Elizabeth Ross: Your new show title Two Year, Two Coasts makes reference to the Mexico Coast and the Mendocino Coast. Could you tell me about working in Mexico and Mendocino?
Arlene Reiss: For many years I have spent a couple of winter months in Puerto Vallarta and Yelapa (a close by village).
To travel I roll large sheets of paper into a PVC pipe in order to transport the paintings. The bulk of my time in Yelapa is spent painting – every day. I work outside there. In Puerta Vallarta I work on smaller pieces and, whether in Mendocino or Mexico, I work standing as I feel more expansive that way.
ER: How do you develop an image?
Arlene Reiss: I start out by covering the painting surface with color variations in tone or with collage. Something will emerge and will pull me one way or another. There is a dynamic with the medium, with color, or with natural elements that takes me to the next stage. In Mexico I work outside and am affected by wind, water and nature. Here I am affected by the woods as well as the ocean. In my studio, before I begin to work I often look at art books or magazines to help me get into my making art space. Color is also a stimulus: setting up to work my first question to myself is “What Color”.
ER: Your paintings create a feeling of stepping into a world of color and movement. What would you like to summon from your audience in terms of experience?
AR: I find it mysterious and magical that by making marks on paper you can create a world. I really want the door open for people’s interpretations of the work while still providing a form for people to grab on to. It isn’t conscious that I create a “going into” experience but it has been said to me a number of times. Since I work intuitively, I don’t have a preconceived image when I work.
ER: Can you give more background and the role of Partners Gallery?
AR: Years ago I was to doing plein air pastel paintings. I loved being outside and using the rich colors of pastel. There came a time when my paintings seem to loose a feeling of aliveness, they lost the essence, So I took two years off of exhibiting in order to work on developing more personally expressive work. At the end of that time I had a show of abstract paintings and this was when Partners was forming: 1999. I joined and have been a Partner over these 18 years.
It is incredibly rich to work with other artists. At the gallery we are all self-determined, creating our contemporary images with our own artistic voice. The group is supportive, sustaining. The fact that I am producing abstract work in a rural environment in a gallery with other supportive artists is noteworthy. We don’t do this wonderful demanding work alone.