Featured Artist

By Stefan Beltzig

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About Stefan Beltzig

Born in Bavaria in 1944, the son of a Berlin film maker and dealer in Oriental Antiquities, Stefan Beltzig attempted at first to turn his back on the artistic milieu in which he was raised, dropped out of school and joined a circus troop as an acrobat. After leading the life of a vagabond, which enabled him to travel in India and the Near East, he began to study art. From 1963 to 1964 he worked at Shiraz and Isfahan in Iran where he took up ceramics and sculpture. After a formal study of art and graduation from the Academy of Art in Munich with First Prize in painting in 1973, he began to emphasize realism and trompe l'oeil- effects in his works. From 1979 on, his attention turned solely to drawing. His work and additional information can be found at www.stefanbeltzig.com and www.stefan-beltzig.artistwebsites.com.

Artist's Statement

For the past few years — in this country and in Europe — I’ve been photographing and sketching abandoned urban industrial sites. The Gowanus Canal and neighboring Red Hook are among the areas that have caught my eye. The desolate structures and boarded-up buildings that punctuate the waterfront hang in a kind of ghostly limbo awaiting transformation at some future time. In my work, I don’t see them as ruined, bleak wastelands, but as holding the same visual possibilities as any pristine landscape. Beauty and decay are inextricably combined. At the same time, I imagine how vibrant and teaming with life and industry these areas once were.

Back in my studio, I sift through my sketches, photos and notations as images for my next drawing take shape. The painstaking drawing process begins: for several weeks I put down layer upon layer of pencil strokes — similar to the ‘build-up technique’ of the Northern European landscape painters. It’s a slow, meditative process during which the color and mood of the image or even the image itself can change dramatically. It all depends on the light filtering through my studio window, or upon what comes to mind. As I apply layers of color, fragments of the Gowanus’ history sometimes percolate in my imagination. I think of the waterway in all its incarnations: as a thriving industrial area, a toxic wasteland and a notorious dumping ground for the mob. Like a lingering smog, these past lives still hang over the Canal and the Red Hook waterfront and somehow inform my work.

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