Five questions to Dorothea Osborn

Five questions to Dorothea Osborn

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Dorothea Osborn was born in upstate New York (Albany) and grew up in a small rural town called South Bethlehem. She currently lives and works in her studio in Delmar NY in a small area under a bridge, next to a creek called Normansville (and not so lovingly, called Trollsville). Her artistic background started as a babe, when she would paint with anything she got her hands on, including walls. Excelling in art throughout childhood and teen-age years, she went on to pursue art in College at Sage Junior College and then transferred to a four-year institution in Buffalo. She completed her MFA some years later at the the University of New York at New Paltz over the course of eight years. She has won numerous awards, fellowships, and commissions and hopes to bring pleasure to others through art.  

How did you get into art?

Hmmm… I know I never had a choice. I was told I would paint walls as a babe, a third-grade teacher would comment on my art work as we had “art class” in the cafeteria, and my Middle school teacher made a spectacle out of me with an album cover I designed. In high school my art teacher encouraged me to go to college for art, even though no one in my family ever dreamed of going to college, needless to say art. Needless to say, this is the path I was destined for. The erudition was the stimulus. 

How would you describe your style? What makes your work special?

I would say my style is tension between abstraction and realism. I often use symbolism in my work, as well. I work across disciplines such as painting, collage, fiber and sculpture. In part my work stems from the use of dichotomies: Spirituality/materialism, men/women (recently, intensely investigating eco-feminism). The work has these common threads, whether its mixed media oils, or sculptural. I liken to call the work I’m currently producing as sculptural paintings. What makes my current work special is the experience that viewers take away from the work. The work is interactive and respond differently to each space they are exhibited in.The work is interactive with the scent, sound, and physicality that impinges upon the viewers space. The viewers question their own relationship to the work. I want the viewers to be able to respond to the work in various ways. 

How do you go about developing your work?

I talk a lot of photographs for reference. I start out intuitively and get a composition down on the surface (for relatively flat pieces) For the sculptural pieces, I allow the fabric and materials to dictate the course of action. At times, I’ll dye or paint the fabrics ahead of construction. I really enjoy the process of adding/deleting/editing. This occurs with repeated scraping, tearing, building marks, deconstructing and reconstruction…repeatedly. 

Some pieces have been upcycled to new work (I’m passionate about sustainability and non-material life style. So, I reuse much of what I have and will shop estate sales, thrift shops, etc ).

Who or what influences you?

As an individual who values erudition, I investigate a lot of writings by artists, philosophers, and other academics. I am highly influenced by my experiences, memories, and how they pertain to the subjects I’m interested in. For example, I recently had a museum exhibit where I investigated my father’s ancestry (being the oldest continuous English family in the US) and tied it to ecofeminism. I learned a lot about the early ships to the US , the people that settled on the east coast, and their trajectory. 

There is no really specific artists that inspire me because there are so many I love; a few that inspire or have in the past include: Diebenkorn, Rauschenberg, O’Keeffe, Turner… Of course contemporary artist inspire me, as well, for example: Suzanne Jackson!

Make us curious. What are you planning to do next?

I am planning on creating work on translucent materials to produce an visual experience of seeing/not seeing. I am in the process of applying or grants to help fund this work. I am currently working on a commission piece that was offered by a gallery. This was serendipitous, as my work was in this gallery and a patron saw the piece and wanted a commission piece in the style of mark-making to gift to another individual. I am also planning on a residency where I can just focus on my work without the pressures of everyday life. 

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