Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Hello, I'm Dr. Lisa Belisle and you are listening to, or watching, Radio Maine.  Today in the studio I have with me artist, Julia Einstein. Very nice to have you here today. 

 

Julia Einstein:

It's a pleasure to be here, Lisa. Thank you. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Well, I have to say thank you because I've been enjoying your piece, Flower Power, which is behind us, ever since it came over to our studio to await being placed on the wall. The colors are so vibrant. I love them. 

 

Julia Einstein:

Thank you that I, um, it's funny. I put together a whole series of work and I called it Flower Power. You know, it is, um, reminiscent of that tiny little icon flower from my youth. Um, and we all said flower power, but I named it that because it's a part of a series of work that I fooled around, I played with funny color schemes that perhaps I would not get to use, Otherwise. It's almost as if I thought, oh, I always wanted to put, you know, a, a sort of a poison green next to a lilac. I'll never do that. It's, it's just simply, you know, when am I going to put it in the shadow or light whatever. So I thought, no, I'll have sort of an abstracted close up set of paintings of flowers. And that way I can just have a limited color palette and get it out of my system. My artistic system. And the one that's here is more monochromatic, but it is that powerful red, um, that you really don't get to use that much when you're a painter of still life, in flowers. And I wanted that the paleness of the line to almost disappear and you sort of fool with, with, um, color combinations. And that happens in, um, I think there are three, um, flower power paintings at Portland art gallery right now. And they all have that similar idea. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Do you tend to do things in series, and explore themes? 

 

Julia Einstein: :

I do. I think it's, um, I used to think that it's a good way to work. I used to think it was, you know, I'll work on that series or, and then I'll start a new one. Or I, at one point when I was, um, making a lot of paintings, I thought, oh, I'll wait till the next series to sort of explore that idea. Or that was back when I did this in this series, but now I have several going at the same time. And, of course they, everything blends all together because it's recognizable as my work. So it's quite clear that I'm, I'm using something here and exploring it in what I think is this little box of a series, but it's also going into another part and another part and everything is in my studio before it gets put onto this wall or the wall at Portland art gallery. 

 

Julia Einstein: 

So no one, unless I spoke about it, you wouldn't necessarily say that's so distinctly different from this, you know, but it, I think, I think they are. Um, and in terms of the series currently on view for the exhibition, I call them flower portraits. They're different from this. This is sort of as if you would zoom into, um, the flower or several flowers, it's sort of like, you know, a bee coming in, you know, the portraits of flowers that are on view. They are really, really set up in front of my window and I always have a good window, um, to work from. And what you don't see are the other flowers that are just outside the frame of that canvas and, and, and the window. Um, because I do take one, put it in a vase, look at the line that it forms, look at the shadow that is cast. 

 

Julia Einstein: 

And put another one in, take it, take it out, do it, you know, and sometimes what you also don't see since we're talking about, since I'm sort of revealing behind the scenes, kind of thing is I sometimes have to prop up that flower. I might have to tape it to the edge there, because I want that turn right there. You know, so they are posed, they pose for their portrait. Um, and so they're different in that respect. And the other thing that's that they are, when I think about the term for that series portrait, and I think of a human portrait and I am face to face with that flower. So I am the artist, I have my canvas and there's my subject and it's big, you know, I make it big on that, on that canvas. And so when people come up to the canvas, they come right up to that one or two or four flowers, you know, and it's almost humanlike. It’s not really, but that's how I think of it. But yeah, those are the, those are the two, um, major series that I've been working on in the past several years. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

What is it about still life that attracts you? 

 

Julia Einstein: 

Well, I think it has to do with that act of composition. Um, so when I set up for painting, I need to capture the essence of that living thing very quickly. And I rely on everything I know about making art in a relatively short time, then I get it and then I can refine it. I can change it. I walk away from it. And now I can look at it, I've captured the essence or maybe I haven't. So I have to quickly go back, and make some decisions. So I can return to it being it, being a still life set up in my studio. And I can look at it throughout the day and say, you know, I'm gonna wait till at four o'clock light. 

 

Julia Einstein:

Um, even though you might not notice, um, notice it's not a realistically, it's not that the colors aren't realistic, they're more expressive, but it's four o'clock light as opposed to 10:30 AM light, you know, it has to do with the way the shadow hits and it has to do with the decision I make, um, on the color of the lightest part of the painting. Um, and that's what you do with still life. I mean, um, and I live with it because currently, and for most of the time I've painted, I live in the place where I make art. Sometimes I close the door, I've had studios where I can close the door, leave, then come back.

