Helen Robinson, February 2016

by Ryan Salinetti

Artist Helen Robinson was first featured on The Nice Niche in October 2014

New York City

Since your posting on The Nice Niche, what have you been working on?

Since my post on The Nice Niche I have been working on a group of new paintings that will be shown at the Citigroup Center in Manhattan this March. It’s a continuation from my last show at Estia’s and will feature some of the same paintings. I’m hoping to show a series of portraits that evoke a sense of curiosity from the viewer. All of my paintings feature a non-descript background and a lack of eye contact from the model. My work represents the impact of technology and our generation’s inability to disconnect and live in the moment. Some paintings embody our addiction to our mobile devices, and others represent what happens when we are forced to put down our phones and look out at the world around us. When shown together, I hope my paintings will demonstrate a “before and after” type of effect.

In making a “disconnect” the result should be to then “connect” with the point you are trying to make…

My paintings expose the dichotomy between the virtual and the real and how that affects our social skills and ability to be present in the moment, because what importance does one’s presence really have if their attention is somewhere else? More often than not, our attention lies in a world that does not exist in the physical present. With my paintings I engage viewers emotionally through the lack of a real space and the allusion to a virtual, nonexistent one. My paintings are all oil on canvas and feature realistic figures situated in a stark white background. I omit the background in order to monumentalize a private, trivial moment, bringing attention to an important contemporary social problem: the de-personalization of conversation, communication, and interaction.

In comparison to that, my new series "Observance" is similar in style, but the subjects aren't looking down. The subject looks out to what is in front of them.


What inspires a new painting?

Most of my paintings are inspired by the people around me in everyday life. My work focuses on conceptual portraiture, stemming from an interest in people, psychology, and the way we interact and communicate. My paintings explore human connection and social interactions based on our relationship to our surroundings and one another.

My most recent paintings were inspired by a residency called the Land Art Road Trip.  I spent a full month traveling and camping to see iconic land art and landscapes of the American Southwest. Living on the road and in extremely desolate landscapes with an intimate group of people for one month was a jarring change from my chaotic life in New York City. With no cell reception for weeks at a time, this journey created an opportunity to slow down and reflect on the interactions between the people, places, and communities that I encountered. This inspired me to create a series of paintings that aim to capture the sensations of awe and wonder we feel when confronted with nature’s surreal landscapes, as well as our everyday surroundings.

You are based in the North East, do you see yourself living/working somewhere else in the future?

I’ve lived in the North East my whole life and have always envisioned staying here. I wouldn’t mind exploring and living somewhere else for a few years though. I’m always open to change. California definitely wouldn’t be a hard place to live. I could definitely spend some time in San Francisco.



Jessica Burko, March 2015

by Ryan Salinetti

Artist Jessica Burko was first featured on The Nice Niche in September 2013

Artist website: jessicaburko.com
Twitter: @JessicaBurko
Boston Massachusetts

What have you been working on lately?

I have recently embarked on a new chapter in my work that I am very excited about, though I don’t have many photos of it yet because I’m still deeply engulfed in the process. For the past six years I have been exploring narrative through collage focusing on paper quilt and encaustic collage techniques. The collages combined some original photography but mostly were combinations of found ephemera. My new work focuses strongly on a series of self-portraits fused with encaustic that I am carving into with line and text. In addition to this work being exciting because it is a new format for me, the entire process is completely different primarily because it is much slower. There are many steps to create each piece, and there are steps between steps, and the experience of slowing down my art making practice is revealing the benefit of giving me more contemplative time. The process is almost meditative in its pace, which I think is exactly what I need.

Extremely cool! How did this new process and format come about? I’m always interested in what inspires artists to leave the familiar and try something...

I’ve been working with encaustic since 2006 and have always enjoyed experimenting with it and seeing how I could combine different types of contemporary media types into the ancient medium. Since my background is in photography, I have been drawn to incorporating photographic images into my work throughout. For the past several years transferring images on top of encaustic medium has held my interest, but with this new work I am transferring the image to the canvas first, and then painting over it with many layers of un-pigmented medium. My reasons are largely conceptual surrounding my visage sealed/preserved and also buried/smothered in/by wax. The idea for carving into the encaustic also has multi-dimensional meaning for me. On the one hand it is a way to incorporate text into the work, and from a different point of view it can be seen as branding the body in any number of ways. Because the photographs are self-portraits and the un-pigmented encaustic has a similar tone and texture to fair skin like mine, the surface can be seen as flesh and even the non-figurative section of the canvas as an extension of the figure.

