Eric Zener | Artist Interview

Eric Zener | In Conversation

Foster/White Gallery: Your work is generally woven with water as a common theme. You have described a myriad of different narratives that you explore in your pieces and water’s significance: physical and spiritual renewal, “taking the plunge,” and memories from your childhood. Was it an intentional decision to put water at the center of your artistic process, or did you find yourself returning to it as a starting point over time?

Eric Zener: Elements of water began in my narratives shortly after my first daughter was born 23 years ago. Facing the natural fears and joys of the uncertainty of being new young parents, the great abyss of the sea had a physical and spiritual significance with this new journey we were on. I painted many images of women calmly rowing through turbulent waters, figures poised before the sea and fisherman pulling nets from the water. Water slowly became an allegory for the transformational moments we all find ourselves in - to challenge us, comfort us and remind us of how small we are in the great landscape of life.

Eric Zener, Rejoining II, mixed media on resin, 40 x 30 inches 

F/WG: The pieces we have here at Foster/White are complex in their creation. Would you walk us through the process for your resin pieces? How do you select the photographs you choose to work with? 

EZ: Several times a year I do photoshoots in and around water.  I generally have an idea of what I am looking for, but the nature of being underwater in different conditions and with different models always yields interesting compositions that just happen in the moment.  Those are often the best.  These are printed on large clear transparent film and layed in resin over gold or silver leaf.  I then paint with lithographic inks.  Depending on the image sometimes multiple layers of resin and ink are part of the process.


Eric Zener, Reaching Out, mixed media on panel with resin, 26 x 41 inches

F/WG: What kinds of rituals or traditions do you have surrounding your creative process? How do you begin a day in the studio?

EZ: I don't have a ritual or tradition, but music is a big part of the studio day.

F/WG: What have you been listening to? 

EZ: Lately…a lot of Radiohead!

F/WG: Does swimming or being near water play a significant role in your daily life?

EZ: Yes. Aside from the metaphors I talked about, water has a significant physical part of my life. I grew up surfing in San Diego and have lived by the ocean the majority of my life. Myself and my family are avid swimmers and my studio sits on the bay here in San Francisco.  Being in the water also echoes a nostalgic sense of joy for me.

F/WG: At times, your figures seem to balance between the tranquility of being submerged in water, and the more ominous aspect of being alone in water, the potential for danger. Is that an intentional dialogue in your work?

EZ: Yes. Water is both friend and foe.  It is indifferent.  I had a near drowning experience many years ago and it made me realize what can be a thrill in one moment can be a terror in the next. However, I do feel the peace and openness of being in big water. Ultimately, it is a wonderful place to find peace from the noise of the world.

F/WG: How have you been finding peace and stability during this season of uncertainties?

EZ: Ha…painting and being in the water of course.




Eric Zener, A Way In, A Way Out, mixed media on panel with resin, 41 x 56 inches

Learn more and see available works here.


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