Studio Visit with Arlene Reiss

July 28, 2022

"We learn our own minds by finding out what we love.” — Oliver Sachs


I arrived at Arlene Reiss’s studio up in the redwoods past Albion.

Here we are!
Working areas in front.
And a work-in-progress on the easel.
"I’ve worked in this studio for many years now. It’s home.”

Did you always intend to become an artist?

"I always drew some, and in college I met people who were art majors and realized that’s what I wanted to focus on. 

You’ve told me you began with landscapes in pastels. How did you move into abstraction?

"I had been drawing these landscapes, and was struggling with a piece, unable to finish it. I consulted my partner, and he said, 'You've lost the life in it.’ I knew how to paint grass and trees, but I’d lost the feeling for it. I decided to take a couple of years off from gallery exhibitions, and as I painted I moved away from plein air painting to see what would emerge. This is how I became an abstract artist. I may take a color I feel drawn to and cover the blank paper with it. Sometimes I tear up paper or dried paint and collage it on a blank surface to get a form and some texture there, or just to get moving. I see what areas attract me to explore, to add to. I work intuitively. I don’t have a preconceived notion when I start a painting, no frame of reference—it’s a challenging space. If a shape emerges, I may clarify it…or not."

"I saw bird forms and brought some of them out."

You go to Mexico for part of the winter. How does that affect your work? 

"I find a different palette there, and I paint outside; that changes the energy."

On the Beach II, Acrylic with collage mounted on panel

"I’m right by the ocean in Mexico—and pretty close to it here on the North Coast. It’s ever-present. I feel a lot of gratitude for having been able to live here all these years.”

How are you feeling about your show, as you are finishing work and making your final selection?

“This is my first in-person solo show in over three years, so I have a lot of work. Narrowing down what to present has been a challenge. I’ll be happy when it’s on the wall!”

Miriam Davis