I noted from your Twitter account, you have been teaching — is teaching your method a form of inspiration with your own work?

For the first time in years I am teaching an art class, a mixed-media collage class at The Eliot School in the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood of Boston (http://www.eliotschool.org/classes/collage), and it has been thoroughly energizing. I’ve been introducing the students to a range of collage and image transferring techniques and providing them with independent work time to explore materials and methods. I’ve been encouraging them to challenge themselves in thematic and compositional directions and it’s been thrilling to see their creativity blossom. The third 10-week session is starting soon and more than anything I realize how much I have missed working with art students. So much so, that I am developing a few smaller workshops to hold at my studio later this spring.

What is your best advice to someone starting out as an independent artist?

Don’t give up!
If you really want to do it, you can find ways to make it happen. Artists are inherently creative and so should think outside of the box when it comes to earning an income and capitalizing on a creative skill set. It’s a funny business to be in because unlike most other fields earning advanced degrees doesn’t necessarily correspond to a higher salary, and many people will say things like “Give it up and get a real job.”, and one could spend hours at work and not have anything intrinsic to show for it. Being an artist is something that one forever has to justify, but it is some the most personally fulfilling work that one can ever do.

You live in the Boston area where snow has created a city within the city, are you ready for Spring?

I am more ready for spring than I have ever been! In fact, it’s about 40 degrees here today and I’ve been driving with the windows open and I am only wearing the lighted jacket. After three consecutive blizzards any temperature above 30 is cause for celebration!

Jenny Brown, March 2014

by Ryan Salinetti

Jenny Brown was featured on The Nice Niche in June 2013...


You were featured on The Nice Niche in June, what have you been working on since?

I currently am working with Ghost Gallery in Seattle—I have pieces up in their "Petite Works" room. I also became a part of Enormous Tiny Art this February at the Nahcotta Gallery in Portsmouth, NH. I currently have a solo show up at Bogart Court in Scranton, PA for the month of March called "Lavender Lily Sea".

Is it just a coincidence that your art is finding itself hung on the walls of rather eclectic cities?

Yes, total coincidence…and all 3 are amazing spaces, and run by really great creators! I couldn't be happier about it.... All 3 experiences have been great!

When you are starting a new collage, is there a process that you tend to follow, or does each piece evolve as you go through your found materials?

It's a little different for each piece. I have some collage scraps/pieces for months, maybe even years, and I have many of them out on my workspace. They look different to me on different days! It's sort of like a puzzle, as I collect more collage, I add it to the the pile, and then see how it all fits together. THAT'S what really inspires me, putting two scraps together and see what they say to one another!

And the result of that conversation is pretty amazing... And so many of them -- do you have a favorite?

Right now, I'm feeling especially connected to Sea Web...

Sea Web

Sea Web

You share a great deal of your work on Instagram -- do you have a lot of people that follow your art connecting with you through social media?

Yes, Instagram, of all the social media platforms, has connected me the most with other artists, curators and art enthusiasts. I've made new friends (that I've actually ended up meeting in person) , gotten to be a part of shows & collaborative projects, and found other artists whose work I admire.

We are connected on Instagram too—I think it's safe to say you have the cutest cat around... Does Max appreciate your collage art as much as the rest of us?

Max likes to steal pieces of collage and hide them under the bed! :)



Jenny Brown is based in Providence Rhode Island...http://www.jennybrownart.com

She can also be found on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest 

Peter Roux

by Ryan Salinetti

Peter Roux was first featured on The Nice Niche in January, 2013.... http://www.theniceniche.com/peter-roux-artist

I have so many questions regarding your recent residency in Iceland... But I can't seem to get past, "So, you went to Iceland...." -- Please tell us about your journey.....

My residency took place at The Baer Art Center, a very small visual art program located in northern Iceland,  The area is remote, about 5 hours north of Reykjavik by car.  The closest town is Hofsos, a small fishing village with a population of about 150.  I was awarded one of only 10 residency spots given each year at Baer to artists from around the world—five for the month of June, and five for July of each calendar year.  So, I was among four other artists from different parts of the world, for about 29 days total.  The other artists hailed from Denmark, Germany, Japan and Seattle.  It is an extremely small program, and as a result very competitive.

studio views (5).JPG

The only residency requirement was to create work.  Each artist was supplied with a well-lit private studio space and an attached private sleeping residence, and fed all meals (which were wonderful: a combination of traditional Icelandic cuisine and comfort foods, all created by an in-house chef!)  Additionally, regularly-planned excursions to different locations/destinations/sites of interest were offered, most of which were hosted by the Baer Art Center director, Steinunn Jonsdottir.  On the final full day of the month-long residency, we five artists hung a show of work created during the month, and the one-evening event was well-attended by over 200 local residents (many of whom came a far distance to see the exhibit).

views from the show (82).JPG

I began my journey by spending a few days in Reykjavik, just prior to traveling to Baer.  Once at Baer, I remained in that area until the end of the month, when I returned to Reykjavik and flew home to Boston.  

