Conversation with Denise Buisman Pilger #StopAAPIHate Online Show

By Anes Lee

#StopAAPIHate Voices is a collection of interviews that feature artists from the online exhibition #StopAAPIHate: The Voices Behind the Movement. The artists share some insight into how the movement has impacted them and their art, as well as shed some light on their own personal journeys as creators.

This interview features a well-rounded traveler and artist, Denise Buisman Pilger.

How did you get your start as an artist? What made you want to start making art? 

I’ve always felt a strong urge to create art. From an early age I have struggled with a significant fear of abandonment, my first few days at school I cried so much I threw up! Every morning my poor mom had to explain to all the other parents that no, I was not sick, I was just really, really bad at saying goodbye. Art was always there to help me cope, creating something beautiful makes me feel better, I have very strong memories of doing all kinds of arts and crafts, especially together with my grandmother. So when the time came to choose, art school felt like the only logical choice for me.

Living as an ex-pat is not easy for someone who struggles with goodbyes. Every time I have to leave, I am forced to say goodbye to everything that has become familiar, and then I have to start over in an unfamiliar place where I sometimes don’t even speak the language. My art is what grounds me, it is my way to familiarize myself with my new environment and it is what I spend most of my time with. My art is what keeps me connected to the places I had to leave behind. 

‘Navigating New York’

How would you describe your overall collection of works? Do they fall under a particular style or medium?

I currently have two distinct bodies of work. My ongoing series of cityscapes, entitled ‘Traveling the World‘, is deeply personal because it connects me to the places I had to leave behind. The paintings in this series allow the viewer a glimpse into my mind and invite them to be nostalgic with me. 

In my work, I combine my love of photography, painting, and travel. My creative process involves photo manipulation, acrylic image transfer, and hand-layered mixed media elements. I merge many photographs into a singular image, creating powerful, contemporary cityscapes that elicit memories of the past and inspiration for the future. 

I am fascinated by the urban landscape and the people that populate it. I love that unique viewpoint you have as a traveler, you start noticing the most mundane, everyday objects. These essential elements make up the living, breathing, and evolving ecosystem of a city. Through my paintings, I want to invite the viewer to step into my world and reconnect with the beauty of everyday life. 

My second ongoing series titled ‘World on Washi’, is inspired by my three-year stay in Japan. While there I was fascinated by all the traditional techniques and beautiful materials Japan has to offer and I made an effort to experience as many of them as I could. I fell in love with Washi (Japanese paper) and this, combined with a newfound appreciation for Japanese minimalist esthetics, compelled me to blend my modern techniques with Japanese tradition and ceremony. Resulting in exquisitely vibrant pieces that highlight the beauty and delicacy of the Japanese paper.

‘Seoul Mates’

Do you have any inspirations or favorite artists? 

Although I appreciate the old masters and grew up visiting the big museums in Amsterdam, I am most inspired by the work of my contemporaries. I love visiting art galleries and museums and be surprised by the amazing art that is currently being made. Meeting new artists and discovering their work is also a highlight of participating in group exhibitions and art fairs.

When the opportunity to live in Japan presented itself, I specifically opened myself up to let the country and culture inspire me. Next to trying my hands at a wide range of traditional Japanese arts and crafts, I also absorbed as much Japanese art as possible, both traditional and contemporary.

How do you think the works you submitted for the show tie in with the #StopAAPIHate campaign? Were there any particular messages you wanted to convey? 

Having lived in different countries I have many places that have become ‘home’ for me so I no longer feel tied to a single country or culture, I truly feel like a citizen of the world. I strongly believe that we are all just people, no matter where we were born or grew up, we’re all part of the same species.

Both ‘Sakura Selfie’ and ‘Seoul Mates’ show people doing recognizable things like taking a selfie or posing for that perfect Instagram shot. It shows that, although these people may be from a country on the other side of the world, they’re doing the same things you and I are doing when we visit a beautiful place.

Through the universal language of art, I aim to bridge cultural and language barriers to make the world into a place where all people feel connected to each other. I wish to inspire people to learn about different countries, cultures, and ideas so they can understand and appreciate them. I know most people identify as being a part of a country with a unique culture, I hope to motivate them to first and foremost see themselves as world citizens and feel a kinship to all the people in the world.

‘Sakura Selfie’

What advice would you give emerging artists or people thinking of getting into art?

Create, create, create! When you want to be an artist there is no such thing as waiting for the ‘inspiration’ to strike. You have to show up at the easel every single day and keep creating, especially when you don’t feel like it, just start creating and work through it!

Connect with Denise:


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