Nava Grunfeld, MAT ’81 spent her early years in Israel, before moving to New York City at the age of ten. She studied graphic design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), working in the field for many years, and later earned a BFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
She moved to western Massachusetts in 1981, and eventually decided to return to her first love—creating art. She earned a master’s in teaching from Smith College, with the intention of teaching art to complement her work as a professional artist.
Best known for her over-sized, color-saturated, watercolor still-life paintings, Grunfeld has exhibited across America. Her work has also been featured on the covers of several national art publications. In 2008, Hasbro included her paintings in its signature series of artist jigsaw puzzles.
Nava Grunfeld’s exhibit at the Alumnae House Gallery, “The Language of Color,” features both her watercolors and acrylics and runs from September 4 through December 9, 2015. Here, in her own words, she shares a little about her background and her thoughts on art and being an artist.
A born artist
I came to the United States when I was 10, but I didn’t yet speak English. I used to draw pictures to show people what I wanted and people complimented me on my drawings, and everyone just assumed I was an artist and that was what I wanted to do.
Practicality versus passion
My mother, who was a businesswoman, did not want me to be an artist because she saw it as such an unstable career choice, but she did agree that I could go into graphic arts. While I was studying design at FIT, I sometimes pretended I was going ice-skating but I was actually going to the art classes at the Arts Students League of New York.
First big steps
When I started focusing on my art, I originally used watercolors because I had a small studio and couldn’t stand the oil paint fumes. I often traveled to Mexico in the winters and was attracted to the culture and the patterns and the colors. Galleries always wanted me to paint dark New England landscapes, but I was really interested in seeing how far I could take watercolors in terms of bold colors and patterns.
In my paintings I try to capture a moment of time that would otherwise be lost. I arrest the daylight and with it a memory. Perhaps it’s the flowers, fruit or the Mediterranean light from my childhood that I try to recreate. Perhaps a certain color evokes a taste or scent from the past. I want the images I paint to have a contemporary feel. I am not interested in recreating 19th-century still lifes, nor am I interested in modern photorealism. Color speaks, and what it says is different for each person. People may respond to it or not. I communicate with color, which over time has become my language.
Someone once told me to make a decision about what you want to do and then work toward that goal relentlessly. Do something every day toward that goal—no matter what it is. I think this holds true for everything, not just for art.
Goals for the future
I want to leave a mark. I used to read Mrs. Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney ’38, to my daughter. Mrs. Rumphius wanted to make the world beautiful by sprinkling lupine seeds everywhere she went, so in the spring these beautiful flowers would grow. I, too, want to create beauty.
All images below courtesy of Nava Grunfeld