Selena Engelhart - Ink Drawings from my Diaries & Paintings
I am a Mexican-American artist. Born in Los Angeles, I was raised in the Bay Area. My passion is an oil painting. I call my work visual music. It comes from a non-thinking place, a place of listening. When I paint, I listen to music, which frees my mind and allows a deeper side of myself to the surface and express itself. I see, not with my physical eyes, but with my listening ears. For me, art making is a visual language. It is immediate—transcending the limits of words.
The painting has a life of its own, which I work to uncover, discover, realize. I am really just the instrument for the creative energy that moves through me. I often have multiple paintings in process at the same time. They dictate to me when they are finished. I often draw to release emotional energy that I cannot express in any other way. I aspire to generate a positive experience, inspiring myself and anyone who views my art.
Animals - dogs, deer, hoofed beasts, cows, buffalo, birds
Energy and movement - animals in motion, going places
Color, texture, wet paint, sculpture
Pen and ink drawings. This new work comes directly from my diaries.
Collage: sketches and studies in composition
1997 MFA Mills College, Oakland California
1995 Cooper Union, New York City
1992-1995 California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland CA.
Meet the Artist
Please introduce yourself and describe your work.
My name is Selena Engelhart. I was born in Los Angeles, Ca. but grew up in Berkeley. I grew up in a very creative family. My father is a Jazz pianist and composer and is world renown for his Metal Percussion Instruments. My Mexican mother is a Political Activist who has worked tirelessly her whole life for civil rights. She is also a fine cross-stitch Artist. I have two highly creative younger sisters, one who is a Singer, composer, teacher and the other is an international Sound Engineer. I studied classical piano, dance, theater, and clay, painting, and collage as I grew up in the Bay Area, immersed in a very stimulating musical and Artistic environment.
What does “being creative” mean to you?
At first, I thought I wanted to be a Classical Pianist. I had studied piano for 23 years and I was finally putting myself thru many difficult performance situations and Masterclasses, and trying my best to be a performing Artist. But I was much too nervous and I suffered too much in front of an audience , blacking out , trembling on and off stage, I soon realized that public performing was not for me.
Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
When I was 24 years old I had a break thru and started to paint.I started working with watercolor and worked from the inside out. In the quiet privacy of my home, I could look inward in a new way. Like dreams, the images that emerged were abstract and hard for me to understand. But I knew that I had to let out the bottled energy inside of me and that it was unnamable, undefinable, and unexplainable.
From that early work I began to work my way into my Self and realized that visual art provided me with a means to see myself. Later I studied in the Atelier of a wonderful painter and teacher Louise Smith. A contemporary of the Bay Area Abstract Expressionists, she introduced me to oil and that is the end of the story. I loved working with oil, its wet and sculptural nature, the blending of color, the thick paint the excitement of its movement on the canvas. I painted with Louise for several years and then decided to go to the California College of Arts and Crafts in1992. I studied 6 months on scholarship at Cooper Union School of Art in New York and finished my Master's degree in Fine Art painting at Mills College in 1997.
My work has always been about the paint. And although I have painted images of animals, dogs, dresses, and objects, my intention is to seek a strong composition of shape, color, and especially texture. I want the viewer to sense the energy of the paint. The texture is important to me.
What are you looking to communicate with your work?
In this show, I have decided to exhibit for the first time some very personal ink drawings from my diaries. These are drawings I have not shown anyone…but they are important because they have been just for me. I think it is very interesting to see the inner workings of an Artist and how she works within her inner sanctum away form the eyes of the "shoulds "of art school and the "coulds "of the art world. For this reason, I feel the need to be in a sense vulnerable with my public and share a bit of my personal life. I can not call these drawings "works" because they were just last minute thoughts. But as "sketches" they show another more personal side.
What does “being creative” mean to you?
Creativity is a big word. As human beings, we are here on Mother Earth to create. We all have the capacity to be creative. For me, the word means life -giving. I believe that color has sound. The sound makes vibrations which are interpreted by color. The more we use to color the more vibrations, music is possible. I believe in the rainbow of the waterfall. I believe in the color of the flowers and the 50 words for green in the Amazon. Creativity's greatest teacher is Mother Nature. I hope we can save her.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
My creative inspiration comes from Nature and music. I need to be around animals. So every morning I take a long walk by the bay with my dog and feel the early morning energy which is so fresh and nurturing. I am inspired by music and listen to hours of music each day. I need a lot of solitude. Some Artists are extroverts but I am not and instead get more inspired by my times alone. I think everyone has a different way of tapping into what makes them inspired. For me, it is listening to one's heart and hearing ones own voice which are most important and so hard to do in this loud bustling world we live in.
Technology is amazing as it can give us the sense that we are somewhere when we are not. But I feel there is no substitute for actually putting my bare feet on the grass and feeling the prana of the Earth soak up into my body first hand.
What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?
My advice for anyone who want s more creativity in their life today is to throw off your shoes and walk in wet grass and feel the soil. Then you are touching the true creative magma. And second... learn from the Sloth to slow down. Then you will hear yourself.