The Art Assassin 2

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang, or a portrait of the artist as a young failure…

EXCLUSIVE ASSASSINATION: Maria Schon, Artist Represented by Solar Gallery and Spanierman Gallery at East Hampton

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Photograph of Maria Schon in her studio. Courtesy of Maria Schon.
Maria Schon: Naiguata, 2006, oil on canvas, 44 by 44 inches. Courtesy of Solar Gallery.

Maria Schon, a fellow artist whom I had met at my solo show at envoy enterprises in June, creates some of the most dazzling and mesmerizing landscapes that are imbued with quiet confidence and shimmering sensuality. With curves and lines which emulates the shapes of bodies, the flavorful dance of shapes which are tinged with overtones of Latin America is filled with rhythms of passionate lovemaking between the viewer’s eyes and the hypnotic landscapes on canvas. Life!

Schon’s paintings are full of life, celebrating humanity and nature in harmonious conjunction. With that rare quality in today’s sociopolitical artwork, her work focuses on optimism and sexuality without seeming superficial or unpoised. In her profound examination of landscapes full of trees and hills with thick curves, we begin to realize how much our dehumanized lifestyles have missed the primeval touch that keeps us spontaneous. This is the emotional context that Schon conveys with her strong testimony of our need for a return back to our natural roots in life.

If you have any questions about Schon’s artwork, feel free to contact her gallery Solar Gallery at (631) 907-8422 or at Another gallery which represents her work is Spanierman Gallery LLC at East Hampton at (631) 329-9530 or at

Then on to the show and here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s latest details of this “assassination”:

qi peng:  To start off on a lighter note, what are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with fans of your work here?

Maria Schön:  There are many artists whose works I admire. My preferences are diverse, but among contemporary artists I would include Bill Viola, Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor, and April Gornik.  I also like the fun and playful works of Tony Oursler, Su-en Wong, Nestor [Ernesto?] Neto and some of Jeff Koons.

Artists whose works have most definitely influenced the direction in my work are Hopper, Diebenkorn, Hockney, Ellsworth Kelly, Botero, Marisol and Cuban-American painter Julio Larraz.

I enjoy reading all kinds of books, but my tendencies usually are books about art, art theory and psychology. Most recently I’ve read Cynthia Freeland’s  “But is it Art?”  and Sarah Thornton’s “Seven Days in the Art World.” This past winter I enjoyed the high energy spanglish prose of Junot Diaz’s “Drown” and “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”

Two films that have made an impression on me are “The Return” by Russian Film director Andrey Zvyagintsev, and Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Both films are beautifully directed and emotionally gripping. Equally powerful is Polish director Krysztof Kieslowski’s “The Decalogue” series. I also love the art direction in films by Wong Kar-Wai, and Sofia Coppola.

qi peng:  Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would  recommend to us?  What things in those shows inspired your artistic eye and tastes?

Maria Schön:  “Picasso: Mosqueteros,” late paintings and prints exhibit at Gagosian Gallery in New York City was a real treat! One would expect to see the late phase works of an artist’s career to be a more gentle and introspective expression of life, but this body of work could not be a more explosive and energetic thrashing against death.

Recently I also saw “The Luminous Landscapes of April Gornik” at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington Long Island. I love the way light emanates from within her imagery and how the large shapes in her foregrounds are rendered with abstracted pattern contradicting the realistic treatment of her backgrounds. I think that this reversal of what one would normally expect with the treatment of foreground and background in perspective contributes a great deal to the surreal quality of her work. This beautiful show is on view until July 5th.

qi peng:  What is your opinion of art world journalism?

Maria Schön:  I feel that reviewers are generally reluctant to state an opinion and prefer instead to indulge in nuanced description.

qi peng:  Do you read periodicals such as ArtForum or ARTnews to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world?

Maria Schön:  Once in a while I pick up  ArtForum to skim through the articles and check out what Tim Griffin and his ArtForum contributers currently validate as worthy artistic inquiry. But I generally prefer reading ARTNEXUS and Modern Painters.

qi peng:  Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis?

Maria Schön:  Besides the, I have begun to follow Camilla Fallon’s reviews on I also enjoy reading Kathryn Markel’s “Markel Fine Arts Newsletter,” and  The New York Times blog “ArtsBeat

qi peng:  Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like Santa Fe or Denver will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City?

Maria Schön:  I am not familiar with the art markets in Santa Fe or Denver, so I am reluctant to speculate on what may happen there, but I have paid some attention to the art markets in Chicago and Miami and it is my impression that they take more risks and offer more opportunities for artists of all levels and directions to exhibit their work. For me this makes their art markets vibrant and exciting hot spots on their own. But New York City and Los Angeles I believe will always dominate the stage for the consecration of artists and art trends in this country.

qi peng:  What do you think is the current state of contemporary art within the Sagaponack, New York area where you are located?

Maria Schön:  The Hamptons is close enough to New York City for a day trip to visit galleries and museums and quaint enough to offer the space and solitude to develop work. This community is home to many artists including many of today’s art stars recognized and respected by the New York and international art world. We are fortunate to have two art museums – Southampton’s Parrish Art Museum and East Hampton’s Guild Hall. These institutions make an effort to showcase the works of not only well known established artists but the works of regional artists as well. Our local galleries mostly focus on works by regional artists, many of whom draw inspiration for their works from the unique light and atmosphere of eastern Long Island.

qi peng:  Is it difficult to sell conceptual art and large-scale installation pieces to the public, particularly during this slow economy?

Maria Schön:  With our economy in shambles and so many social needs at the top of the list, I think that funding for the arts in the next couple of years unfortunately may take a back step to all other matters and make it an even greater challenge not just for conceptual artist but all artists to obtain the resources and support needed to develop and exhibit their works.

qi peng:  How do you feel that the current economic recession has impacted the contemporary art market and the way that it functions in the larger national economy?

Maria Schön:  We are seeing the repercussions of this recession in the contemporary art market as galleries fold and artists loose their funding and studio space. I believe that established artists will continue to remain commodities to wealthy collectors and institutions even during times of recession. But those in the art world who will likely suffer the brunt of this economic downturn will probably be emerging artists as they struggle to maintain their studio practice.

qi peng:  Do you feel that artists will be pursuing more personal and intimate projects than the overly commercial work, typically geared for the art fairs, during the upcoming years?

Maria Schön:  In my view, art fairs have become predictable and formulaic, showcasing the same art and artists over and over again. Each year I come away from these art extravaganza events with the hollow feeling of having been subjected to a super hyped up bazaar. Artists attend these events in the frenetic pursuit of “hot trends.” But art fairs – at least the ones I experience in New York – have become more a place for commerce than predictors of innovative trends. It would be interesting to see artists take a “time-out” from the art fair scene and see what they can come up with using the limited resources of the times and their own introspection.

qi peng:  How do you think that galleries and non-profits will be coping with the dramatic shifts within the political and corporate culture, particularly in America?

Maria Schön:  There is no doubt that the way the art market functions will have to change to adapt to lean times. But I hope that this does not result in a stagnant atmosphere where artists, galleries and museums become adverse to risk, innovation and inclusiveness. It would be a calamity to contemporary art culture and a loss to all.

qi peng:  Do you have any thoughts about the current state of the stock market and its concomitant corruption?

Maria Schön:  I am disgusted with the greed, arrogance and irresponsibility of our banking, investment and regulatory systems. I could go on and on …

qi peng:  Any thoughts on the Obama administration in relation to your viewpoint on history, social identity, and the arts scene?

Maria Schön:  We are lucky at this critical time in our history to have elected a president who has the intellectual ability to understand the issues on an objective level. I respect the enormous efforts that Obama and his administration will have to make in order to implement the many necessary changes to rebuild our economy and infrastructure.. It was clear to me the night of the elections – when Obama addressed the nation with his acceptance speech in Chicago – that we had suddenly entered a new era of dramatic and sobering change.

qi peng:  Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Sagaponack or New York area or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us?

