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Conversations with the Inspiring Deanna Sirlin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Deanna Sirlin.

So, before we jump into specific questions about what you do, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
From my earliest memories, I was always on the path to being an artist. I spent my time painting and drawing. As a child, my mother took me to museums and let me move about freely looking at the artworks. Normally quite reticent, I would speak with her about the works we were looking at in the galleries. However, when I spoke about wanting to be an artist, I was discouraged. My mother felt that a woman should earn her own living and be independent. She could not imagine how a woman artist could do this and discouraged me from pursuing this life. For me there was no alternative; I am an artist.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I have learned it is not an easy road for a woman to be an artist. When I wrote my book, She’s Got What It Takes: American Women Artists in Dialogue (Charta Art Books 2013), I visited over the course of two years nine woman artists whose work I knew about when I was in my 20’s and who were also still working artists. All were a generation older than me. I wanted to know about the life and obstacles these artists had overcome. The nine artists welcomed me to their studios; the process was not a formal interview but a conversation. I remember Ursula von Rydingsvard, an important sculptor, telling me as soon as we first met that “it does not get any easier.” This, unfortunately, is true. The most important thing I can tell young women artists is that they should keep at it, no giving up. They should not make art to please or for anyone but themselves. They must go beyond what is expected of them. And they must help other artists along the way. It is a life, not a job.

Please tell us more about your artwork, what you are currently focused on and most proud of? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am a painter first and foremost. Color paired with gesture is the language I use to make my art. What is different about my work is my desire to place my work off the canvas and into the world. I want my work to engulf the viewer, for the viewer to feel as though they are in the work. My work has been on sides of buildings, down flights of steps, on the entrance and doors of a library, on lighted billboards over a highway, in a fountain and on a garden path in a convent in Italy. This is just the beginning…

Who do you look up to? How have they inspired you?
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York which was not then the cool place where everyone now wants to live. However, it did have its own sense of itself, as do the people who grew up there. My neighbor offered to take me with her to the Brooklyn Museum where I could take art classes on Saturdays. In the museum, I drew in the galleries with a just pad of paper and a pencil. My relationship with the works of art that I spent hours looking at and then drawing became engraved in my vision. Somehow this connection to the actual works and the intimate experience of drawing them gave me a vocabulary of the possibilities and significance of art.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photo of Sirlin: Haley Hamel, All other photos are by Deanna Sirlin

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