Benefit v.15 Artist Interview: City Stepping with Robert Kraiza
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At Benefit v.15, Win Back the City with our annual silent art auction and fundraiser, where silent auction items will open up a whole new array of cultural and dining experiences. This week, we’re featuring artists who gather inspiration from looming brick buildings, from twisted alleyways, from the city dwellers who give Philadelphia life to the cobblestoned streets that give it history.
Robert Kraiza turns Technicolor fantasy into monochrome majesty, with portraits that stare out from the depths of Victorian urbanity. Read more about his influences and experience, as well as the piece he’ll have up for auction, in an exclusive interview below.
Could you tell me a bit about your arts background?
I always had a pencil and paper instead of crayons as a kid. When I was young I regularly attended classes at the Fleisher Art Memorial. I was fortunate enough to start more formal art training early in high school from a wonderful instructor, John Lenge. On a limited budget he created an excellent curriculum and so much of what I know now is directly because of him. I studied Media Art and Animation at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. This is where I learned and honed much of the digital art techniques I use today. I was in a serious car accident just before graduation which caused a shift in where I was going with my art. I had always loved and wanted to pursue fine art but ended up pursuing a more commercial direction in school. While recovering from my accident I wasn’t able to start working in commercial art, so I devoted my time to pursuing fine art and I’m happy I did. Today I have combined all that I’ve learned and regularly participate in fine art shows in Philadelphia and other cities, and freelance illustration and design.
Do you have any upcoming exhibits or projects?
I do. Wait for the Moon is just wrapping at Arch Enemy Arts right now. In March I will be in a group show at Gristle Tatoo and Art Gallery in Brooklyn, NY titled Illustrated Death. In September I am involved in a group show curated by Samantha Levin interpreting the works of Henry Darger. And on December 18 I have a two person show opening at Paradigm Gallery here in Philadelphia.
You take inspiration from the Victorian era for your work. Do you ever find that Philadelphia is a good city to get into the Victorian mind-frame?
Oh yes, I certainly do. Our city is steeped in History. It is so easy to imagine people walking down the street with frock coats and walking sticks. Particularly among the historic buildings in Center City, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and walking in Old City or at wonderful preserved locations like The Wagner Free Institute. It is also a city where I can walk down the street in a frock coat with a walking stick and not get looked at too strangely. I find Philadelphia a very inspirational city for me and I’m very happy to live here.
Can you tell me a little about the piece you are donating for the Benefit?
I am donating a triptych of portraits. They are a portrait of a girl, a boy, and a barn owl. They are painted in monochrome watercolor on paper mounted on wood. They represent the spectrum of art I have been creating over the past few years and represent a transition for me in subject matter. I was focusing heavily on a fantasy world involving Lilliputian-sized children riding small wild animals and am now exploring another fantasy world, though now involving a hidden world of witches. I have also been painting more portraits, so I thought these pieces represent me well for a venue that will include people unfamiliar with my work.
What are you looking forward to the most about this year’s Benefit?
I am looking forward to the opportunity to see such an incredibly large number of works of art from so many different artists and the opportunity to show some of my work to so many people who are not familiar with it. I’ve honestly never been to an event with so many participating artists. I’m also happy to be able to give something back to InLiquid in the form of a donation as I am very happy it exists as a resource for artists, collectors, and art lovers in Philadelphia.
Bid on Robert Kraiza’s work in advance on the auction site, or join us at Benefit v.15 on Saturday, February 7. Or join us for Young Professionals Night on Friday, February 6