 

Julia Einstein:

But currently it's right there, not too far away from where I make coffee in the morning, you know? So it's, um, there is something about still life that works for me right now. Uh, and I know that history of still life, there's a history of still life, where you can look at an artist's work in their still life and you can see the same things and you can recognize them. I'm going to see the Matisse exhibition called the red studio and it's at the MoMA right now. And I'm lucky enough to be driving past New York city in the next couple of days. And I thought I'll have to go there. And what they've done is that they have recreated parts of that painting. They have objects and paintings that are in the painting. And so I love that kind of thing. 

 

Julia Einstein:

Cause you, you know, if you fall in love with an artist and you follow their work and you look at them in books or in museums, you know, that base, you know, that you've seen that little painting, that sketch. And so, um, that's another thing with still life too, is that I do tend to repeat my favorite face. My favorite, um, most for me is, might be a pedal, you know, I'll sort of shake the flower and have a pedal drop. But, um, yeah, I guess that there is a lot to still life that people might not know about, you know, or think about.

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

I hadn't thought about it before you mentioned it, this idea that you can have something that seems as though it is static, but by virtue of things that are happening around it, the sun going across the horizon and projecting the Ray into the room, that object actually changes. And it's, I think it's something that as people we can sort of see one another age. So we know that that's a thing. And I guess with a flower, you will see that eventually, even if you're propping it up with some, a stick and some tape , it's eventually going to droop, but even while we think something is static, it is changing. 

 

Julia Einstein: 

And that's exciting for me. Um, you know, a lot of what happens and I'm sure you've heard this before talking with artists perhaps in different ways, but there is the element of surprise. You have to be surprised. I have to be surprised. There is a certain amount of control you've put together. Um, but there has to be a bit of surprise when all of a sudden you look and you say, well, that's the stage of the flower that sort of, it has this little droop and the surprise has prompted me to do something different. Um, so there, while it seems quite static, there is that element of capturing something living that has, its essence is not going to be for long, you know? And then the other thing, when I talk about essence or capturing something that when you talk about the movement, um, both in light coming across, uh, the object and the little tiny spot that you've put together, it's like a mini interior. 

 

Julia Einstein:

Um, but there's also this word called gesture. And when I say essence, I do think, I mean gesture because I see it in the garden, where, in, where I pick the flower and that's what makes me pick the flower. Um, other people might pick a flower for its color or just the gigantic blossom it might have. But for me, I look for a certain gesture and I know that I love sort of long leggy stems. I like to have, I like to have space in between my, in my flower portraits to, to fool around with color schemes and, and, and things like that. And, and by the way, there is a progression of what happens for me too. Yes, I set up a still life. Yes, there are certain things I wait for and decisions I get to make, whether it's light or shadow reflection and all in the gesture, the essence of that subject. 

 

Julia Einstein:

Um, but then there's the painting and there's that canvas. And at a certain point, it's all about the mark, the glob of paint, what you're doing on that canvas. And, um, there is an equal amount of, um, assuredness of what you want to do. And then there's that surprise? It's like, oh, it's just, I got it right there. And it's putting two, a surface of paint where it comes together for me. Um, and then it's CR and then, uh, and then it's about the canvas and the paint. It's not even about looking at that flower beyond the canvas on the still life. And yes, people might look at my work, you know, and be attracted to the pure subject right now. I have Lilly's on view at the gallery. I have snapdragons. I have, um, delphinium so people might say, I love, I love that flower. 

 

Julia Einstein: 

That's my favorite flower, or, you know, but hopefully they'll come and they'll look at it and they'll say, or they'll sit and look at it and they'll realize, oh, the surface moves, as the light hits the surface and it goes across, it moves or as I move. And that's what a painting is, as you know, I mean, you, you're not just staring at when you're moving, you're human. So, um, that's when I think it's, it's the difference being a painter, a sculptor, or somebody who draws or, or is a print maker, it's that tactileness of paint on surface. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

It seems somehow very, the word I'm coming up with is metaphysical. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

When, and I think this is the first time that word has come to me while I've been speaking with an artist. There's something very much, very interesting about the way you're describing your own mindfulness in coming to that place of contact and commitment with the canvas, but is somehow also on the other side with the person looking at the art, pulling them into that place of contact, and then once they're in that place of contact and mindfulness, this sense of shifting and moving about, and it's, it's an interesting, I guess, conversation that I hadn't really thought about before. 

