VAP2021-Q1 Words and Pictures

An interview with painter and sculptor Rose Silberman-Gorn

Written by Heather Drayzen.

Heather: Where are you based now? Where do you make your work?

Rose: I live in Ridgewood, Queens and use the spare half-room in my apartment as a studio.

Heather: What’s your work schedule like?

Rose: I’m not currently working, which frees up a lot of time for art. For years, I worked on art sporadically–maybe once a week–and would take long breaks in between pieces. Now, I’m trying to stick to a more frequent art practice of working on art 2-3 times a week, usually in the afternoon or evening, because I’m not a morning person. I struggle with productivity because I’m a perfectionist and I get anxious that everything I do will be terrible.

Heather: What was the first piece of art you ever made?

Rose: I drew a lot as a child. As a teenager, I began realizing that I actually was good at art. Fortunately, I attended a public high school with a great art department and encouraging teachers. My first “official” piece of art was probably a large acrylic self-portrait, which I painted at 15.

Heather: Did you always want to be an artist?

Rose: As a kid, I wanted to be an author and illustrator, because I also enjoy writing. My path became a little muddled in the years after college, and I felt unsure about what I really wanted to pursue. But art has been something that I’ve always come back to.

Heather: Who are your biggest influences?

Rose: I don’t spend as much time learning/reading about artists as I should, but some artists I admire include Trenton Doyle Hancock, Rebecca Morgan, Dana Schutz, Colin Radcliffe, and David Jien.

Heather: When did you start making artwork about childhood and trauma? 

Rose: During my last year of college in 2012, I developed a cartoonish, surreal style, using markers and acrylic paint on paper.  A year later, I was inspired by a display of dolls in a museum, and decided to depict dolls and other childish imagery in my art. I have always enjoyed portraits, distorted faces, and creepy things, so this seemed like the perfect marriage for my interests. At the time, I didn’t realize that I had endured any trauma, so I didn’t understand the meaning behind this imagery. In 2018, I learned about trauma and came to terms with my toxic upbringing, which helped me realize what my artwork had been depicting all along.

Heather: Where do you get your ideas, particularly for your new ceramics?

Rose: With my ceramics, I aim to symbolically depict specific emotional experiences that I’ve gone through. I generally brainstorm while playing with clay, or just keep my mind open to ideas. Ideas will usually just come to me. I’ve also reused imagery from paintings. My most recent sculpture, In Bloom, depicts a creature with flowers growing in its stomach, imagery that I borrowed from an earlier unfinished drawing. This imagery represents personal growth, and how it can feel bittersweet due to years lost to trauma.

Rose: My brainstorming with paintings looks a little different. I normally look at photos of inanimate objects for inspiration, because I often see faces or creatures in them, which I then draw. I also sometimes take inspiration from childhood photos. I am now trying to be more deliberate in my paintings, so I might go about brainstorming differently in the future.

Heather: How do you know when you’re done?

I’m a perfectionist, so I don’t stop until I’m fully happy with everything I’ve done. I’m always looking to improve anything that can be improved upon.

Heather: What do you listen to while you’re making art?

Rose: I generally listen to upbeat music because it provides me with energy and motivation. I used to listen to Hole’s album Celebrity Skin every time I worked on art, because it’s one of my favorite albums and I like the juxtaposition of the disturbing lyrics with the cheery music. I’m obsessed with Hole and Courtney Love because she conveys a lot of rage in her music that I related to but wasn’t able to access within myself, and she’s also just a fascinating person. A couple of recent albums I enjoy that deal with trauma and trauma recovery are Young Enough by Charly Bliss and Petals for Armor by Hayley Williams.

Heather: What are you reading/watching now?

Rose: I’m just finishing reading The Sociopath Next Door. I read a lot about psychology as a way of making sense of myself and other people. My other favorite genre is dystopian fiction. I just started watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I love Housewives shows because they’re fascinating psychologically, and they’re often absurd and hilarious.

Heather: What has helped you shape your work since leaving school?

Rose: New York City Crit Club has exposed me to many different kinds of art and artists, which has helped me gain an appreciation of art that’s different from mine. It’s easy to get stuck making art in an isolated bubble, and Crit Club has shown me that developing an artistic community is valuable to your mental well-being, as well as your artistic practice. Crit Club has reenergized my motivation and passion for art. It has opened my eyes to different possibilities for the life of an artist, helping me set goals and decide what I want to pursue. The feedback that I received helped me get out of my comfort zone enough to try out sculpture, a totally new medium for me.

About the writer: Heather Drayzen is an artist living in Brooklyn, New York.  She earned her BFA from School of Visual Arts and her MAT from Rhode Island School of Design. She is continuing her education through the New York City Crit Club. Recent online exhibits include One in a Year with The Painting Center,  Portraiture with Manifold Global, and Resonant Strangeness with Marram Arts.  Her website is and her Instagram profile is @heatherdrayzen.

About the artist: Rose Silberman-Gorn is a painter and sculptor who is currently based in Ridgewood, Queens. She makes cartoonish, surreal paintings and polymer clay sculptures which explore emotional experiences resulting from childhood trauma. She has exhibited in recent group shows at Local Project, Ethan Cohen Kube, Arts in Bushwick, and Ely Center of Contemporary Art. Her work can be found on her website and on instagram @rosesilb.