Paying a visit to the home of artist Cornelia Foss is like entering another world. Tucked away from the main roads, the simple, shingled residence sits among trees and a garden in an especially peaceful setting. The space is reminiscent of a cocoon, where one can feel comfortable and protected.
Foss’s work mirrors her protected environment—pastel drawings of her own garden and nearby ponds; oil portraits celebrating her granddaughters and pets; landscapes featuring beach scenes and still life paintings showing flowers on a window sill. Thus, the art conveys a nurturing perspective that also acknowledges to the outside world.
While painting takes up a lot of your time, you have also been committed to teaching art for several years. When you’re out here in the summer, do you continue with teaching?
I usually have a landscape workshop here for one week. This time my granddaughter joined the class for three and a half hours when we went to paint Sagg Pond. She did very well.
I know you have made significant contributions to your classes at The Art Students League. Its Executive Director, Ira Goldberg, says that you have a distinct voice and bring a dialect to the language of art. He also notes that you have a connection to the past as we move forward; that you are linked to a chain that goes back to the beginning of civilization. How are you connected to the past, as far as other artists are concerned?
I am directly related to the art of Fairfield Porter. I admire him tremendously; he’s still not valued enough. Among the Europeans, I also like Francis Bacon, his emotional content.
Regarding emotional content, do you consider your own emotions when you paint?
I aim for complete distillation of everyone’s reactions. We look at the ocean. We don’t just include our own emotions. People have different feelings looking at the same ocean. These differences connect us to everyone.
Speaking of the past and connections, you are writing a memoir about your two sets of grandparents, including your childhood, particularly your life in Germany and Italy. What other places connect you to your past?
The mid-west in America, Indiana to be exact. I went to Indiana University, majoring in literature. It was a great place for liberalism. I also went to the University of Rome where I studied Art History with Leonello Venturi.
You also love movies.
Yes, I loved certain films, like Heidi, Rambo and High Noon.
What about your philosophy of life and art? For example, Laurie Anderson says she doesn’t look for inspirations to create art, she just goes to work. Do you agree?
Yes, I do. Inspiration comes out of simply doing your work.
How about the contradictory elements in life?
Life in an otherwise pretty landscape. But there might be bad things, too. For example, there might be a bird eating a worm. This is life.
Foss will be exhibiting at Guild Hall in the near future. Call Guild Hall at 631-324-0806 for more information. She will also be showing at Southampton’s Peter Marcelle Project (4 North Main Street). Call 631-613-6170. Foss’s book, “Cornelia Foss: Ten Years of Paintings and Drawings 2003-2013,” is available at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor.