By Jess Vento
Asense of mystery fills Rider University’s Art Gallery along with an exhibit of large, fantastical works on canvas by artist Daniela Bittman, which is on display through Dec. 1.
The exhibit, titled “The Colony Within,” includes works that are mural size, unstretched canvases measuring 8 feet x 8 feet or 10 feet x 12 feet. They hang from the gallery walls like large tapestries. Each canvas is composed of colored pencils, crosshatched over an acrylic wash. These images could be characterized as either large drawings or colored pencil paintings.
Bittman creates a mystifying world within her artworks. She portrays dream-like visions of people, animals and still lifes in exquisite detail. Bittman stresses that her visions do not have a story or idea behind them, they are simply images.
“There are wonderful aspects of doing work like this,” said Harry I. Naar, gallery director and professor of fine arts. For example, the size of the work leaves her “physically unable to get away from it,” he said.
Naar also noted that Bittman’s technique involves a short peripheral vision when creating her art. Bittman has a more eccentric and unconventional way of setting up her canvas and artwork.
“When I go on my ladder in my living room and have my nose a few inches from the canvas, I cannot start to free draw,” Bittman said. “I work deliberately. I am not an improviser.”
In a sense, she is in an intimate relationship not only with her ideas, but also with the surface, according to Naar. Her mind seems to be very clear in terms of her focus and direction, Naar said.
In conjunction with the exhibit, the Art Gallery hosted a panel discussion focusing on creativity and inspiration on Oct. 31. Naar and Bittman discussed the process she goes through while preparing and painting her canvases.
Bittman does not always create the vision on the canvas right away. She is influenced by everything she sees, whether it be everyday life or art. This is especially the case if she is already in the process of painting another canvas, which takes about a year to complete.
Once she feels that the time is right, which can take years after she first saw it, she creates another representational world of absurdity, ambiguity and fantasy.
She does not want the viewers to overanalyze her works. Instead, Bittman hopes that they will be interpreted in a light-hearted, humorous way.
“I want them to be funny and make people laugh because life is just funny,” Bittman said.
Bittman was born in 1952, in Bucharest, Romania, where she attended N. Tonitza Arts High School. In 1970, she moved to Israel, where she spent two years at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, followed by four years at Tel Aviv University, where she studied classic art.
She has had solo exhibits at the Beyt Levik Gallery, Tel-Aviv, and The Jerusalem Artists’ House. She came to the United States in 1984 and has had solo exhibits at the Joy Kreves Gallery in Frenchtown, N.J.; the Anne Reid Gallery at Princeton Day School; Art Space in New Haven, Conn.; and the Atelier Gallery in Frenchtown, N.J. She also exhibited two large canvases at Ellarslie Museum in Trenton as part of the “Artist Chooses Artist” group show.
Bittman is a humble artist who has true passion for her art.
“I don’t do anything to promote myself,” Bittman said. “I am not very interested in being famous. I am interested in being a better painter. Being famous wouldn’t change my life very much because I would still have to wake up every morning and paint my canvas while listening to classical music.”
The Rider University Art Gallery is located in the Bart Luedeke Center and is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.
Printed in the 11/6/13 edition.