interview • christina atkinson
George Boorujy is an artist who lives and works in Brooklyn. His work explores the human relationship to nature and our perception of that relationship. We caught up with him to find out a bit more about his own perception of nature and his art.
The beauty of your artwork is in the details. Would you call yourself a perfectionist?
I never think of myself as a perfectionist. There is a lot of detail, and an aim to represent my subjects truthfully and completely. So there will be random clumps of dirt on fur, out-of-order feathers, ticks in ears. Maybe I strive for “perfectly imperfect”?
The majority of your subjects are from nature. What draws you to that or why do you feel it is important to replicate birds and animals with such exquisite detail?
Everything is Nature or breaks down to Nature. We are Nature. So even though I’m making such detailed images, I’m trying to distill down to the elemental of what is on this planet. I put in all that detail because I want the viewer to really examine the image and slow down in their processing of it. We process photography so quickly these days, but we still may slow down when we recognize that an image is handmade. In that slowing down there can be new insight. I want the images to be meditative and the detail can help with that. I always want them to be compositionally striking from a distance and engaging when viewed close up. All of these animals are familiar, but I want to re-present them in an unfamiliar way so the viewer examines his/her relationship to them and our place in nature as animals ourselves.
Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?
The ideas come into my head fairly formed, like stills from a movie. They then change in the process from getting them out of my head on to the paper. I look at a ton of photos but there would never be a photo I could work from directly unless I went full Audubon and killed my subjects and mounted them in the poses I want. So more often than not I make little sculptures of the pieces and then draw from that, using photo reference for fine details and textures and colors.
We checked out your website, www.nypelagic.com, and it’s very interesting… Could you tell our readers a little bit about it and what it is you are doing through that project?
New York Pelagic is a project where I put original drawings of pelagic (open ocean) birds into bottles along with a questionnaire and toss them into New York City waterways. The aim was to highlight and examine our connection to the ocean and the impact of marine plastic pollution on wildlife. I was also interested in exploring the idea of value – specifically the value of artwork and the value we place on the disposability of plastics versus the value we place on our health and the health of the environment. One bottle went from Staten all the way to France in a little over two and a half years at sea.
If you could change one thing about the perception of art by the majority of people what would it be?
I think I would like people to feel that art is for everyone. Original artwork is expensive to own, but galleries are free to attend, and I wish they were more welcoming spaces for the community so that everyone would feel as though they can engage with contemporary art and the broader conversation therein. I can’t stand art with an attitude of “if you don’t get it, you’re just not smart enough.” More often than not in those cases the artist isn’t communicating their ideas effectively. The work doesn’t need to be didactic, but a veil of “too cool for you” is often just masking a bunch of BS.
How would you like to be remembered?
For being really, really, ridiculously good looking. I’ll put aside the cheesy, “as a good father, son, brother and friend” and assume this is in the context of the work. I don’t have an explicit environmental message in most of my work (barring New York Pelagic), the aim is to have people think and examine and come to their own conclusions. But at the moment I’m focusing on Florida and its history and wildlife and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being a witness to something that we will soon lose. I jokingly refer to it as the Florida Farewell Tour, but only half jokingly…
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Well, after ending the last question on a quite apocalyptic note, I’d like for people to look around them and care about and get in touch with the natural world. And don’t invest in Florida real estate that is less than 18 feet above current sea level.