 

Julia Einstein: :

Um, you know, that's interesting that you say that because when, uh, what I also do is I'm an educator, I'm a teacher and so there is a thing called an interpretive space. So you're there, and if you enter it, um, as a viewer, as a visitor, to a museum collection, or an exhibition within a museum, or even I've worked, um, as an educator in history museums, where there are objects, you know, and things like that. And then enters a visitor, and has to make meaning if they want to, then they can go buy it. They can, you can have lots of different types of experiences in front of art. But if you really want to have that experience of, um, perhaps discovering what the artist's intent was, or discovering something new and say, I want to find out what the artist's intent was now, because I think I've discovered something here and, by the way, that can happen in a split second. And it happens in, you know, two minutes. Um, it could happen in 30 seconds, but there's something that allows you to stop. Look, notice, wonder. And if all of those things happen, then yeah, you are in part, uh, you're acting on something. Um, and when I speak about that space, it's like, when I leave my little stool or my stance at the easel. I physically leave what I'm doing. I wash my brushes. I leave. I know this sounds kind of funny, but it's almost as if I wanna fool myself into not being the artist who's making that painting because I need to sort of come back in and say, oh, oh, that's it right there. 

 

Julia Einstein:

That's it. I got it there. And I got it there. That's what I'm gonna do next. I'm gonna work on that part. So you, it's like, what is that? It's like trying not to recognize it like you, or know it, like you think, you know, it, you know? Some artists, um, turn their paintings upside down when they leave the studio. I don't do that. There's another trick of turning binoculars the other way. So you see your painting from a distance, um, so that you can make the decisions you need to make in order to finish or continue, or, you know, um, really make the central idea come through at the end, because it's not simply coloring in the colors and yes, making them balance, there has to be something else. And for me, my idea many times is, um, it's, it's sort of, I don't wanna say solitude. 

 

Julia Einstein:

There's a peacefulness, a quietness, um, that I like to sort of, I, I think my paintings have, um, even the flower power ones, there's a, you know, there's not a, there's not a glob of paint streaked across this. There it's, you know, this gentle movement of your eye going. And so that's on purpose. I think that's, that's what I think that's what my paintings are about. But yes, I do think about that space. And, you know, looking in while I'm making, making art. You know, it's funny I did this, um, we called it a “garden intervention” at the Ogunquit Museum of American art. And I thought, well, I'm gonna make it, I'm gonna stretch, um, mylar.  And I'm gonna make paintings where visitors can look in and watch me, and I can look out and see them. And, um, it, it was simply, it was doing what you, you spoke about. 

 

Julia Einstein: 

It was simply inviting, you know, there was almost making that transparency, having fun with that, that very thin little veil of, between the maker and the viewer. Um, and I enjoyed that. There was, and people said, “oh, I didn't realize that's what you do. I didn't realize that you that's how you…,” they asked all sorts of questions, but one of which was that I didn't realize that there was this frame and now that they will look behind me. And what I liked about that was that the conversations that I had that day were about making art rather than, oh, isn't that a beautiful view that you're making? Um, how long do you think it's going to take you to finish this? Or, you know, all these things are to, you know, and it was more about, I don't know, there was more, there was this immediacy and tactile kinds of questions. There was. So, yeah, I do think about that. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Well, that does sound more, relational than methodological. And, and I think what you're describing in this interpretive space, I can see a parallel, for example, in the work I do in medicine, where you have two people coming together, and they're trying to understand one another and trying to understand where each other is coming from. And, and you'll never be in that same space in that same way again. And I think that's similar to interacting with the still life on your side. The side is the maker. And then also on the side as the person looking at this piece. 

 

Julia Einstein:

I, um, I can see that., I can see exactly what you're talking about with the relationship, um, in the way that you spoke about it. Um, almost like the ephemeral quality of that, you know, there's a, there's a time that starts in your case and a time that ends and, um, you have to be with it together. If it's going to be a success, right? Um, so yeah, that's an interesting, uh, correlation. I get that. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

What is your connection to Maine?

 

Julia Einstein:

I, um, I'm new England born and raised. I started coming to Maine when I was a college kid, as many college kids do. I spent summers in Ogunquit and, um, saving money for college. And then I was that kid that I didn't leave. You know, I thought “I like it here.”  Um, in Ogunquit,  I like living, um, in, in my case, in a very small town. It was under a thousand. 

 

Julia Einstein: 

And, um, I then for many years lived in Kennebunk and I worked at the Portland Museum of Art. I worked for Historic New England where, you know, I interpreted, um, experiences for, uh, all ages up in Wiscasset. There were houses in south Berwick. And so I've come to know Maine, uh, through my work. Um, I knew Ogunquit though from being a college kid and studying art history, um, there, you know, the artists that came to Ogunquit in the early 20th century made art, his, you know, made art history books and were in, in my lectures. So when it came, I loved the idea that that's where my life ended up, you know? And, um, now I live in, I just recently moved to Raleigh, North Carolina and, um, completely different completely. And, but it's lively, it's a city, it's, um, I take an elevator down from my apartment. 

