick drying acrylic. In general, I limit acrylic to black and white, although occasionally I throw some color in. This has actually begun to happen with my oils as well; one exploration informs another, and everything is a work in progress.
Charcoal, Pastel, & Erasers
Charcoal is the simplest and most elemental medium. A charred twig, lump, or stick of vine charcoal feels most like an extension of my hand. The depth of black acheived by a soft piece of compressed charcoal is sublime; smudging and erasing into that black creates yet more volume. While I love paint for its myriad color combinations and choices, this multiplicity can itself present a roadblock, the hundreds of bristles in a brush agents of distance between my hand and the image I'm making. The type of paper is as important as its size. If the paper hasn't got enough tooth or fiber to hold the pastel or charcoal mark, or I feel it is too soft or unyielding, I prime it with a gritty gesso. This allows greater flexiblility with the medium - I can smudge, erase and dig into it without the paper disintegrating in response. An eraser is as much of a mark maker as a stick of charcoal.
**Two of my drawings were purchased by the United Way of NYC for their new corporate headquarters! **
Graphite and Ink
These are, for me, largely linear. While sometimes I use graphite for its tonal qualities, my favorite use of pencils and pens is for line drawing. Having been an avid Rapidograph user for years, I find I really enjoy using fine point Sharpies, which don’t get clogged or have to be cleaned. All materials used are all of the highest professional quality. New work and work in progress can be seen on my instagram @cushla_studio
I teach privately as well as with the non-profit organization Studio In A School, in NYC, as a teaching artist. We work with school age children throughout the city, bringing a broad range of skills, enthusiasm and cultural enrichment to public school students.
I am always happy for exhibition opportunities, and welcome commissions!
NYC 2019 email@example.com