Doug Zider’s 12”x22” dramatically lit, tranquil “Road to the Gold Coast” is meant to be nostalgic. Zider says he wants to evoke “the long hidden roads of Long Island’s North Shore, the Gold Coast in its heyday,” before the public nature came under siege from wealthy, crass commercialism. A man walks his dog along a fence—a park perhaps or the outer boundary of an estate. It’s a peaceful, domestic scene, with bare winter branches emphasizing the height of the old trees.
History is Zider’s passion. He loves to travel around the island, he says, coming upon natural areas that still capture his heart. He says, “Remember the Museum of Natural History dioramas? I was less interested in the animals and much more engaged by the painted background landscapes.”
Zider won an Emmy in 1979 for his work as a scenic and graphic designer at NBC, though he says that this has not influenced his work as a fine artist.
At what point did you realize what you really loved to do?
I still have a 9-to-5 job as a graphic designer for NBC at “30 Rock,” but though I did study art for a while, taking electives at Roger Williams College in Rhode Island, the career art world was becoming less artistic. No one uses the term commercial “artist” any more, certainly not “fine artist.” I never was a corporate structure guy at work, so I’m not stressed like many young techies who have to know more tech than I, but seem not to be dedicated artists, even if they went to art school.
You always say you’ll be retiring soon. Meanwhile, you turn out paintings at a remarkable pace. Are you working now in any new ways?
Well, “retirement” is a business word. There are so many things in my head I want to paint. In a way, this is the most perfect time in my life. I still know my name and where I live, and though cell phones and paying bills take up a lot of time, I am always able to squeeze in what I love to do. I spend a lot of time on my work. I do all my own canvas prep, undercoats of gesso and then a thin application of neutral color, and I love texture. A while back I took a workshop with a guy who not only used brushes but all sorts of implements to paint—feathers, metal utensils, a wide piece of wood with rough edges. I’m open to it all.
You’d exhibited at Chrysalis Gallery, which was supportive of representational art but has now closed. What’s happening to these gallery spaces?
It’s not an ideal world for representation, but I think there’s a growing movement for it again, particularly as evidenced by a new program, the Da Vinci Initiative [an education mission for visual literacy in schools based on teaching “realist based art skills.”] It presents some of the finest representational artists to date. They have an Art Renewal Center program that focuses on revitalization of representation, teaching kids and their teachers the basics that were part of the world of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, techniques and skills from the old days that you can apply to any art, the way musicians know scales. The art world is a funny thing. There is a tremendous amount of money invested in all aspects of it, and those who invest instead of purchasing, or falling in love with art, wanting to live with it, and let it be part of their everyday lives… they’re missing out on art’s true purpose.
Zider’s work can be seen in his Amityville studio and at the Westport River Gallery in Westport, CT and the Art of the Seas Gallery in South Thomaston, ME. Recently, he became a member of The Salmagundi Club in New York, one of the nation’s oldest (1871) and elite art organizations. Past members include Thomas Moran, William Merritt Chase, Lewis Comfort Tiffany, NC Wyeth and Childe Hassam.