Micheline Klagsbrun is a visual artist whose painting and multi-media work focuses on transformation. She studied in Paris with Alfredo Echeverria and at the Corcoran with Gene Davis and Bill Newman. She has exhibited widely, and is in private collections nationally as well as in Europe and the Middle East.
Klagsbrun was born and raised in London. A graduate of the University of Cambridge, she received a clinical doctorate in psychology (D.C.P.) from the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. Subsequently she worked at the Center of Family Research at George Washington University.
She is President and co-founder, with her husband Ken Grossinger, of CrossCurrents Foundation (CCF) which as part of its mission sponsors art to promote social justice and to heighten public engagement with key social issues.
In addition to CCF, she serves on several boards, including the Phillips Collection (DC), Transformer (DC), American University Arts Advisory Council (DC), the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School (NYC) and Telluride Arts (CO). Through the Corcoran Outreach program, she served for a number of years as a mentor for inner-city youth.
For the month of August 2019, she will be exhibiting selections from the Transit of Venus series at Gallery 81435 in Telluride. Her work is also carried by Studio Gallery (www.studiogallerydc.com), William Ris Gallery (NY) and Adah Rose Gallery (MD)>
We asked Micheline a few questions:
How has your education background in psychology influenced your art?
My work is about transformation. I allude to the everchanging cycles of life in nature and in humankind. For many years I immersed myself in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and through his stories I explored moments of transformation itself, moments of chaos when all is in flux and new forms are born. My background probably drew me to these timeless dramas of human passion. My education was in psychoanalytic psychology and therefore focused on the unconscious and on layers of consciousness. Now my work has become less narrative but it is still about the processes of change in all of us, and still very layered.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your latest body of mixed media work?
This work originated in a found object. I was hanging out in a friend’s antique store, chatting, when I saw an old musty book lying on the floor. It was an old ledger with “Transit of Venus” stamped in gold on the cover, containing observations of the 1874 Transit of Venus, a phenomenon occurring every 243 years when the planet Venus moves twice across the face of the sun. I was attracted by the title, since it combined transition/transformation with classical mythology, and proceeded to embark on a research into centuries of astronomy, dating back 5000 years ago to the Sumerians, who also observed Venus.
I take the Transit of Venus as an entry point into contemplation of a variety of inter-related phenomena, celestial and astronomical, scientific and mythological.
Ever since antiquity, astronomers have studied the 13 phases of Venus, from her rise as the morning star, to her descent into darkness and invisibility, and her re-emergence in the evening sky. These phases occur over a 19-month cycle, marking both a physical and a spiritual passage. Each phase is expressed here in a different work.
Describe your creative process:
First there is a gathering phase. I gather ideas (as I did with the Transit of Venus), thoughts, poetry, images, textures. Whatever attracts my attention. Then I start to work, but without too much planning. I let my unconscious, or the right side of my brain, take over. Typically I stop every couple of hours to engage the left side of my brain and look at what I have done so far. It’s a back-and-forth movement. I also work on several pieces at once, and typically with numerous layers.
I explore different media, always experimenting. For the Transit of Venus, I began many pieces with a 19th century photographic printing technique, cyanotype, which results in deep indigo blue backgrounds that I use to evoke the depths of cosmos and ocean. Then I went beyond the traditional use of this medium in a couple of different ways. I used it to “print” my own drawings rather than solid objects, and then I added further layers to the captured images with more drawings in ink and pencil.
My sculptural work was another result of several years of experimentation creating ephemerally light vessels composed of drawing fragments bound together in a version of papier-mache. These have evolved over the past few years into large and small-scale sculptures, many of which incorporate organic elements.
Do you collect anything?
My studio looks like a Museum of Natural History! Shells, roots, bark, mushrooms, bones, anything organic that inspires me in its form and texture. The remains of the natural world fascinate me, seem to contain supernatural significance. Also I collect ideas and books: Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings, a field guide to hybrid orchids, a scientific treatise on chimera, a book on Celestial Navigation.
What is your dream of happiness?
I feel extremely fortunate to be very happy right now. Of course I have to balance my personal happiness against the state of the world and the pain and injustice that pervade so much.
What are you most looking forward to?
There is a saying, the next painting is the best painting. I’m always looking forward to my next work.
What is your motto?
Work until you surprise yourself.