Illuminated Architecture, The work of Elena Borstein

My fascination with architecture began during my college days, when I spent many hours photographing Victorian houses in Saratoga Springs, New York. Later in my post-graduate years at the University of Pennsylvania, it was architect, Louis Kahn who gave me further inspiration with his poetic musings on architecture. These experiences combined with my love of travel led me to see myself as an “architectural flaneuse” whose subject matter would be found in the vernacular dwellings of the Mediterranean, the crumbling facades of Cuba, and later the sculptural forms of wind-filled sails.

In a catalogue for a 2011 retrospective, critic Janet Koplos says, “If one were to attempt an interpretation of this body of work, enclosure and protection are surely among the possible motives, Borstein stands in these places; she experiences them as geometry and color, the useful elements of art. But here interest in light as well as color, in space as well as plane gives each setting breathing room. I’m reminded of Tadao Ando’s early architecture, with its empty concrete courtyards in which sun, rain and wind mark the presence of nature. Borstein captures the same clarity and heightening of the senses in her paintings.”

In 2007 on an extended trip to Japan, I had the opportunity to experience Ando’s architecture firsthand on the island of Naoshima where I both lived and worked in buildings he designed. In the paintings I made after this trip I presented iconic spaces in two dimensions showing them independent of their function. They became visual metaphors for the actual spaces. I was not a recorder of the world, yet I still dealt with the intrinsic elements of architecture, space, form, light and color.

Recent paintings were sourced from appropriated images, architectural models, renderings and images captured from video. In my first exhibit of these works, entitled “Built/ Unbuilt”, I moved from the experiential to the more abstract and conceptual, depicting ideas of Louis Kahn, which were never built. I also offered composites of other buildings such as “Frank Gehry Mashup”, which included more than one building.

In 2016 I moved further from the reality of buildings by subjecting the images to layers of manipulation on the computer, giving greater freedom to my own imagination and employing the serendipity of digital color. In these ways I continue to extend my longstanding practice of revealing the space between reality and abstraction. The next yearI began a series called "Architecutre of Color", an homage to the Mexican Architect, Luis Barragan. I have long admired his lushly painted houses combined with vernacular Mexcian architecture. I recreated his buildings from low resolution internet images. This allowed me to meditate on these spaces and at the same time gave them new agency as large airbrush paintings.

In recent work I reacted to migrants being imprisoned on our southern border and seperated from their children. I felt compelled to include this horrible situation into my work as well, and began to intersperse these symbols of oppression into the Barragan colors creating a more complex and contradictory meaning to the works. As we now experience the horros that our government is inflicting, we can no longer focus only on the beauty in our lives. Artists must provide a voice for humanity and decency as well. These paintings are entitled "Resist".