Maria Schön:  A place in the Hampton’s that is beautiful and a lot of fun is Sunset Beach hotel and restaurant overlooking Shelter Island Bay on Crescent Beach. It has an easy laid back feel to it but it is also very cool, trendy and chic. Shelter Island is just a five minute ferry ride from Sag Harbor. There is a popular French beachside restaurant at Sunset Beach, and on a hot summer day it is always fun to go there to watch the sunset while enjoying a refreshing cocktail and dinner.

qi peng:  What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Maria Schön:  I love to be close to the ocean and bay and to enjoy the nature and beauty of this place. But winter months can be a little too quiet and isolating.

qi peng:  As a past student at The Maryland Institute College of Art and then New York University, what were those school years like? How was life in the studio back then?

Maria Schön:  The seventies was a quiet and cynical time. Other than the recession and the oil embargo, it felt like not much was happening. Baltimore was seedy and depressed. For entertainment there was the Pink Hippo disco downtown, Fells Point in the Inner Harbor for Maryland seafood and Mount Royal Tavern. Many Institute students hung around John Waters and his crowd.

As young artists, we were looking for inspiration and the next big art trend beyond Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism. Painting was still alive at the Institute and conceptual art was starting to catch on. Fellow classmates Jeff Koons and Donald Baechler were then future art stars in the making.

Studio life was heavy with the scent of turpentine! There was an “anything goes attitude” to the work. Next to my space a fellow classmate splattered paint violently everywhere as he painted his neo-expressionistic “Wife Beater” series. On the other side of me another classmate spent a lot of time contemplating his minimal conceptual series of large scale white paintings with nothing more than a tiny line of color running horizontally across the middle of his canvases. My work in the studio was about finding my own personal voice within the color bands of large minimalist landscapes.

After graduation I moved to New York City. The eighties was a time of transition. The economy was on the up-swing and the art world was suddenly coming back to life. Warhol and his friends Basquiat and Haring were now huge art stars. The Mary Boone Gallery was new and hot. So were Schnabel, Fischl, Salle, and Clemente. There was Studio 54, Area night club and Madonna. It was a time of growth and new possibilities.

During that time I read Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Massage,” and thought that I might explore video and multi media art. I signed up for an NYU summer intensive in video and television production, but unfortunately the course was dropped for lack of enrollment, so I switched to the NYU film production summer intensive after which I somehow ended up at the Grad Film School. Three years of production back to back. I had the good fortune to work on student films by fellow classmates Spike Lee and Ang Lee. NYU Film School was an intense and rewarding education. While I did not go on to explore video and multi media as initially intended, I would say that my film studies came to influence the way that I conceptualize the sequential considerations in my works.

qi peng:  Did you have any influential professors or students during that time and what was their impact on you and your work?

Maria Schön:  I took a lot of drawing at the Institute with Albert Sangiamo.  His classes taught me the basics of composition and the importance of giving equal consideration to negative and positive space. I learned to be an expressive painter with Raoul Middleman. And Sharon YatesPlain Air painting class taught me how to see and make decisions about color and to emphasize light and shadows for spacial dimension.  The Institute taught me well about the craft and formal considerations in painting.

During my junior year I went to Cooper Union for a semester as an exchange student. While there I took Hans Haacke’s Advanced Studio Seminar. The approach to the critiquing of work was very different than what I had previously experienced at the Institute. Haacke and his students were deep into conceptual art, analyzing work strictly from the perspective of content and theory.

qi peng:  How did you develop your painterly style of biomorphic landscapes that reflect your Venezuelan heritage? How do you infuse the sensual and sexual within those pieces using the power of memory and consciousness?

