The art scene, just like rent, is forever booming in New York City. Despite Patti Smith advising upcoming artists to “find a new city,” artists flock here, each year, in greater numbers. So what is it about New York that attracts artists from all over? More importantly, what ensures their survival? I caught up with four upcoming international artists to find out.
Michele Krauss, Chile
Michele Krauss isolates herself when working at her studio in Long Island City so her part-time job as an actor drives most of her social life. “It helps pay the bills too,” she said. Krauss understands that living in New York City as an artist can be pricey but the city is a “melting pot” that constantly inspires her artwork.
Born and raised in Chile, Krauss moved to the United States with her ex-husband at the age of 19. Unlike most immigrants, she is never trying to find her cultural community, “My house is always filled with people from all walks of life and that’s getting all the beauty of New York City.”
Mostly focused on subliminal symbolism, her artwork is inspired by her having lived in New England, Milan, London, San Francisco, Miami, Madrid, and New York. Krauss is a renowned international artist whose latest project “Wired Series” has been awarded by the curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and ranges from $1,100 to $8,800.
“It’s about communication and I used the wire to represent how we are intertwined with each other at different levels whether it is mentally, physically, spiritually or even through social media,” she said about the series.
Isaiah King, Canada
Isaiah King grew up in rural Ontario, Canada, sketching images of people and cows in his kindergarten years. Most people in his community moved from the United States to Canada after the Vietnam War, “so there was a lot of activism as well as creativity,” he said. In its largest year, the school that he attended had 14 students.
After graduating from college in Boston, where he was the oldest student at 28, King moved to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where he operates a graphic design studio, Isaiah King Design.
“(Greenpoint) has a great community feel,” he said. “There are so many artists and creative professionals living in converted factory buildings, it’s a different vibe.”
One of King’s most captivating projects is called “The Pont-Rouge Portrait Project.” The series of seven large portraits of Haitian earthquake survivors is a collaboration with the award-winning photographer Q. Sakamaki.
“I wanted to tell people that art is actually in a conversation with day to day life. In case of the Haiti progress, the actual event is bigger than us, but through art (focused on portraits) we can still relate to it at a personal level.”
King has only recently started selling his artwork after a long six-year break that helped him focus more on non-profit projects and building his design studio.
Ruonon Yan, China
Ruonon Yan’s biggest inspiration is fruits. A full-time graphic designer and animator, she spends two to three hours after work, painting at her Sunset Park Studio. Her latest project is a series based on peaches. “I like the shape of the peach, it’s round and sexy and has a gradient and good color. It makes people smile, it triggers their imagination,” she said.
Yan moved to New York city in 2013 from her hometown Shenyang in China. “People here enjoy art. When Chinese people come here, they are surprised that even on a Saturday, when it’s raining hard, there would be a long line of people outside an art gallery.”
Yan’s paintings are mostly composed of abstract shapes, bright colors, and minimalism with an added sense of humor. Her use of the Suni ink (a traditional Japanese or Chinese ink) is what sets her paintings apart. “I like it because it is very very black, you can’t change a line once you put it on paper, it can never be erased.”
Xan Padron/Juan Padron, Spain
Jaun Padron first came to the United States when his wife wanted to further her career as a musician. The couple, both musicians, had previously traveled to different parts of Europe for performances; once in the United States, Padron started documenting their travels and taking pictures. A former bass player, he worked under the language department at the United Nations to support himself.
Padron was born in the Galicia region of Spain and first started photography at a young age. “When I was 13, my grandfather was a well-known photo-journalist and as a present, he gave me a camera and a lab to work in.” Most of Padron’s work was focused on objects and his observation of momentum around them. But his latest project “Time Lapse” is about people.
“One day I just paused and noticed how much life happens at one spot in a big city and then I came up with the idea of time-lapse,” he said.
Ask Padron about his travel stories and you would get one from almost all the continents. Next on his bucket list is New Zealand and Australia, but New York and Spain always hold a special value in his heart. “(New York) is a world in itself, every neighborhood is like a different reality, like a different country.”
At the Other Art Fair in Brooklyn where his work was featured recently, Padron sold all his photographs priced at $405 each. “I have been lucky,” he said.