Artist Michelle Weinberg likes to think big. Her bold and beautiful geometric paintings are as likely to be seen on the outside of a shop, office or empty building as on the walls of a gallery. We were particularly struck by her work Intricate Pattern Overlay, painted onto the Wolfsonian Museum-FIU in Miami Beach. Referencing the stunningly Modern-looking Dazzle Camouflage, developed to disguise ships during World War I, her version uses vibrant colours to transform it into something more playful in an unexpected location. Her work also spans a dizzying array of mediums, from tiles to rugs to 3D models of imagined rooms. We caught up with her to ask more about her passion for colour, and why she can’t resist an outsized canvas.
What appeals to you about buildings as a canvas for your work?
“Aside from the fact that I believe I must have been a sign painter in another life, I truly love painting big! And I love situating art outside of the smaller art world and in the great big world where it can be seen on the street by people en-route to their everyday appointments.”
Can you tell us a bit about the Dazzle-inspired work?
“I’m fascinated with specialized vocabularies of design and decoration – some of my recent obsessions are with Arabic calligraphy and hand-painted typography in general, with bargello needlework patterns, and with the flowing shapes of hand-marbleized papers that I make. Camouflage is one of these areas of research for me. I particularly responded to the dazzle, which is a ‘high-contrast disruptive’ type of camouflage that is so outrageous. My own name for these patterns that I’ve developed is ‘Intricate Pattern Overlay’, which describes a lot of my work.”
How did you settle on the pink and black colour combination?
“The pink and black is actually a very dusty pink/mauve and the black is a very dark gray, but not fully black. I landed on this combination of colours very intuitively. For me, shades of lavender are almost neutrals, based on how frequently I use them. However, by some strange coincidence, after I’d been using that particular pink, I did some further research for my mural on the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami Beach, and I discovered that this exact shade was used by Lord Mountbatten as a camouflage color during World War II. It’s called Mountbatten Pink. How did I know?”
“Colour, for me, is a completely intuitive experience. Like having perfect pitch, in which the human ear identifies exact musical notes, I feel very sensitized to subtle shades of colours. When I come across certain colour relationships out in the world, I try to remember the sensations, so that I can replicate them in my studio. Understanding pigments and how they behave, challenging myself to mix the exact hue I’m searching for – these are very satisfying experiences. I’ve taught a course on colour for college students, and it was really fantastic for me to develop a curriculum that began with the physics of the colour spectrum, explored the origins of ancient and modern pigments, and then got the students into mixology as they created their own textbooks. Super fun.”
A lot of your work relates to interiors and architecture – what attracts you to that as a subject?
“I grew up surrounded by contemporary architecture, absorbing my dad’s architectural work in his home office. But I think my preoccupation is with the arrangement of elements in a container, an interest in space that is layered, with stacking planes and props. Like a stage set.”
To see more of Michelle’s work visit her website. All images courtesy of Michelle Weinberg.