We sit down for a conversation with Suzy Birstein
A glimpse into the colorful, musical world of Suzy Birstein
I love art that combines light and darkness, lightness and heaviness, and your work is full of satisfying balances: your figures are joyful but with a pensiveness that borders on melancholy, and they exude great strength with hints of vulnerability. Do you think about creating balance, or is it a natural part of your storytelling gifts?
I am so happy you get the emotional content of my work. I don’t consciously work to create this balance. It truly is from within and based on maintaining my own emotional balance, I imagine. The latest pieces especially from the Tsipora series.
Tsipora is my Hebrew name meaning bird
These pieces are about love, loss and longing - transcending into a state of living in the moment with deeper appreciation, compassion, and generosity.
Your work seems alive with music and dancing motion. What do you listen to while you create?
As I child, I wanted to be a dancer and movie star. Not one acting lesson but I did study tap, ballet, acrobatics and jazz.
I chose to pursue visual arts but the sense of dance has always been with me. I am happy it translates into my art!
I listen to Frank Sinatra, the Rat Pack, Ella Fitsgerald, Eartha Kitt. Jazz, tango, blues & opera, Hollywood musicals. I love Johnny Short, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen & Paulo Conte.
I have been tapping with a small company for 10 years.
I have a video on my website – “My D’lovely Fever” – where I am tap dancing with my life size sculptures.
The studio is my happy place – I definitely create to the music!
I have to ask about the Motion Pitchers, which were commissioned for the Academy Awards Swag bags in 2006. How did that come about? Did you create the pieces specifically for the awards?
In 2007 I received an email from a woman at “Everyone wins at the Oscars” asking if I would like to create art for the Latin Grammies. She was searching for Mexican Art and my name came up! She was intrigued to have this non Mexican name show up, looked at my website and saw my connection to Mexican art and culture.
At the time, I was producing work for a solo exhibit, the tap dance video, teaching, parenting…. And could not meet the timeline. However, I had a great rapport with this woman as we are both Hollywood buffs.
She asked if I would prefer a longer timeline and could I create something for the 2008 Academy Awards instead!
My parents had just given me my long lost autographed photos from movie stars – I used to write to movie stars when I was a child, inviting them to sleep on our couch if they came to Toronto …
I thought it was very serendipitous that she was calling just as I’d hung the photos in my studio and so, accepted the offer.
The idea of “Motion Pitchers” came from the ask. I loved the play on words and at that time I was creating a lot of one of a kind pottery pieces.
You have a lot of press coverage in print, TV and radio. Did you work to make that happen or did they find you? Do you have any advice to fellow artists on how to get the word out about their work?
Most of my press coverage has come to me through word of mouth (the graciousness of the art community), being in an exhibit, or associated with an organization or art walk.
However, the huge press I received for “Motion Pitchers” did not just fall into my lap. I was advised by Kristina at “Everyone wins at the Oscars” to hire a press agent. Lynne McNamara who was the film writer for our local Vancouver paper suggested Julia Frittaion, a brilliant film publicist. I had spoken with an art publicist and she did not think this was a story! But Julia was so on this! I think this was a pet story for her – she got me every level of media available – including Japanese airline, Asian TV, Elle Canada Mag and more…
If one can afford it, I think a press agent is great – especially for a newsworthy event. Mostly now I think artists use social media and take courses to really know how to take advantage of this.
I do not find paid advertising to be worthwhile. Making personal connections and networking has always worked best for me and following up on leads.
Of course, you always have to be working at your art so you have something you so believe in and can stand behind. Being in tune with your authentic voice is the key…
Everybody gets a question from the Proust Questionnaire, and here is yours: What is your idea of happiness?
This is your toughest question!!
This very moment, I am listening to Frank Sinatra singing “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” with our 2 kittens (Frankie and Eartha) purring on my lap as I get to be interviewed by someone who appreciates and wants to promote my work!
I’d say that makes me happy.
Loving and feeling loved by my beautiful family and friends.
Having the time to create what is in my heart and spirit to create.
Sharing my art and practice with students, collectors, art lovers.
Art/travel & dance keeps my spirit alive and juices flowing.
All this in the spirit of being in the moment while connected to my spirit mentors - artists and cultures past and present
Summed up as
“Being in tune with my authentic voice”…
See more of Suzy's work at Suzybirstein.com