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Winsor & Newton de Young Museum Residency

   
   
 
Winsor & Newton sponsored the residency of a local artist, Tamar Assaf, at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California for September 2012. Her participation with the program and the foundation for her work blend art and nature in an interesting manner and were documented by Tamar for other artists to appreciate.

Harnessing my education in Art and Natural Sciences, combined with environmental and conservational views of the world we live in, my artwork is a subtle social and ecological commentary on the environment, raising awareness of human influence on animals in the wild and the fact that entire ecosystems function as a delicate balance of interdependencies.

Today we understand that entire ecosystems function as a delicately balanced web. Many animals no longer exist in the wild and are found only in zoos and reserves, while other species flourish and multiply, actually adapting to living off of human habitats.

My artwork is based on photographs I captured as reference for my paintings. I use palette knives to apply oil impasto onto wood panels or canvas. I paint close-up, cropped compositions, confining my animals to a limited space. My fragmental images are my way of commenting about human influence on nature and the changing ecosystems.

Since the opening of the new de Young Museum of Fine Arts in San Francisco in late 2005, with their impressive permanent collection and the unique seasonal exhibits of art on loan from around the world, this museum has been my favorite museum to visit.

Through my many visits to the museum, I found myself gravitating towards the Artist Studio. This program takes place at the Kimball Education Gallery at the de Young Museum and is aimed at hosting working artists for a month long residency, to allow the museum patrons a window into the process of developing and creating art. About six individual artists are chosen each year for this prestigious program. The choice of artists through the years has been diverse, with representation to many and diverse media choices.

Working on my proposal for several months, I finally applied for the Artist in Residence program. Almost a year passed before I was fortunate to be invited for an interview, where my artwork was evaluated, and I was asked to elaborate on my plans for a personal project to be executed in the Artist Studio allowing visitors to watch and follow my work in progress. In addition, every Artist-in-Residence accepted, is expected to engage the public in an activity that highlights different aspects of their artistic process.

   
A few months later, I was happy to get the positive notice of acceptance. My residency at the de Young Museum was scheduled for almost two years after I began working on my proposal.

While researching for the series to be developed during my de Young Museum residency, Bay Invaders: Non-Native Species are Changing the San Francisco Bay Ecosystem, I learned of Dr. Andrew Cohen, Director of Center for Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions (CRAB). Dr. Cohen is an expert on the many new species, alien to the bay, which are steadily taking over the native biosphere, completely changing the bay’s unique endemic biodiversity.

I was fortunate. When I approached Dr. Cohen, he generously offered to take me on a “day at the bay” field trip. Scheduling for the lowest tide, we spent the entire day in rubber boots, digging in the soft sand, turning rocks, scouting, exposing the creatures that have made the bay their home.

For my residency at the de Young Museum of Fine Arts, I used photographs captured during the 'day at the bay' excursion with Dr. Cohen, as reference for the new series Bay Invaders: Non Native Species are Changing the San Francisco Bay Ecosystem. I stained wood panels, utilizing the wood grain to imitate water movement. I painted exotic species, working in layers to slowly build up a visual and tactile elaborate surface.

During my residency, visitors were able to watch me paint and follow my work in progress, watch movies documenting my creation process and see previously completed artwork.

As part of the residency, artists are required to provide a public engagement activity related to their artwork. I chose to create a replica of my own studio to allow visitors to experience firsthand and engage in the artistic process of research, preparation, creation and presentation that I, as an artist, go through.

 
   
Using my extensive photograph library, utilizing my work methods, tools and process, patrons of the museum enjoyed experimenting with Winsor & Newton's Galeria Acrylic paints, mixing them into the amazing Artists' Acrylic Modeling Paste so generously provided by Winsor & Newton.  For many of the visitors, creating in heavy impasto, using only palette knives to apply the heavy, thick paint was a new and exciting experience. The finished paintings were hung for display at the Artist Studio Gallery window.

The public activity was a success. Over 250 paintings were created by visitors to my Artist Studio during my residency. Some of the patrons chose to take their artwork created at the museum with them, some chose to leave it for display at the gallery window. Running a tight hanging rotation, we managed to display them all.

Winsor & Newton supported my residency by generously providing all paints and mediums for the public engagement activity.

I am honored, thankful and appreciative for this unique collaboration and wonderful support that enabled me to provide an elevated experience to patrons of the de Young Museum.

I am happy to share that my residency at the de Young Museum was a success! It was most favorably received by patrons visiting the museum as well as museum staff and fellow artists.

Tamar Assaf
Artist in Residence
de Young Museum of Fine Arts
San Francisco, California