Maria Schön:  When I was a kid in Venezuela, my family would take us to spend summers in Chichiriviche, a picturesque ocean side fishing village about seven hours drive from Caracas. The trip to this place was a long and hot odyssey. Lots of time for us kids to fantasize and daydream while gazing out the back seat window of the car, visually absorbing the endless unfolding landscape of mountains, valleys and seascapes. Along the way we would pass a pair of large rounded mountains called “Las Tetas de Hilaria.” Translation: “ Hilaria’s Breasts.” The explanation for this erotic and sensual interpretation and naming of this voluptuous pair of land masses was that Indians who had lived in the area long ago believed that mountains were the protruding body parts of sleeping giants. Based on this surreal and fantastical way of interpreting and relating to nature, the round voluptuous shapes in my landscapes became symbolic representations for female and male forms.

The erotic and sensual suggestions infused within my imagery aim to correlate our visual and emotional response to the shapes that we see in landscapes with subconscious primal memories of a time when our sense of place was within the gentle curves of nature.

qi peng:  Do you have any favorite hobbies which you enjoy in your spare time?

Maria Schön:  I have always drawn inspiration from landscapes and nature so naturally I like to garden. It is like landscape painting on a larger scale.

qi peng:  How do these activities inform the studio work?

Maria Schön:  I started gardening when my daughter was an infant. During that time my circumstances had me without money for supplies and studio space. So I turned to gardening while my daughter napped as a way to remain creative. It was an incredible meditation that helped me remain grounded and focused. A few years later I began to paint very ornate and elaborate floral paintings. My daughter was no longer an infant but circumstances had continued to make life challenging for me. So I guess this imagery evolved out of a subconscious need to create beauty and order out of chaos.

qi peng:  What is the family experience like over where you are at?

Maria Schön: The Hamptons  is a great place to raise children. It is also a great place to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and ocean permeated air.

qi peng:  In your statement, you allude to “voluptuous mountains, fertile valleys and warm turquoise waters” as the basis for creating the concept of your imaginary landscapes. Which artists influenced your fascinating and delicious shapes that resemble something like a hybrid between Botero and April Gornik?

Maria Schön:  For me there is nothing more formally appealing than the voluptuous shapes in Botero’s sculptures and paintings. I am also inspired by the luminous and mystic qualities emanating out of April Gornik’s landscapes. But sometime in the late 90‘s my work took on a clear visual and emotional direction after I discovered the work of Miami based Cuban artists Julio Larraz. His atmospheric paintings of empty rooms with large open windows overlooking the immense turquoise waters of the Caribbean sea, is a recurring motif that reflects a sense of displacement and longing that resonates visually and emotionally with me.

qi peng:  How do you use the properties of light to delineate the structures of the foliage and stony hills?

Maria Schön:  Decisions about the direction and quality of light in my imagery work to articulate the highlighted and shadowed areas in my compositions. This in turn creates the perception of three dimensional forms and plains.

qi peng:  Your landscapes seem to have the influence of hard-edge painting, particularly Ellsworth Kelly in terms of the use of sharply defined curves and abstracted division of the plane of the canvas. Are there overtones of minimalism in addition to expressionism with how you deal with simplifying the complex photographic details of your landscapes?

Maria Schön:   Like hard-edge painters, I like to play with the sharpness and color transitions along the edges of my forms. I also draw a reductive menu from minimalism, stripping down my forms to their most essential features and rendering them with as minimal detail as possible to the point where they can still evoke a sense of realism.

qi peng:  How do you develop a landscape from start to finish?

Maria Schön:  My conceptual approach to the work is influenced by my experience with film. It begins with imagery designed to visually sequence the imagery within previous and subsequent paintings in the collection – like a scenic storyboard that unfolds as a continuous visual narrative.

Technical execution follows with line drawings on paper transfered to my painting surface. Then I begin to fill in areas with layers of acrylic paint – usually a complimentary color to the oil color that I ultimately intend to assign to that area. I proceed to build my paintings through multiple layers of oil paint until the colors and textures within this image has reached a level of luminous complexity that communicates my vision.

qi peng:  How do you title your paintings and works on paper?

