Meet & Greet – Helena

Meet & Greet - Helena Wurzel

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

Age:  32

Helena Wurzel Detail of Paints, Studio and Painting

(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.

Hot Pink Heels 2010 Oil on Canvas 16"x12"

(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.

Sapporo Ramen in Cambridge, MA

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 by HelenaWurzel

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.”

Helena Wurzel's Studio Coffeetable Books

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.

Dick in a Box So Amazing & Second Silence

(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.

Helena Wurzel's Favorite Shop

Helena Wurzel Thinking of You Painting and Palette Table

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.

This is where Helena Wurzel bikes! 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.”

Helena Wurzel's Slideshow and Searching

(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.

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Goorin Brothers

Founded in 1895 on the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Goorin Brother‘s legacy is that of old-world artistry. Goorin Bros. Hat Shop is the oldest family owned hat shop in the country. Its headquarters has since been relocated to San Francisco, CA. However, the company still believes in a timeless approach to the art of haberdashery. In its fourth generation of leadership Goorin Brothers continues the tradition of family craftsmanship and is supported by a team of individuals who share the same passion for the cultural, artistic, creative and hands on approach to this century old brand.

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

Birdcaged, netted and caught. Proudly wearing the JEANNE, a Goorin everyday fascinator & pillbox.

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

Originally sold and carted by horse, the hats now, instead, on display in windows. Each hat was begun on a custom wooden hat-blocks. Knowing that hats were an extension of one’s personality, Cassel Goorin understood that adding the right feather, sewing the right lining, angling the finished product or attaching a new ribbon would help the individual customer connect with the final form and to express his soul.

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

A leather-bound book becomes a display piece. 

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

During the 1940’s the hats could be found on the likes of businessmen to that of an outdoorsy, fishermen. Evolving from stovepipes and top-hats to headbands, in 1960, Goorin became the official headwear for the VIII Olympic Winter Games. By the 1990’s, with the onslaught of the grunge generation, hats (particularly beanies) became important again, and the Goorin Brother’s experienced a resurgence.

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

Never underestimate the power of a feather in your cap. 

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

My visit to the Goorin Brothers shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts was something akin to opening a time-capsule. Planted near the oldest University in America, Harvard Square is the perfect place for the shop to tap into its scholarly side. Displaying bowlers, cloches, flatcaps, fedoras, panamas, westerns and ballcaps, the crowd of leather-elbow-patched shoppers look right at home when the shopkeeper offered them (and me) free Whiskey Sours. With a prohibition era vibe, the storied shelving, ladders on rails, peacock feathers  milk vases and industrial decor complemented the heritage of the famed, hat handicraftsman. Hat’s off to them!

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

The scarlet and angular, leaned hat looks straight out of Janis Joplin’s seventies with the round rimmed sunglasses.  Yours truly is wearing the Evelyn Jones, an a symmetrical fedora with a 1 1/4-3 inch brim, 3 1/2 inch crown and 1 1/4 inch grosgrain band. Lined in satin with a soft grosgrain hatband.

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

Rumpelstiltskin couldn’t knit caps this find even using spools of gold. 

The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA

There was a time when neighborhood hat shops existed in just about every community in America however  a trip to your local milliner is no longer so common. Goorin Brothers wants to bring back the personalized, neighborhood approach to headgear. The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MA The Walkup / Cambridge, Harvard, MAAs Charles Dickens so aptly wrote in The Pickwick Papers, “There are very few moments in a man’s existence when he experiences so much ludicrous distress, or meets with so little charitable commiseration, as when he is in pursuit of his own hat.”