Interview with Aron Wiesenfeld by Erraticphenomena

When I first saw one of Aron Wiesenfeld's charcoal drawings at the Los Angeles Art Show, I was immediately struck by two things — its ominous, enigmatic emotive power, and how much his use of light reminded me of Edward Hopper. I was overcome with such joy to see something that was so suffused with feeling and significance — at an art fair — that the image has haunted me ever since. Unlocking the subconscious reservoirs of the spirit should be the highest goal of art, but few painters in the "highbrow" art world have the courage to attempt it.

The latter-day philosopher Rebecca Solnit once wrote, "That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost." To see oneself clearly — to step outside oneself altogether, and be free of all the baggage we carry through life, one must venture beyond the boundaries of comfort and security. Mystery, disorientation, fear — these are primal sensations that rouse the imagination. Aron once said, "I think it is necessary to leave unanswered questions in a painting... if it is not fully knowable, the truth it holds changes over time and the painting becomes like a living thing." Like waking up in a strange city or losing the trail deep in the woods, Aron's work provokes us to do our own mythmaking, opening our minds to the unknown.

Despite the fact that he's been busy preparing for his first museum exhibit, which opens on June 10th at the Bakersfield Museum of Art, Aron graciously took the time to share some insight into his work.

Erratic Phenomena: You were born in Washington, D.C. and spent much of your childhood in Santa Cruz, California. Tell me a bit about your experience of growing up. Was anyone in your family an artist? What made you happiest when you were a boy?

Aron Wiesenfeld: My grandmother was an artist — she painted watercolors. I remember her telling me that kids' drawings were always better than grown-ups', and that was very encouraging. So I felt I had carte blanche to do whatever I wanted, and I could always expect her to say, "That's wonderful!" She even made etchings from the drawings my brother and I did. My mom was also supportive of our artistic endeavors. She taped up all our drawings on the walls. The kitchen and dining room walls were literally filled with our drawings. So my creative seeds were very well watered. We also had some prints on the walls by artists like Rembrandt, Dürer, and Sorolla, and I think I was lucky just to know what great art looked like. I was kind of a loner as a kid. Not painfully so, but I was just as happy spending hours alone building models or whatever as I was playing with other kids. I remember building things a lot, so I guess that is what made me happiest. They were often very ambitious projects, like a three-story fort with a deck in the backyard. I think my work process now is like building — the joy of it is in seeing it grow and what it will become.

EP: You first began drawing when you were 12, inspired by comics like Conan the Barbarian. Tell me a bit about what you liked to draw when you first began creating images from your imagination.

AW: A friend introduced me to comics in fifth grade, and I became obsessed. I always loved the medium. You can read a comic at your own pace, and you have to connect the pictures in your head to make the story happen, so the reader is a participant in the creation of the story. I was really into fantasy stuff, like D&D and Frazetta, and that was my initial inspiration to draw. Then I saw what Frank Miller was doing, and that made me interested in how the medium can be used to tell the story using a sequence of images — what to show and what to leave to the imagination.

Becoming a comic book artist was something I had to do, and I pursued that goal tenaciously. I would give myself assignments — for example, I would have to draw a fist from every angle, and then I would have to draw each of those fists as if they were lit by a different light source. It was a bit obsessive-compulsive, but it paid off.