Q+Art: Artist Andrea Bogdan Creates Childlike Paintings with a Touch of the Absurd
LA-based artist Andrea Bogdan merges rugged texture and fantastical imagery to create expressive abstract portraits. The painter improvises her unusual works from start to finish, experimenting with different techniques to create her own visual language. Breaking the “rules” of traditional painting, Bogan spreads paint across the canvas with the side of her palm instead of a brush or palette knife.
The absence of a brush to smooth and blend creates a rustic patina that contrasts with Bogdan’s childlike yet deeply meditative work. The abstract shapes and distorted figures convey the artist’s sense of humor, imagination, and personal beliefs about human nature. “I paint the human spirit,” writes Bogdan in her artist statement. “[My figures] are imperfect living souls tethered to earth, caught in a sweet moment in time with their blemishes exposed.” Her unique style is influenced by artists known for their unaffected paintings, including the father of abstract art, Paul Klee.
Bogdan’s improvised approach allows the artist to approach her subjects with both enthusiasm and intuition. She often draws inspiration from the numerous visitors who make their way into her mezzanine studio above LA’s iconic The Last Bookstore. Welcoming both the absurd and mundane, Bogdan uses the spectrum of human emotion to create a strange and singular body of work.
In Today’s Q+Art Interview…
Andrea Bogdan discusses the enduring allure of Mata Hari, taking life advice from J.R.R Tolkien, and the necessary indulgence of falling asleep with a book in the middle of the afternoon.
What one book belongs on every artist’s shelf?
Andrea Bogdan: The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.
If you could have dinner with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?
AB: The exotic dancer Mata Hari (real name Margaretha Zelle). She had a really, really hard life, traveled a lot, broke a lot of rules, made her own way, and paid with her life, so I bet she's got stories.
What are you trying to express with your art?
AB: That none of us are perfect, and all of us are unique.
Do you prefer New York- or Chicago-style pizza?
AB: New York! The greasier, the better.
Would you work for free in exchange for exposure?
AB: I wouldn't volunteer or donate just because somebody promised me lots of eyeballs. But I DO volunteer or donate work to further the goals of not-for-profits that I believe in.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
AB: Falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon with a book. It feels so, so self-indulgent because it's only for me, and there's nothing to show for it afterwards.
What do you consider your greatest artistic achievement?
AB: A 15-year-old girl peeked through the windows of my studio one night when it was closed—she was attracted by a little pile of twinkly lights that were casting a glow on some art supplies and paintings strewn about, and she decided in that moment that she wanted to be a painter one day. She is now a senior at Otis.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
AB: "There is nothing like looking if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you are after."—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Would you rather be a historically significant or commercially successful artist?
AB: Commercially successful. It's more important to me that people connect so strongly with my artwork, in real time, that they will buy it. Buying my art is an indisputable show of appreciation, which I find very motivating, plus it allows me to keep making MORE art because it fuels my ability to produce in a real and practical way. I don't care if my art is in the history books as long as it's cherished by the people who own it.
What are you listening to in the studio right now?
AB: "Don't Let Me Run" by Blitzen Trapper.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your practice?
AB: I went into a creative coma for a few weeks in the beginning because my movement was restricted, and I could not go to my studio. I spent a lot of time being angry due to the overnight loss of income, loss of my neighborhood—all the losses. I felt very small and helpless during most of the pandemic. My work since then is mostly very small. I made a lot more fashion from small works on fabric, and that's been a blast.
How do you think the coronavirus pandemic will impact the art world in the long term?
AB: Well, people will still look at lots of art on their devices. Because of the social media algorithms, I think more and more artists are going to be labeled (based on style and identity group), and some of them will give into pressure to "fit" into a group in order to be found on the platforms. But I think a lot of the artists who don't fit neatly into a category will find some funny and surprising ways to get their work out. I also think digital art in the form of animation and storytelling will be "collected."
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist.
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