Growing up in the mountains, there was not much exposure to street art. So once Essi Zimm saw it, it definitely started to play a role in her life as an artist. Street art really got its hands on her when she went on a trip to Germany to visit family from both the eastern and western parts. She described it as a "east met west" affair. "I was overwhelmed by the dilapidated propaganda posters and the tagging on the walls, the use of communication via the streets took on a profoundly different meaning for me. And so now when I see tagging, it is inherently a hidden language, and that is most definitely something in my pieces. They are stories within stories."
What's your favorite part of being an artist?
Well, I am also an architectural designer during the day, so I have to start with a comparison. In architecture you create a design for a client, but in the end, it morphs, and changes, and adapts, into something that is team driven. You may have come up with the original concept, and you may defend it to the very end to hold true to its form, but it goes through many hands, and many iterations, and it is a struggle to get to the final piece. There can be a beauty to this team dynamic that delivers a final habitable structure....but in Art..the idea is mine, the fabrication of that idea is mine, the end result is mine....narcissistic, perhaps...but the only thing that becomes part of the world, is the interpretation of my idea. Which honestly, can be both a blessing and a curse. People say that it is great to either be loved or hated as an artist, and to never be held in an indifferent eye. I believe this. Granted, I would never want to be hated, but to have an extreme reaction, whether good or bad, means that somehow your art elicited a reaction. And that is what I love the most about being an artist. Painting for me, as I mentioned above, is something that is 100% me, and above all else, it is the purest form of communication, it is the way I am clearly showing myself in the raw. So when people understand, or react, to this dialogue, it is a way that an artist has made themselves heard. Which is why it is both a blessing and a curse, as a critique can cut to an artist's soul, while a compliment can uplift them.
When did you realize that art was something that you really wanted to do?
I have always known that I wanted to do art, but I was reminded that I might be a "starving artist" time and time again, so I was told by a mentor that an architect is a "master builder, master artist" and so i figured I would get a professional degree as an architect and then that would help fund for other artistic endeavors. Needless to say, architects are starving artists themselves, and after devoting a lot of time to doing architecture I came to a breaking point, and picked up the paint brush about seven years ago, and never turned back. It was like breathing again, like a huge weight was lifted off of me. For me, as I am sure for many artists, if you are not creating, you are a fish out of water. Architecture could only fulfill a small portion of the creative in me, but painting, it's like the world falls away, my mind clears, I am focused, I am in love, and it is a brilliant time just spending it in the studio creating.
As an artist, what inspires you?
In my personal work, it would be folklore and fairy tales. In everything else, it would be nature and passionate people. People who are passionate about life or what they do, are invigorating, life is so short, take it by the reigns, leave your positive mark as best you can. That is my goal, at least.
In your opinion, is art difficult for people to understand?
This is a tricky question, no I don't think art is difficult, but I do think that there is a certain education that goes along with appreciating art. And by education, I simply mean, exposure. Which is why I think it is very important that the arts be kept as an integral part of learning in youth, whether that is taking them to a museum, whether that is letting them read comic books as a curriculum, whether that is giving street art a cultural presence (e.g. buildings that are set to be destroyed, can be converted to be "tag" houses until demolition occurs), whether that is parents taking them to gallery shows. I think there is a misconception that art is for the elite. Art is for everyone; that is the beauty of it. But because of this misconception, then you have people reacting to it in a negative way because they do not understand it, are intimidated by it, or feel that it is somehow superior to their social class, making them feel inferior. "I don't get it" "My five year old could paint this" "How much is this?? Oh my god" are common phrases thrown around. The undervaluing of art work is also a problem, which has been perpetuated by the crazy auction pricing that is happening currently. There is no frame of reference to how to price a piece of artwork. And truthfully, there is also no frame of reference on how to judge a piece of work. America is a culture that breeds sports geniuses. By this I mean, we focus so intently on the importance of sports, in school, in media, etc etc. I think that we should level the playing field, pun intended, and bring back an artistic movement. Whether that be in music, painting, writing, etc. I think children need an outlet that is based off self expression, rather than competition. I also think society needs to have more of an art dialogue, as I think we are slightly lost as a creative culture.
What's your definition of art?
Ha. Oh man, this question is too much of an event horizon. There really is no true way to define art, and there is always an argument out there one way or another. I do think, that this is a profession that falls into the pitfalls of justification, and by calling everything "art" or everyone who creates an "artist", we then leave no room to define "good" art from "bad" art, whereas other professions are much easier to define. I personally call myself a "painter" or an "illustrator"...I dont think I have mastered "artist", yet.
What major projects have you worked on and why did you take them on?
Well, as an architect I worked on the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey museum in Paris. I helped design the sails, when I worked for Frank Gehry. As a painter, the last major one I was in, was live painting for two days at the LA times book fair (I was one of five artists hand picked by the LA times to paint). It was a major undertaking for me, as my paintings take about 40 hours to do, and I had to do it within 16 hours, and of course, I am of the constitution to "go big or go home" so I decided to do a large diptych. I had never live painted before, and it was really interesting to have an audience stand there and watch you and comment on you, and it really made me nervous at times, but it also pushed me to my limits, and the outcome was worth it. Eventually maybe I will tackle a full wall. Ha. Eventually. Mad respect to those who do them.
Her future in art? She wants to remain hopeful, manifest and be humble. If she wasn't into art, she believe she would go crazy.