Claudia Bokulich is a painter based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Entirely figurative, her oil paintings are centered around human sexuality and gender roles in society. In some of her work, it becomes apparent how these things vary among region, culture, and even era. Personal impressions are an important part of Claudia’s thought process; both how people are perceived by others as well as how they perceive themselves. She considers both the female and male gazes to be present in her work. Ultimately, much of her work is evocative of the impact that societal conventions have upon the sexes, such as vanity, vulnerability and virility.
Claudia gains image material from a variety of sources, and often collages these images on a small scale to create a scene that is particular to what she is striving to portray. She then translates this image to the canvas. Sources include baroque and renaissance master paintings, vintage photography and pornography, personal photographs and film stills.
How do you describe your work?
My work focuses on human interaction and feeling, and is often sexually charged and involving overtly feminine or masculine themes. I’m interested in self perception and vanity, and the notion of seeing oneself through someone else’s eyes. My paintings involve figures that I find interesting and dynamic, whether it be an enigmatic gaze or a provocative gesture. I use images from personal photographs, old books and magazines.
What’s your preferred medium to express yourself and you work? How did you come into working that way?
I have always used oils because that’s what I was trained with and simply got used to. Experimenting with acrylic and other types of paint never felt right. I have however made a transition from working on canvas to working on archival oil paper, which I love and it gives the paint an entirely different appearance and texture.
Where did you grow up and do you think that’s affected, at all, your vision as an artist?
I grew up in a suburb right outside of Philly. I’m able to recognize that other places that I’ve lived have affected and inspired my work, such as Italy and Colorado, but Lower Merion surely did not have that effect.
What triggers your imagination?
I am currently going through a phase of vintage America; of the Wild West and go go dancers. I’m in the process of reading Devil in the White City which takes place during the late 1800’s, which is definitely triggering my imagination.
What are some instagram accounts or artists that you particularly enjoy / are inspired from?
My forever favorite artist is Cecily Brown ( @dellyrose ). Right now, i am heavily influenced by these (coincidentally all women) artists on Instagram: @jenniferpochinski @sophie.treppendahl , @julie_moss_ , @sharalynne
What was your dream growing up as a child?
I drew all the time as a kid. I wanted to be a fashion designer. I also had a comic about a superhero named “Implant Woman”...I have always been very interested in the human body.
What has become most important to you or your work at this moment in your life?
I’m striving to find what gives me comfort and happiness, and to not become consumed by the prospect of success. The pressure as a young artist can be debilitating, and I’ve acquired ideas that to become successful, one needs to live in a big city, attend the best residencies, go to the most prestigious graduate school, etc. Of course these steps can lead to a successful career, but at this point in life (I’m 25) I want to be open to other opportunities, to travel, because after all, travel draws inspiration. I’m moving to a small (affordable) mountain town in Colorado where I will have a studio and all the time to paint, and I am thrilled about it. I believe it will be very beneficial for my art.
Is there any specific moment(s) or memory in your life that pushed you definitively towards the arts or to pursue your creative ambitions?
Although I used oil paints in high school, I began college with the intention of getting my degree in metals/jewelry/CAD. I took a painting class my sophomore year and fell in love with the medium. During a mid year critique with my metals professor who knew I was torn between majoring in metals or painting, she said “painting is not a real profession...can’t you just become a Sunday painter and do it on the side?” I was appalled and chose to pursue painting.
What is your definition of ‘art’, even if it’s total bullshit?
Art is someone’s creation that stems from passion and not from ego.