Interview by Colleen Black Semelka, recorded by Nathalie Worthington
C – How long have you been in Chatham County?
Z – I’ve been in Chatham County three years showing with the Chatham Artists Guild. I’m involved with the 123 Art Studios but this year I’m showing at Colleen’s raku studio on East Perry Road.
C – What is the name of your business?
Z – Earth Green Medicine Lodge
C – When did you first get into making these beautiful paintings
Z – As a kid, I learned how to draw tracing Roy Rogers and Annie Oakley pictures. I’ve been an artist my whole life. I think it was the fourth grade when I was told not to put blue and orange together and decided I’d just have to break the rules.
C – Why did you become an artist?
Z – my background was sculpture and metal when I was in art school I did a lot of soft sculpture using textiles I had woven and surface painted. Metal work was great for a while. I was a college professor and decided to change medium. I didn’t want to make choices between sculpture and surface design. Now I’ve gone back to treating the canvases flat; horizontally instead of vertically. I like easel work and admire it, but for me it’s better to work flat. I’ve moved away from the allegorical work which is more vertical, more story-infused… being didactic, giving a teaching. I’m enjoying the freedom since the last studio tour, of moving into more painterly paint and working with it positioned horizontally.
C – Tell me more about your process.
Z – It’s acrylic and chemicals working with layers upon layers. I start with just an alcohol ink and so something on the surface to suggest texture and design using paint.I apply more layers and sometimes more texture and it’s multi-media. The paint goes on thickly and I’ll see what it does. It might be a very simple two or three coats, but then I add more texture. I’m getting more complex with these; more than marbleizing paper. Because of my background I want to be lead by the painting, and I’m using an applied technique with wood block prints.
C – With all the work that goes into each piece, how do you price them?
Z – A good friend gave me a formula and price per inch. Just like in jewelry, if it takes 3” of gold you calculate the price.
C – Where can people purchase your work?
Z – At 123 Art Studios 123artstudios.com , my place at Earth Green Medicine Lodge email@example.com in Burnesville, NC and on the studio tour #2, 336 East Perry Road.
C – What inspires those stories?
Z – A spiritual life, animals, life, ceremony, and sacred geometry.
C – What do you hope people will get by purchasing or gifting your items?
Z – People are getting another story.
C – What is your mission as an artist?
Z – i’m very didactic and the work has messages throughout. I’m part of a 25 generation lineage of a curandaro tradition of using sacred geometry. My mission is to transfer the energy from this geometry to wake people up. When you write “nuclear free zone” on a painting that helps people wake up.
C – How long have you created art in Chatham County? Z – The three years I’ve been doing my art work here in my 123 Art Studios place… I came here because of friends.
C – Has your work changed since you started?
Z – I have more time to focus on the painting and a space I can dedicate to it.
C – What changes have you noticed in the artist community and where do you think it’s headed?
Z – We need to have more opportunities to show as a collective or to collaborate with the other guilds like Orange County and Wake. I’d be happy to organize it.
C – Do you ever collaborate with other artists?
Z – Yes, at 123 Art Studios. We share creative ideas and our experiences with processes. It’s great to have other artists to bounce ideas off of.
C – What most excited you about your current work?
Z – I’m suffering less I used to fuss over my forms and shapes, like what species of hyena is it? I was just suffering, does it look like a crow or an eagle? I don’t like to fill in all the blanks. I don’t like the whole idea of being a mechanical artist. Realism is a nightmare to me; I prefer images that allow them to use their imagination a bit more.
C – Has the current political climate had an impact on your work?
Z – Absolutely. I loved the women’s march and seeing all the signs so I’ve started incorporating some of the phrases into my paintings. Or just the word compassion because I like words that aren’t too provocative but are more contemplative.
C – Have the broader changes on the community had an impact on your work?
Z – I don’t listen to NPR as much as I used to.
C – Does the arts guild community impacted your work?
Z – I’ve been impressed because I was tasked with interviewing 14 artists! They all had that warm connected feeling to the guild. Bill Moore, Colleen, Doug Dotson, Rusty, Trish, Annabelle, David, Doug, Dimitri, Janet, Michael, and Marie… I’ve found them doing their concentrated work. You feel like you’re getting to be part of their life, and not sold a product. It’s like sharing and I enjoyed that part.