Artist of the Month: Alice Zilberberg

Interviewed by Samantha Rodin

 

Alice Zilberberg is an award-winning photographer and visual artist, born in Estonia, raised in Israel, and now based in Toronto, Canada. A graduate of Ryerson University’s Photography program, she has exhibited in galleries across Canada, the US and Japan, and published internationally, most recently in PHOTO+ Magazine in Seoul, Korea. Her work has sold in auction houses and charity auctions, including Waddingtons, Snap! and ORT.

 

1.       In your LaVaLab profile, you say that your work marries reality and fantasy and explores the intersection between femininity and the essence of female power linked to the natural environment. Can you elaborate on the concepts driving your work?

 

I’ve been painting and drawing since I was a child, and have always been drawn to surreal imagery. When I started studying photography, I saw that I could manipulate images digitally to combine painting and photography to create a new style of art. I’ve been working in this style ever since.

 

The themes in my work often stem from research focused on female characters from folklore or mythology. The series Goddess Almighty is a reinterpretation of the first recorded goddess, Mother Nature. Worshipped in a time when nature was depended upon and respected, she epitomized fertility, the life cycle and sexual freedom, all embodied in a woman. Today, by contrast, we domineer and destroy nature. Our primary religions convey god as a man and traditionally devalue women. Reminiscent of baroque art, the work reestablishes the goddess to her origins, defining her as strong, mysterious and defeating. Dancers are used for their physical strength, their muscles digitally exaggerated.

 

Alice Zilberberg,Goddess of Nature with wings, Photography Smooth Pearl Print, 20” X 26” (edition of 10), 2012

 

 

2.       How has living, exhibiting, selling and publishing in many different countries around the world influenced the art you make? Both in your choice of medium and subject matter.

 

Living and traveling to different places informs my work in a variety of ways. I believe interacting with different cultures and people introduces points of view one wouldn’t otherwise experience. My recent project, Home, is a good example of this.

 

Home is a reflection of my personal background. The landscapes are composited from the two countries that comprise my inherited, and experienced, identity: Israel and Canada. The bottom half of this image was photographed in Israel, the country I grew up in, while the sky was shot in Canada, the country I currently reside in. The project was influenced by a trip I took to Israel in the summer of 2013, A place I missed very much and hadn’t visited since I was 11 years old, To my surprise, although the environment and even the air made me feel like I was finally home, socially, I felt in some ways different from fellow Israelis. In Israel I was Canadian, and in Canada I was Israeli.  After coming back to Canada, I realized that both countries, and neither, are my home. This project is the processing of my story. The landscapes are digitally manipulated to appear otherworldly, like a different planet, representing a place I am estranged from. In them I see a familiarity, a place that is so beautiful, that has recognizable features, but somewhere I feel alien.

 

Alice Zilberberg,Salmon sky over mountains of my foreign Homeland, Epson Metallic Lustre print, 21” X 40” (edition of 20), 2014

 

 

3.       Can you tell us about your creative process?

 

I start by generating ideas, which come from different sources. Books, podcasts, traveling, art galleries, talking, laughing, sitting doing nothing, are all potential sources. The complete artistic concept doesn’t come spontaneously, and never in front of a blank page titled “ideas”. In reality, half ideas merge with something else in the future to create something innovative. I also make myself write 10 Ideas a day to generate ideas. I keep an inspiration images folder with art I like and I always have a list of visual ideas I want to try, (e.g. certain lighting) that I keep written down in Evernote. I then take this stem and proceed to do the necessary research, which varies with each project but always with the intention of developing the story and a clear concept behind the work. All the pieces of information would stew in my project soup until it’s clear what I’m trying to do. Next step is doing some sketches and tests of the idea to see if it will work. I often use paintings as inspiration for my art, and the conversation to photography can be harder than you’d think. I will do a quick photo-manipulation with images, see what I need to add, change, subtract.

 

Next, I’ll do a day of location scouting, and go to different potential locations to see if any of them are good for my artwork, take some photos, go home and review. The models I choose are also very specific to each project and need to be carefully picked to fit the concept. Next I do a test shoot, and then the actual shoot, where I book the model, hair, makeup, and whoever else is needed. After the shoot I bring the images into Photoshop. I select the best images from the shoot, followed by some quick composites, and then I will start working on the real thing. There usually is a lot of image compositing and photo-manipulation involved, which could take days, weeks or months to do. After I finish working on a piece I will have to put it away and take a break from it for a few days to a week, coming back to it with a fresh eye to do any final fixes. After I’ve put a finished label on it I make decisions about sizes, editions, paper, framing, and presentation before I finally put it on a wall.

 

Alice Zilberberg, Rapunzel, Photography C-Print, 20” X 26” (edition of 15) & 11” X 14”(edition of 15), 2010

 

 

4.       Who are your mentors? Has anyone in particular guided you through your process and professional art practice as a whole?

 

I’ve had many people influence and guide me through my practice. It’s the accumulation of many people that together have helped me continue to make the art I do today. Some have been my professors through my education at Ryerson, and some were photographers I’ve worked and assisted throughout the years. The continued support from my family, and in particular my mom has allowed me to continue to do what I love.

 

I have a lot of virtual mentors as well. I try to read many non-fiction books and listen to podcasts with world-class performers. I take the ideas I think will work for me and incorporate them into my life and my art.

 

5.       What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

 

Among much advice, I have to stress the importance of always continuing to learn and exercising your curiosity as much as possible. Asking lots of questions makes your life more interesting and your art more dynamic as a result.

 

I started a blog full of advice for creative people right at http://www.alicezilberberg.com/blog.

 

6.       How can we learn more and keep up with your latest work?

 

Best place is http://www.alicezilberberg.com along with my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/alicezilberbergphotography and Instagram @alicezilberberg.

 

See Alice Zilberberg’s LaVaLab profile at http://lavalab.ca/artist/368.   


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