Donna Bernstein is a long time represented artist here at ANFA Gallery, highlighting her simplistic, yet powerful portrayals of horses—her work demonstrates the essence of line and the understanding of form. From New York and currently living in Arizona, her work and fine art fashion can be seen all around! In her own words…
“I paint the classic form of the horse in modern colors and a signature style. In the process, I have learned it is not horses that I paint; I paint the way they make me feel.”
Read on to learn more about this incredible artist!
When did you start your career in art? How long have you known you wanted to be an artist?
“Professionally about 10 years…but drawing and painting always! In between there were stints in advertising, real estate sales and investment.”
Describe your aesthetic in three words: “Modern, abstractive, intimate.”
Describe your artistic process and preparation—How do you start your creative process?
“I cannot separate the process of my art from the process of experiencing the horse, whether in my imagination or in person…I have studied his anatomy, gestures, nuance, personality and attitude to such an extent it is second nature to me. Stand me in a field by a horse and I will tell you exactly what his next move or expression will be. So I start with that… I see the piece often as a whole, then I am ready to paint. I am so profoundly energetically connected to a feeling of the ancient cave horse, the elemental energy, expressed in contemporary terms.”
You work both with paint and sculpture; do you have a preference? What are the pros and cons with them?
“I actually feel quite natural sculpting in clay, even though I am not formally trained; but I have lifelong studied the anatomy and movement of a horse and when I began sculpting the horse formed itself in my hands. Having said that the process of sculpting, casting, the expense and logistics of sculpture is daunting. For those reasons painting is a more compatible prospect.”
Why portray the horse? What does it mean to you?
“I recently read an article where research has been done which shows that those of us who are profoundly connected to horses, as I am, whether they are in my life physically or not, are “born this way”; this attachment and affection is not necessarily learned. That would be me. My deep and energetic connection to them exists on some subconscious level, is real and innate, and led me to need to create and re-create them in my own inner vision. They remind me to compassion and companionship… that essence is what I try to convey and share in my work.”
“I grew up without horses so I created them in my art. I studied their form, balance and anatomy mercilessly. My work is full of the horses of my imagination and my dreams; all of the horses I never had.” — DB
Favorite piece you’ve painted to date—why?
“Horses for Pablo,” a piece I created after a dream I had had about Picasso. When working on this simple back and white work I had the feeling my hands were being moved for me… and it is a piece to this day that is quite unlike any other I’ve done.”
Who inspires you personally and/or professionally?
“Truthfully, people who have met great challenges in their lives and persevered. I think of horses that way. Noble, and honest.”
What challenges do you think exist in the world of fine art?
“Doing it all – Artists are the true CEO persona.”
How do you approach/overcome them?
“Having a bit of business and marketing experience has been key for me…My combination of business and creative – I love both! – support every aspect of my work. And I do believe art is a business. I don’t ascribe to the “starving artist” model. It’s a difficult combination and meeting those challenges is an everyday commitment to my art.”
Favorite location to paint/what is your studio like? Top 3 studio must-haves?
“My studio has at least 4 or 5 projects going on at once… maybe it is a high-strung personality but I often find my focus is so intense that breaking off to work on something else keeps me fresh and open to the possibilities.”
Must haves: “Water for me and water for the art.”
Favorite place to vacation? And/or dream trip?
“One of my favorite places to vacation is the Bahamas. Dreamy.”
Favorite kind of horse you like to depict?
“Any horse at all – I love and support all breeds and styles.”
Do you ride horses? Own them?
“Not at the moment, other than I recently became involved with an all-female thoroughbred racing syndicate based in NY.”
Favorite color/medium to work with?
“Black, white, gold. Loving the archival spray paints currently available… colors area Amazing, brilliant, and lay on the canvas in a way nothing else does – so versatile.”
What would you be doing if you were not an artist?
“An artist’s rep because I believe I in art and when I love something I can spread the enthusiasm.”
One thing you couldn’t live without?
“Time and space to dream and visualize.”
Your all-time favorite artist and/or your favorite emerging artist?
“Rosa Bonheur (!Classic!) and (she’s not so emerging – I think she’s already here) Ashley Longshore.”
What do you want your audience to know about your work?
“My hope for my art is that it reminds my viewers of the beauty and power of both love and life… that horses are joyous and life-affirming animals on so many levels. Their energy and movement is a motivator to others to experience and allow their own best lives.”
What do you think, makes your work unique?
“It’s expression of the natural kinetic power of the horse, and a subconscious connection that in fact we all share – many of my clients have nothing to do with horses but they respond to my work. It reaches them on some other level and without being too pictorial or realistic it allows them to experience the piece as art and not just a “horse painting”.”
“Art teaches you about what you have to say and how you want to say it. I feel very lucky to be so profoundly connected to horses because they are a unique animal in their ability to mirror the spirit, reflect our imagination, and inspire actions.” —DB
What is/was a pinnacle moment in your art career?
“Probably when I sold my very first piece – also when I sold my first commissioned work – and knew that what I was doing was valued.”
Name one goal for your career you’d like to achieve in the next 5 years:
“More national brand awareness and the support of equine causes, be they the American Mustangs or the American Thoroughbred; higher level commissioned work, and the broad success of my art based fashion collection.”
—Written by, Sophie Lane at ANFA Gallery