 

Julia Einstein:

 I made it completely new and different. And now, instead of planting my own flowers, I am at an artist in residence at, um, at a, at a city farm where they've allowed me to make an artist garden at the farm. And so it's lovely. I still have that, that same act of, of walking through and, and picking and gathering. Um, of course I'm here right now for the exhibition, and I'm thinking about my next series. And I took a, a very small cottage in Southport and I picked wildflowers and, and I've made the starts of the paintings that I will take back to my studio. So I feel like Maine is always going to be in my work, somehow, you know? 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

That must have been a very interesting change for you. Yes. Having spent so much time in Maine, it sounds like a very specific choice that you made. 

 

Julia Einstein: 

I did make that choice. I have family, my son and daughter-in-law, and my granddaughter are there in Raleigh. So I thought that's where, that's where I'm going to be. Um, and I did, I made, I did, I made a big change for the best 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Has that impacted your art in any way? 

 

Julia Einstein:

Um, you know, I, I think the way it's impacted my art is that people that I really don't know are seeing my work, you know, I mean, for many, many years, oh, I don't know. Maybe it's just an impression. I feel, I feel like, well, everybody knows what I, what I do, everybody. I don't why I thought that, but everybody sees what I do, but when you're in a whole new place, there's a person. And you think, oh, I have to sort of talk about what I'm doing here, because that person really doesn't know what I do. So there is that aspect of it that I think, I don't know. I think that's exciting for me. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

So you are like the flower that the sun is hitting in a different way. 

 

Julia Einstein: 

Oh, I love that. Yeah. That is me. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

And you're drawing people into this new interpretive space of your life. 

 

Julia Einstein:

Yes. That is me. And that is what I'm doing. I love that. Yeah. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So how has that manifested itself in your work with the Portland art gallery, which I know is somewhat on the newish side, it's another very specific choice that you've made. 

 

Julia Einstein: 

First of all, it is something when the gallery that has that, that is exhibiting your work, makes your work look good. And I, and I, I mean that in, in the way that the light it's well lit it's well presented. Um, even when, while I'm bringing the work in, I'm think, oh my goodness, the paint to the surface is changing as I'm carrying my canvas in, you know, and if it gets set on the wall, um, there is a, um, a, a, a responsibility to sort of bring my level of work up to meet that. And that's not taken lightly by me. And I think that last night, um, we had the opening reception of the work. And part of that is just sort of the joy of celebrating, um, a body of work created for a very, for an exhibition. 

 

Julia Einstein:

Um, but part of it is also the chance, the opportunity to simply hang out with the other artists who are on view and all of us have that same reaction of we rose to the occasion. We made that work. And each of us, of the artists that are currently on view, completely different, completely different. And each of us, um, needed to put together remarks that were set out loud in public. And I know that seems like, you know, brief remarks, they've just sort of at a gallery reception, but they were, they were meaningful and they were well put together and, and thoughtful. And I think that I know what I did as soon as I heard each person speak. I thought, I've gotta look at their work again, because what they just said about that. I need to see it. 

 

Julia Einstein:

And I think that that's what happens in a gallery, you talk about this new body of work. You write about it, you chat about it informally to the, the, the lovely people at the gallery. And they talk about it with people that have never met you and never will meet you, you know? And that's the beauty of, um, of having work in a very good gallery that they're paying attention and representing you even when you're not there and making sure that your work is seen in a good light, you know, so that's what I feel about, um, and what the Portland Art Gallery and what that level of trust and responsibility and all of that, uh, does for my, for my work. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle::

Well, I very much enjoyed our conversation today. 

 

Julia Einstein: 

Me too. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

You’ve caused me to think quite deeply, so I'm gonna have to go and, and ponder this idea of the interpretive space and the relationality of art and the artist to the viewer. So I really appreciate that. 

 

Julia Einstein:

Thanks, Lisa. I think that you are, um, there's a loveliness of this table in this space and it comes out and I've seen other interviews with artists that you have that you've made. And, um, and I think you, it was, it was great to be a part of it. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Well, I hope people take the time to go to the Portland art gallery and to, to see the work that you've put out there. And, uh, I really hope that you are able to bring people into your, um, interpretive space with, with the work that you're doing. Because I, it's, it's something that I told you. I, I came in earlier this week and I found your piece and, and I immediately felt drawn to it. So I, I think what you're describing, you've been very effective with. 

 

Julia Einstein: 

Thank you. Thanks. It's been a pleasure. 

 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I've been speaking with artist, Julia Einstein. You can find her work at the Portland art gallery and also the Portland art gallery website. I invite you to, uh, come into this space that she has created for us as viewers. I'm Dr. Lisa Beil. Thank you for listening to or watching radio Maine.