Iceland holds a beautiful, but stark, landscape. Very few trees.  Muted colors, rocky soil, and majestic mountains that start at your feet.  Glaciers populate the country in specific spots, but also lush green farmland is a norm during the warmer months.  In June, the temp averages about 50 F, and the sun never fully sets.  As a result, I probably slept about 3 hours per night...yet never felt truly fatigued (that is, until I arrived home, when my body clock saw night and I slept for four days straight).  All of the artist residents would find themselves working at odd hours, our minds thinking it was sometime in the afternoon....even at 2am.  It was a bit surreal, and wonderfully new.

long walk on the property (3).JPG

The Art Center is located on a large working horse farm.  The ocean borders the farm on one side, mountains on the other.  We faced Greenland to the north. Two-thirds of the Icelandic population of 320,000 live in and around Reykjavik, so the area where we were seemed to have more horses and sheep than people.

The people: a bit quiet and reserved at first, but authentically warm when approached. One of the friendliest places I've ever visited.  Most everyone speaks English.  Wonderful contemporary culture- visually, musically.

I spent my days much like this:  wake up sometime around 7, step into the studio to work after grabbing coffee and breakfast from the lounge area at the end of the building, then break around 12:30 and walk over to the main house for a communal dinner meal.  After the meal, back to my studio for more work, and a long walk or hike somewhere in the area to break up the studio time (sometimes these would last the remainder of the day). More studio, a light communal dinner around 7pm, some laptop time, maybe more studio...then realizing it is 3 am and time for bed.  Then, up again at 7am and repeat.  On excursion days, we might be out for the entire day visiting other towns or places of interest, or just part of the day...it varied.  We were a small enough group that we all could make improvised plans as we went. Steinunn, one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met (particularly in the art world) was always so accommodating and helpful.  As you can imagine, we became like a small family.

6-7 baer (5).JPG

My work took two roads, as it always seems to do: landscape and abstracts.  The landscapes reflect the minimalism of the country- sparse, simple and direct- while the abstracts seemed to respond by wanting to be layered.  The body of work still continues in my studio.

My biggest visual take-away from the trip: the whiteness of the light in Iceland.  So north that the light seems cooler, whiter.  Colors looked a bit different.  It's a theme in this body of work...both landscape and abstract. The light back here at home is a harsh yellow by comparison.

The Art Center website:  www.baer.is

My blog from the trip, where you can find more writing and work images:  http://peterroux.blogspot.com/  


Currently up until Dec 19:  Hvitt Dagar: White Days at Fetherston Gallery, Seattle, Washington http://fetherstongallery.com/
Previous show:  A Fog of Spirits: work from an Iceland artist residency at Bryant Street Gallery, Palo Alto California

Upcoming:  January 2014 solos show at The Umstead Hotel Gallery in Cary, North Carolina


KellyAnne Hanrahan November 2013

by Ryan Salinetti

KellyAnne Hanrahan, Artist, was first featured on The Nice Niche in January 2013...


Before we get into what you've been working on since your feature on The Nice Niche, can you tell me about Garbage Painting #56? Is there a narrative behind "ants"?

This is one of my favorites… At this point in the "Garbage Paintings" series I was following the trail of evolution and depicting each species that appeared on earth, in order. This was the ants painting. I had painted the beetle just before this one, but obviously wasn't quite through painting beetles. I really enjoy painting insects.

Garbage painting #56, Chapter 6 (ants), 36 x 24 , oil on canvas , 2013

Garbage painting #56, Chapter 6 (ants), 36 x 24, oil on canvas, 2013

You've segued from Garbage to Animals, or more specifically, Animals with People... DO tell....

Heh heh. People are animals. While I was painting garbage, I became more interested in the animals I was painting with the garbage than the trash itself. Instead of imagining static landscapes left behind by humans, I became more interested in exploring the relationship humans currently have with non-human animals.

