Anna Oberfeld is an artist whose work investigates ideas of femininity, memory and existence, by taking traces and artefacts of personal memories, and making them into a visual vernacular, consisting of, amongst other elements, personal iconography and Victorian flower symbolism.
What drives your passion – when did you know that art is what you wanted to do?
Ever since I was young I have always had a need to be creative. At home you could either find me rearranging and making vignettes of my mother’s knick-knacks or drawing at the kitchen table.
I didn’t think that I could be an artist, I thought I had to be a teacher, or interior designer or work in a creative field. One day someone in my art class asked me what I wanted to be, and I was so engrossed in my drawing that the words “I want to be an artist” just slipped out and completely took me by surprise. Nothing felt more right and the rest is history.
How did you get where you are now in your career?
For me, my career is just getting started. In 2010 I left Cleveland and moved to Baltimore where I studied General Fine Arts and Photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art. However, I don’t think I really started making work that felt less like an assignment and more of my own personal drive until I moved to Florence, Italy for a semester in 2013. When I went to Florence I felt like I had a personal awakening and that was when I really started to push myself and began creating and mapping out my own visual vernacular.
In 2014 I graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art with my B.F.A. and that fall I moved to Edinburgh to start my M.F.A. at the Edinburgh College of Art. I graduated last year and am currently trying to balance working full time and maintaining my art practice.
What do you make and what are the ideas behind what you make?
A person’s life is continuously fragmented, copied and stored into both personal and shared memory, the shards of which are often misrepresented or lost. This idea – the fear of losing these shards is what drives my practice. I am trying to create a visual vernacular to keep the pieces together. To write my story before it gets lost within time.
I am constantly trying to investigate and question memory, language, and femininity. How do we create these monuments of memory and folklore and how do they get passed down over time? What happens when the monuments begin to chip, where do the missing pieces go?
My work, although inspired by visual storytelling through symbolism found in tapestry and renaissance painting, belongs to the other side of the spectrum; it is fragile, expendable, and vulnerable. The tale is not that of bravery, glory, and myth but of an everyday story about heartbreak, realizations, and personal growth.
What inspires you?
I find a lot of inspiration in symbolism and storytelling. Greek Mythology and statues, Egyptian hieroglyphs and how we are still reading their stories through the imagery left behind. Victorian flower language is another that intrigues me, the way that people could communicate secretly their feelings through something as simple as a flower and yet it was so detailed, even the colour of the flower could change the meaning.
Where do you work? What is your average working day?
I currently work as a picture framer here in Edinburgh. A lot of our customers and clients are artists and galleries, so I am constantly finding myself inspired by what comes through our workshop. I spend my day assisting people in designing frames as well as making them by hand. I find that since no two projects are the same there is a lot of problem-solving and skill learning happening that keeps me on toes.
I also on several occasions have framed artwork by artists that I have been personally inspired by and look up to, so when their work comes in it is always a really pleasant surprise. In the evenings are when I can focus on my own practice.
What are you working on now?
Currently I am creating work for the show Bonkers, which will be at the Biscuit Factory in October.
In what way does being Scottish/being in Scotland influence your work?
I find living in Edinburgh has really inspired my work. Before coming here my colour palette was very limited and while I did use a lot of floral imagery it was very selective and muted colours. Baltimore was mostly brick and concrete. When I moved here I was so inspired and amazed by how lush and green this city is. It seems like any nook or stoop people transform these small spaces into gardens – making the concrete city into something organic, colourful, and inspiring.
Bonkers Contemporary 2017 opens on 5 October at The Biscuit Factory in Edinburgh. http://www.bonkerscontemporary.co.uk