Name: Helena Wurzel (nickname: Lanie)
Location: Cambridge, MA
Jobs: Artist, Painter, Teacher at Montserrat College of Art, Artist Representative for Gamblin Oil Colors and Strathmore Paper, and Independent Contractor for Kate Spade Saturday
(top right) In Your Face, 2012, Oil on Canvas
Wurzel’s work is bright and flat reminiscent of Alex Katz or Brian Calvin. The simple, narrative and figurative vignettes offer glimpses into femininity, interiors, rituals and more using basic silhouettes, color theory and shadows. Wurzel’s canvas appears glowing and bold. In fact, some of the images only seem to consist of light and color. The heavily stylized paintings evoke hints of pop art.
(left) Hot Pink Heels, 2010, Oil on Canvas
Helena was kind enough to answer my EAT/SHOP/SEE/DO interview questions:
EAT: For a cheap eat, I love Sapporo Ramen in Porter Square. For a nicer meal, Orinoco, in Harvard Square is a gem and they have a great outdoor patio space.
SEE: I wouldn’t say that I have a favorite building, but I love fantasy house shopping. I often take walks throughout Cambridge to look at different homes. I always find something new and surprising.
Right now, Helena’s studio is also her home. She has a large desk, a paper storage rack, a palette table on wheels, and an overflowing storage closet – plain surroundings that produce such evocative pieces.
Betrayal, 2010, Oil on Canvas
The artist explains, in an interview via ArtistADay, “In the more complex scenes, the different characters are in one another’s presence, yet each is somewhat absorbed in her own quiet moment of daily living. The figures’ actions reveal the narrative. They are often caught in common private acts such as getting dressed, undressed, and looking in the mirror. I depict objects from around my home, such as my sewing machine, dress forum, and magazines to emphasize my love of fashion. I also use my own well-worn cowboy boots, sneakers, and trendy clothing to help contextualize my work in contemporary society.”
What a well studied woman – look at that stack of coffee table books! She is fascinated by Matisse, Bonnard, Van Gogh, Morandi and, of course, Alex Katz. I even see some David Hockney influences, and Vuillard’s pattern play, in her scenes.
(left) Second Silence, 2009, (right) Dick in a Box So Amazing, 2007, Oil on Canvas
The painting, above on the right, is even in the private New York City collection of Saturday Night Live cast member Andy Samberg.
SHOP: Portobello Road is my favorite boutique in the greater Boston area. They have original clothing, jewelry, and home goods. It’s a visual treat every time I go in there.
The shop is dubbed by the press as a “one-stop-shopping, boho-chic boutique for the smart set”. Portobello Road stocks carefully selected finds from around the world. You won’t spot your purchases on everyone else in town or even, maybe, the universe.
Thinking of You, 2012, Oil on Canvas
DO: The activities that I do the most frequently are: swim, cook, and read. I also love riding my bike all over Cambridge, MA.
Helena explains that her work stems from the world directly in front of her. She takes snapshots of whatever catches her eye (from friends to the changing seasons or how light moves across a surface). She reinvents the scenes in painting. Can you see how her favorite ramen shop, storefront and neighborhood’s energy seep into her canvas? She continues, “I’m interested in using the expressive potential of color as a vehicle for creating emotionally charged moods.”
(left) Slide Show, 2009, Oil on Canvas, (right) Searching, 2007, Oil on Canvas
Most recently, Helena’s ability to combine the many facets of fashion, design and lifestyle, landed her in the lap of the good, slightly off-beat folks at Kate Spade Saturday. Her work has been featured by the neo-mod brand, in the e-commerce site and Instragram channels, for its carefree attitude, and brightness. I think every brand should have their own artistic muse. Helena Wurzel’s attention to the complicated components of womanhood (including LOST DVDs, the Across the Universe Soundtrack, Sex & The City DVD, Starbucks lattes, cowboy boots, Nalgene bottles and an antiquated issue of GQ) doesn’t hurt either.
Can you spot the meticulous details? For more, head this way.