I have known Pamela Smilow and her studio, Smilow Mattiesen, for over twenty years. I have filled my home with their whimsical heartwarming artwork. I finally found a collaborative opportunity with Pamela and you can get a peek of those products below along with a thoughtful interview.
When did you decide you wanted to be a painter? Where did you learn your craft?
I never officially decided to be a painter but ever since I was very young art is what I most loved to do. My mother told me that when I went to nursery school (which was incidentally at Sarah Lawrence College) I would bee-line to the easel and spend all my time there. We always had a lot of art supplies in the house - my dad was a modern furniture designer, painter and sculptor. My mom was always big on craft projects for me and my sister. In addition, I grew up in a Frank Lloyd Wright community - architecture, art and design were quintessential elements of my childhood. My passion was always art and I just always knew that an artist is what I would be.
What mediums do you work in? Which is your favorite and why?
I have worked in a variety of mediums over the years - everything from paint, linoleum cuts, etchings, knitting, embroidery, sewing, and ceramics, and I think exploring all different types of materials and art forms is a great thing to do as an artist. I love the variety and I think one medium informs another.
Today I am primarily a painter and devote most of my time to that - but have always incorporated many different types of materials and techniques into my painting including collage elements, acrylic paint, printmaking, sewing, and writing.
How did your collaboration with Gert change your approach, process, and ultimately, your work?
Collaborations always take you places you wouldn’t go on your own and they are a wonderful exercise in letting go. I had the good fortune of having almost thirty years working alongside my husband, Danish artist Gert Mathiesen (1951-2013). He was an inspiration in his originality and passion. In addition to our own work, we had a lot of fun working together in a variety of different mediums, often literally passing the pieces back and forth. We worked on everything from large scale site-specific paintings, all sorts of mixed media prints large and small, pottery, bias reliefs in ceramics and linoleum, plaster casting, and a huge variety of small paper drawings, prints and paintings.
Although Gert’s and my work looks very different on the outside, our art actually has many points of similarity. We were both painters who painted “from the gut,” we were less interested in the conceptual and more in the primitive, and we both valued artists whose approach was raw - children’s art, self taught artists, “outsider” art. Gert was more of a storyteller in his work and I was more interested in color and composition but in the end I think our partnership had a positive and expanding effect on both of our work.
I think we definitely influenced and enriched each others work in so many ways but it would be hard for me to put it into words, especially because our collaboration went so much further than just in our art.
Who is your favorite artist if you had to name one, and why?
I love so many artists but if I had to name just one, it would definitely be Picasso. He did it all and in every medium he touched, he was phenomenal.
What is your favorite color to work with, if you had to name one, and why?
Asking if I have a favorite color is a little like asking which of my children is my favorite! I love them all! And it keeps changing. Right now I am in a pink phase. When I was young my favorite color was purple. I never had much use for green but now I consider it one of my favorite colors. I love the blues - my favorite Crayola crayon color when I was small was midnight blue. At the same time, I also love working in black and white.
What are your future goals for your work?
What are my future goals for my work - funny question! I don’t think that way. I just do. I don’t have a master plan except to keep going, keep exploring, try to stay fresh and innovative, and see where that takes me.
Stay tuned for more information about our upcoming Painters' Series Collection!