Staff Show: Esther Epstein

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement Emily Bray highlights participants in the 2017 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 17, 2017.

Esther Epstein, Expanse In Calmness

Esther Epstein

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique or interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?
My role is a Museum Assistant in The Phillips Collection. The most unique aspects of my work are talking with people from all over the world and learning about their experiences and how they see the Phillips artwork and architecture. I enjoy viewing the work in the Phillips as it inspires me to paint almost daily. The staff are kind and artistic so it’s a comforting environment to work in.

Who is your favorite artist in the collection?
My favorite artists are Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, and Jake Berthot. Agnes inspired me in the realm of letting go of my work. When in an interview, Agnes was asked,” What makes you most happy?” She responded,”When my art goes out the door.” Most powerful is when Agnes stated that she “paints with her back to the world,” as do I.

Joan Mitchell’s work is so free-flowing and vividly colorful which opens one to contemporary expressive nature. Jake Berthot intrigues with his small painterly canvases that say so much with so little.

What is your favorite space within The Phillips Collection?
My favorite space is a mix of many in the Phillips. I find the layout that the Preparators skillfully formulate to be spacious and intimate in many areas; treasures often pop up when you turn corners. I like the surprises when one gallery changes paintings to allow for surprise and intrigue. Never a dull moment with new and returning works. To pick only one would be difficult as I see paintings, drawings, and sculptures of interest throughout.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2017 Staff Show (or your work in general)?
My own artwork is created with complete silence throughout. A work of art is not simply about the artist’s intended meaning but a portal through which the viewer can encounter a “dreamscape” of uniquely personal emotions and interpretations. I rely on a minimal palette of color; soft abstractions, intricate and/or tangled lines to convey and elicit intensity of feeling. I exhibit in unique venues with the desire to lessen stress and provide tranquility to those who view my work.

My personal background involved my passion as a practicing art therapist for a total of 26 years at The National Institutes of Health, Private Practice, and Suburban Hospital with people of various diversity and diagnoses. The experiences were a highlight in my life with valuable impact. I have a Masters in Art/Art Therapy from The George Washington University.

I want to thank Instagrammer “Katelawlaw” for her most kind and humbling interest in my artwork and inspiration.

10 questions and 10 answers by Markus Lüpertz

I. Why do you paint?
I can feel the pressure of the thumb from on high. That leads to a disruption, a defect. And in the same way that the wounded oyster gives birth to the beautiful pearl, this pressure forces me to paint.

II. What do you want from painting?
Painting is culture, and who says culture says substance of the world. Painting provides the vocabulary to make the world visible.

III. What is painting?
Painting plummets the divine into perceptibility, by means of the eye — it sees the times, it is abstract thought and makes us conceive worlds and inter-worlds.

Markus Lüpertz. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

IV. What does abstract mean?
The manner of looking at, and of working with, my disruption, my defect. Abstraction is the result of the artist’s egotism. There are only abstract paintings. Painting is an abstract product, and it is only through the viewer that it tells a story. (Painting does not educate the person looking at it, it does not provide lessons, but it takes the viewer seriously and ennobles him by assuming an intellectually emancipated world.)

V. Is painting necessary?
Without painting the world is only consumed, it is not perceived.

VI. Can painting be learned?
No! Without congenital infirmity, it does not work. But through assiduous work, one can achieve a great deal and, by dint of what one accomplishes, approach great painting.

VII. Can the painter fail?
Yes, because it takes a great deal of discipline to see through to the end what one needs to do. For new painting is always born out of dissatisfaction with the previous one.

Installation view of the Markus Lüpertz exhibition at the Phillips. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

VIII. What is the painter’s success?
Influence over the period. Respect from his competitors. His own endless energy.

IX. What is the painter’s situation in society?
He is the cultural conscience of his times. The more a period allows great painters to exist, the more civilized it is.

X. Does painting today have a relationship with religion?
Painting is godless! When spirits and God played a part in painting, it was taboo. Today, during the twilight of the gods, it is the light, emphatic and absolutist, in conflict with a blindness that is overtaking the whole world.

Viva Phillips at “Viva Arte Viva” – Venice Biennale

Installation by Ernesto Neto at the Venice Biennale 2017. All photos: Vesela Sretenovic

The 57th Venice Biennale, according to its artistic director Christine Macel, celebrates (as the title “Viva Arte Viva” indicates) “the existence of art and artists whose worlds expand our perspectives and the space of our existence.”

Among the 120 participating artists, we are proud to see a number of artists whose work has been featured at the Phillips, is part of our collection, or both. Among them are Sam Gilliam prominently inviting visitors to the Central Pavilion; Xavier Veilhan representing the French Pavilion; McArthur Binion in the Central Pavilion, Zilia Sanchez, Ernesto NetoFranz Erhard Walther in the Arsenale, and Bernardi Roig as part of the INTUITION exhibition at the Palazzo Fortuni. Viva Phillips art(ists)!

Vesela Sretenovic, Senior Curator for Modern and Contemporary Art

Xavier Veilhan’s soundscape STUDIO VENEZIA, representing French Pavilion. An immersive architectural space where professional musicians play for the entire duration of the biennale.

Xavier Veilhan at the Venice Biennale 2017

Franz Ehard Walther’s installation at the Venice Biennale 2017

Zilia Sanchez’s work at the Venice Biennale 2017

Zilia Sanchez’s work at the Venice Biennale 2017

Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenovic with artist McArthur Binion in front of his work at the Venice Biennale 2017

Installation view of McArthur Binion’s work at the Venice Biennale 2017