Maria Schön:  My tendency with these collections are to assign Venezuelan Indian names for the paintings and numbers for the works on paper.

qi peng:  I feel that they are rather evocative in its sense of exotic travel with nomenclature such as “Sanare” or “Matakuni.” Do you consider these one or two word descriptions to be a form of haiku that tries to capture the essence of what you want the viewer to see within a particular scene?

Maria Schön:  I don’t know the actual meaning of these words or names. They originate from ancient Caribe tribes that lived along the coast of Venezuela. My intention is for the exotic and melodic sounds of these names, along with the evocative imagery within the work, to inspire viewers to seek their own subconscious familiarity with the physical and emotional space being portrayed.

qi peng:  Also do you have any poets or writers that you are inspired by?

Maria Schön:  I enjoy Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ability to capture mood and portray melancholy through his unique cinematic style of magic realism .

qi peng:  Like the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, do you use the names of places to reflect a historical and cultural connection?

Maria Schön:  I suppose I do. The Indian names that I assign to my works are the actual names of towns, villages and rivers in Venezuela. Also, many residential buildings in Caracas are given these indian names.  I feel an emotional connection, attachment and familiarity with the exotic melodic sound of these names. In some way they represent for me a kind of primal language – sounds from my early childhood. They remind me of the physical and emotional space that I – in some way, shape or form – have originated from.

qi peng:  Are there any places which you would like to travel someday to?

Maria Schön:  South East Asia! Primarily China and Vietnam. I would love to see Anji – the largest bamboo forest in China and Halong Bay in Vietnam.

qi peng:  Which places would you find inspiring to see?

Maria Schön:  I  am drawn to places where nature has not been touched by the expression of human culture. To name just a few… places like Angel Falls and Canaima National Park in Venezuela, the Grand Canyon, the Red Wood Forest and Mount Everest in the Himalaya mountains.

But I would also find it awe inspiring to see places where man has in some way communed with nature such as Walter de Maria’s Lightning Field, James Turrell’s Roden Crater Project, and Machu Picchu in Peru.

It would be amazing to see Earth from the perspective of the Moon!

qi peng:  Do you incorporate the idea of travel within any of your pieces?

Maria Schön:  Yes. Travel back in time and also travel forward in time.

qi peng:  In what ways does the concept of travel relate to the institution of travel agencies and the lack of a polar focus within today’s shifting world views?

Maria Schön: I haven’t really thought about that.

qi peng:   You have exhibited in quite a few galleries throughout your career ranging from Solar Gallery and Spanierman Gallery, which represent your work, to Arlene Bujese Gallery. What has the experience been like to show throughout the Hamptons?

Maria Schön:  I have been very fortunate to enjoy this kind of gallery representation because my work is quite different than work that is typically shown and collected in this area.

qi peng:  How does the art scene differ from that of the New York City gallery scene?

Maria Schön:  The art scene in New York City is by contrast much more vigorous and intense than the art scene in the Hamptons.

qi peng:  How do you consider yourself to be a colorist?

Maria Schön:  Color is an essential component in my work. It is used to communicate light, mood, atmosphere, and to emphasize form within dimensional space.

qi peng:  Do you plan the color palette before you embark on a certain piece?

Maria Schön:  I do at first. But then there is a moment in the development of a painting where I have to let go and allow instinct to drive the direction of the work. For me this is when a painting starts to breathe and come to life.

qi peng:  In what way do you attempt to correlate the exact tone of a certain part of the landscape to the manner a viewer would perceive the locale of a particular time and historical context.

Maria Schön:  I try to portray a physical and emotional space that reaches viewers at a level of deep – you might say cellular – memory, as though tapping into memories of primordial experience.

qi peng:  In what way does your use of colorful tones reflect an ongoing interest in your own heritage?

Maria Schön: The shapes, colors and textures in my imagery help me meld the perception between past and present, between here and there, and to bridge the gap between the two worlds.

qi peng:  Do you have anything else which you would like to share with readers and fans of your landscape artwork and your exhibitions here?

Maria Schön: To think about my work as I respond to your questions has been fun and educational. Thank you Qi.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

July 25, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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