It's fascinating to me how the relationship we have with our fellow animals has evolved. Our healthy fear of snakes has been captured, defanged and turned into a tourist photo opportunity.

I get most of my material from the internet, and am often taken aback by the photos I come across. I'll bet there was a time when you could feel pretty special for "wrestling" an alligator and getting a picture of it. Now, just search for "alligator wrestling" online and you'll come up with thousands of pictures of people doing the exact same thing at a place called "Gatorland". It has changed my approach to painting human portraits from rich and colorful to desaturated and zombie-like. And I often laugh at my own child-like depiction of non-human animals, revealing how much I romanticize the beasts.


Birds  Four pieces: 24 x 18 each  oil on canvas  2013


Four pieces: 24 x 18 each
oil on canvas

Elva Fields, October 2013

by Ryan Salinetti in ,

We took a summer break from our follow-ups... Bringing us back in from the beach we start anew with jewelry designer Emily Wheat Maynard of Elva Fields.

Emily was featured on The Nice Niche in February 2013.... http://theniceniche.com/elva-fields-jewelry.

What have you been working on since your posting on The Nice Niche?
We're still working on our Elva Fields collections, designing and making necklaces and earrings by hand in our tiny Kentucky studio.  We've also launched a new collection called Elva Fields Original Vintage, a curated collection of some of our favorite vintage and antique finds, offered at great prices with great fun!
What is the first piece of jewelry that you reach for on a daily basis to wear?
I literally wear these earrings 4-5 times a week...they're a staple for me and literally go with everything.

You work with a variety of colors and textures -- what inspires a new design?
The vintage materials...without fail.  They--almost always--give me all the direction and inspiration I need for each design.

My Grandmother would have loved your jewelry lines -- as does my young daughter… Do you find that your designs reflect the different generations of women in your own family?  
Absolutely!  My 91-year-old grandmother wears our jewels, as well as my mother and many of my dear friends, and we have teenagers that are Elva fans, too.  Here's hoping that my daughters (4 and 2) follow suit!


Rosalind Brenner, July 2013

by Ryan Salinetti in , ,

Rosalind Brenner, Artist and Poet was featured on The Nice Niche in January 2013 ... http://theniceniche.com/rosalind-brenner-artist-poe

What themes do you pursue?
In poetry I often pursue the themes of time, aging, love, loss and beauty. My latest published book, "Omega's Garden," is for the most part a book about being a woman--in love and in and out of relationships. It contains poems about infidelity and redemption and moving on. The book was chosen to be published by Finishing Line Press as a winner of their New Women's Voices contest.

My paintings are expressions of exuberance, energy and color. They often arise from my experience of travels or some incident in my own life or in the world. They seem to emerge on the support as I apply layers of words, color or shapes in which I begin to find figures and landscapes. I then enhance these images and my paintings become montage, depicting place, mood and fantasy co-mingled.

What are you currently working on?
Since I am always working I guess the answer to what I am currently working on is-- a lot!

I am revising a third poetry manuscript, this one mostly relating to family and motherhood. I am always working on a painting or collage, currently experimenting with oil paint and Dorland's Wax. It's play for me.

What are some tips for giving a successful poetry reading?
A good poetry reading requires two most important components: One is good poetry, of course, and the second is a strong, confident presentation. That means speak up, look at your audience, engage them with your voice and your words, enunciate and speak slowly. Pause between poems to allow your audience to appreciate and digest the poems. I always ask my audience to hold their applause until the end. I also take questions and comments.

In fact, for me art is somehow nourished by the viewer. If an observer can walk into my paintings and collage and find something that moves him or her, this completes the work. If a listener or reader finds in my poem something that resonates for him or her, this brings the poem to life.

For more of Rosalind's work: rosalindbrenner.com

Maison Privé Chefs, June 2013

by Ryan Salinetti in

James and Jennifer Vellano, the owners and chefs at Maison Privé were featured on The Nice Niche in November 2012… http://theniceniche.com/maisonprivechefs/

This is a Follow-Up with Jennifer Vellano….

Since your posting on The Nice Niche, you’ve been rather busy—you opened a new space in Greenwich, CT?

Yes, we began with a commercial kitchen that would help us expand our private weekly delivery service as well as catered events.  With so many requests coming in to host private functions IN our space, we built out the front room to be a Tasting Room both for potential and future clients. In September 2013, we plan on launching a Private Supper Club in the Room.

