Artist Spotlight Series: Christina Burch
Those who know me will not be the slightest bit surprised by this feature. I am obsessed with skulls, craniums and the like. The work of artist Christina Burch combines this graphic skull motif with he most wonderful elements taking them from dark to etherial, beautiful and light. I am beyond enamored.
One day I hope to add her to my personal collection.
Enjoy getting to know this brilliant artist.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
What is your training?
My art training began very early. I had my first formal drawing lesson at Cheekwood in Nashville when I was five years old. It was a blind contour exercise and I found it terribly challenging to draw this lemon without looking at the paper. At home, my mother had lots of art books around the house. There was a set of books of the great museum collections that my sister and I especially liked. The Louvre, the Prado and Uffizi were some of our favorites. In second grade my older sister got in trouble at school with the principal, Sister Ann-Therese, for drawing naked people! We used to copy from paintings at home, so it was kind of funny to see the dismay it cause at school, and I think my sister was a little traumatized by the whole thing. At age eight, I began oil painting lessons and my mother was kind enough to clean up our brushes with turpentine. At school, teachers always had me painting something – tigers, Virgin Mary and religious scenes, bulletin boards and things like that. In high school I painted a lot of leather jackets and drumheads for bands. My high school teacher helped me make a portfolio and encouraged me to apply to the Rhode Island School of Design. I was accepted and attended from 1990-94, where I majored in Printmaking. After being accepted to RISD’s European Honors Program, I spend my junior year abroad in Rome, Italy, where I was given a studio, a stipend and a free pass to any museum and cultural institution in all of Italy, and time to travel. There were art history tours and visits from leading scholars and it was a quite an enriching time for a young artist to learn from the historical masters. Rome in particular is comprised of all these layers of everything from classical antiquity, to renaissance, baroque, even fascist and contemporary. The weight of all this history can be a little crushing and a huge lesson in impermanence. Later on it becomes tremendously freeing.
After graduating, I moved to New York City and worked in printmaking for a fine art press while I developed my portfolio and applied to graduate painting programs. After so much exposure to historical art, New York was where I really discovered contemporary art. New York University had a graduate painting program split between New York campus and Venice, Italy where I did my masters from 1995-98. I had a studio on Manhattan’s lower east side for ten years and began exhibiting with Voltz Clarke in 2000. In addition to visiting all the endless galleries and great museum shows in New York, I was able to attend several Venice Biennales and Documenta and to do a fair amount of traveling abroad. In my mid-thirties, I decided to study acupuncture and oriental medicine and did my second masters with Jeffery Yuen at the Swedish Institute in New York City from 2006-2009. After completing the program, I relocated to a Buddhist community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I work in a studio on ten acres of woods in the country. Most recently, my work is also being represented by Adler & Company Gallery on the west coast.
What inspires you and your designs?
I think of everything in terms of these constellations~ aesthetic constellations. In the universe of possible experience, there are infinite flavors and interrelatedness… In painting, I often combine various aesthetics like spices.
A major theme I’ve been exploring and researching for years is figuration and all the various modes and methods of figuration. A particularly fascinating niche of that is how the divine is presented figuratively, in a seemingly infinitely variety of cultural manifestations… basically, the infinitude of ways people construct their realities and depict their gods and their ideals.
Otherwise, many of the themes in my work come from Buddhist and Taoist ideas and I’m always inspired by nature, pattern and all the manifestations of color. Often I steal ideas from textiles, ceramics, folk crafts, graphic design and even poetry and films…and then I love natural forms like seashells, and flowers and birds. My work is about creating these aesthetic dimensions, so anytime I encounter a powerful aesthetic experience of any sort, a sound, a flavor, an atmosphere, that channels right into my painting.
My recent work explores the sensual and poetic dimension of figuration in painting. The new works plumb the imagination, the senses and subtle energies to penetrate life’s deeper meanings and inherent poetry. This particular approach to figuration extends beyond just anatomy or expression. The figure is being understood as a landscape of magical elements, a universe of symbolism, and a field of potent and divine energies at play. My work is very contemplative and may even be looked at as a reinterpretation of magical realism. Major artistic influences, aside from a slew of contemporary artists, include classical Italian art, Japanese aesthetics, and Tantric painting.
What is your favorite piece?
“A Trembling Moment” Christina Burch, acrylic on canvas, c. 3
How has your area or upbringing influenced your work?
Exposure through books, travel, visits to museums and art lessons nurtured my young imagination. My parents moved to Nashville, TN from New York City when I was three years old. Not only was Nashville less urban, but it was also a very big contrast, culturally in the 70s. Nashville was full of music, but didn’t offer that much in terms of visual arts, so it was a huge eye opener when I arrived at RISD. The time I spent there and later in Europe and New York was very influential. I always like to imagine that someone with a really acute eye could actually decipher all of the particular influences and geographic locations in my work.
What is your favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor?
Pacific Rim by Kana in Ann Arbor, Michigan
What is your favorite cocktail?
Campari and orange juice (especially fresh squeezed)
or Amarula shot
How do you balance personal life and work?
My studio is at home, so I have a balanced schedule and just stick to it.
I guess the main places I haven’t been that I am curious about are India and China and the Himalayan region, and a few places in the Americas.
Something meaningful, not commercial, and that would be available for public viewing…and ideally, in a really poetic setting. In the past, a very major international collector commissioned a series of paintings and gave no restrictions and total artistic freedom, and that was a big support! These things are important for the advancement of art and totally unhindered creativity.
Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?
White Lotus Farms goat cheese and goat milk soaps. The crottin cheese and rose facial bar are my favorites (Its a local Michigan farm and they do lovely artisanal cheeses, organic breads, handmade soaps and produce. https://www.whitelotusfarms.com/)
Who is your style icon?
Your favorite up and coming artist?
Well, they are pretty well established and not exactly up and coming, but the main ones I’ve been interested in and looking at lately are Sarah Sze,
and Peter Doig.
Since I moved out of the city, I’m not really up to speed on the younger generation of artists.
What is your most treasured possession?
Books~I have so many books… spiritual books, art books, literature, poetry, philosophy, medicine and so many arcane topics that are wonderful sources of inspiration for my work.
What are you reading?
“Original Innocence” – its a new book, currently available for pre-order on amazon, by a mystic farmer poet~ its wondrous!!! Very inspiring! His first book, “Eye to Form is Only Love” is also just amazing and has a lot to say to artists.
What are you listening to?
“Just a Tourist in the Woods of Nowhere” ~ a really great album, beautiful vocals and fantastic lyrics… My favorite track is #10 Temple of Ruin
What are your favorite blogs / publications?
There are a few things I follow in Facebook and sometimes I flip through the art magazines, but I’m so busy with painting these days, I honestly don’t have time for much else.
Here are a collection of pieces from her portfolio. The longer you study them the more you find and get lost within them.
this black one is my personal favorite….
How beautiful is Blair Voltz Clarke‘s portrait. Here it is hanging in her home from my visit this winter.
and another beautiful portrait by Christina…
I am not one for a portrait of myself but if I ever considered it this os the artist for me!!!!
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