I ask people what a deeper human conversation would feel like by exploring American symbols.
Vanessa Niederstrasser was born in Wuppertal. Currently, she is living close to San Francisco, California and in the Rhinland, Germany. From 1996 to 2001, she studied Architecture at the University of Wuppertal. After graduation, she moved on to the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf, where she first studied Architectural Arts with Laurids Ortner from 2001-2003, followed by Fine Arts with Irmin Kamp. She graduated in 2008 with a Master of Fine Art, MFA, highest honors.
NAME OF SERIES: Star Spangled Manner
I am driven by a inner demand of exercising painting daily.
My theme developed when I moved to America from Germany in 2011, I immediately noticed the
triangle and diamond shapes that are used as warning and caution signs here. I had always been interested in pointed forms, and my background in architecture led me to start using these warning shapes to create paintings with exact measurements and straight lines.
The diamond and star have become my voice in this country. They are partially a response to my new environment here, and partially a continuance of my past.
These symbols of caution are everywhere here: street signs, carpool signs, cones, pennants, marks on the street, manhole covers. I feel overloaded with warning signs. It feels overdone to me—protecting people from something. Sometimes I think these caution signs are making us dumb because we have lost the need to see danger for ourselves.
Surrounded by instructional signs, I feel we lose the ability to think for ourselves. We begin to act like robots, machines. I take the shapes out of their usual context and transfer them into something new to ask people to think for themselves again.
The work is pushy and aggressive. I use diamond shapes to create fences of zigzags and ups and downs. I choose to use gray to calm this aggressiveness, and to show the calm, quiet nature of those who follow the warning signs.
Sometimes I make a sign out of my last name on the canvas. It represents my own search for identity in a new country. I am expected to follow the signs. I am expected not to question. And I feel trapped by these expectations.