Do you see yourselves eventually opening more locations — perhaps to cater to foot-traffic like a gourmet boutique?

I honestly don’t know.  Our growth has been a very organic progression: slow enough to afford us the quality of life that we want yet fast enough to accommodate for the growing needs of people who appreciate what we do.  We don’t ever want to sacrifice family time or quality for quantity so if we cannot expand appropriately, we won’t.

You are very passionate about organics and locally grown ingredients. Do you see a permanent shift within your industry from conventional to organic, or do you think it is a trend?

I hope to see a permanent shift but ultimately, our government and big agri-business have all of the control. With all of the information being released concerning the negative (and scary) effects of pesticides in our food supply, I think people are becoming more aware and wanting a general change.  It saddens me that what was once normal in our grandparent’s society is now a movement. Whatever you want to call it…trend or not…it’s a good thing.

And genetically modified foods (GMO’s), equally scary…

Generally speaking, we are very disturbed by GMO’s and equally as frustrated with the lack of concern from our government.  Many other countries have outright banned GMO’s but not the U.S. The next closest thing we can hope for is to at least have them labeled. We still don’t know the long-term effects of eating genetically modified food (large agri-business has suppressed science that could answer this question) but we do know that GMO crops drive up the use of health-harming pesticides — pesticides produced by the very same corporations that patent the seeds; pesticides that HAVE been linked to the increase in childhood allergies and diseases.  It’s very corrupt, and unfortunately based on money and power. Just this past fall the “Big 6” pesticide and GMO seed corporations spent $21 million to defeat Prop 37, the labeling initiative that began in California. At the very least, consumers MUST wonder why they would spend so much to keep us in the dark.

From a company standpoint, we used to buy only 100% grass fed and finished meat and eggs.  Then we realized that so many local farmers are doing the right thing by the animals—and feeding them grass—but are forced to buy genetically modified seed that turns into the grass.  We finally found a farmer who actually buys his seed (that eventually feeds his animals) from Canada (non-GMO), but it took us a long time to trace the meat all the way back to the seed.  Not everyone has the time to do that. There’s a long chain of issues to follow and we can only undo one link at a time. 

As a husband and wife chef-team, are you constantly refining your trade or do you take a break to enjoy your own creations on occasion?

We take breaks because we have to; otherwise it would be all work and no play.  Sometimes we get caught up in a constant wheel of creation but it’s hard to separate work from life when you love what you do.

They sort of become one.

Maison Privé was founded by James and Jennifer in 2008. They can be found at 136 Hamilton Avenue, Greenwich CT 06830 (203) 992-1880

Hours: Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm. maison-prive.com

Linda Adato, June 2013

by Ryan Salinetti

Linda Adato was one of the original posts here on The Nice Niche: http://theniceniche.com/linda-adato-artist/

Since your posting on The Nice Niche, what have you been working on?
Most recently, a monotype of an urban landscape and a new etching “Winter Wonder Wheel” which I worked on over the winter, after a visit to Coney Island. 

Are you originally from Brooklyn?
I was born in London, UK and immigrated in 1962 to the US. I lived in Southern California for 12 yrs before moving to New York. I moved to Brooklyn in 2010 to be close to grandchildren and to live in the city.

With so much diverse New York architecture to pull from, how do you pinpoint your themes?
I am attracted to an image basically for the composition and the interplay of lights and darks which work well in the etching techniques of line,aquatint and soft ground. For the monotypes I use oil paint on a zinc plate from which I print one image.

How has your practice changed over time?
I used to do only etchings, but some years ago I started doing monotypes as well: painting with oil paint directly onto an unetched plate and pulling only one print. With etchings I  print editions, usually of 50.

What do you most enjoy doing?
I enjoy working on both etchings and monotypes. With my etchings I have an image in mind but it is through the printmaking process that I discover the final print. I’m taking a journey from initial idea to final print. The monotypes are more spontaneous, but I look for the same structure and composition.

Featured from top:
"In the Center" monotype, 5 X 5.5", 2013
"Winter Wonder Wheel" color etching, aquatint and soft ground, 8.75 X 11.75" 2013
"Stepping Back" monotype, 11.75 X 11.75", 2013
"Urban Mosaic" monotype, 11.75 X 11.75",  2013

Linda is participating in the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show (18th St., Philadelphia) June 7-9, and recently had 6 etchings acquired by The Detroit Institute of Arts for their permanent collection. More of her work can be found via lindaadato.com