CCAD alumnus Steven Bindernagel (CCAD 2002) is often in his New York City studio for 15 hours a day, six days a week. His intense dedication began at CCAD and has continued to support him as he displays his work in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally.
“CCAD really infused me with a strong work ethic,” Bindernagel said. “I remember staying up for three days straight to finish my freshman year final projects.”
Bindernagel works as a full-time artist and is represented by CRG Gallery in New York City. In the latter half of 2012 the gallery will feature him in a solo exhibition, his first with CRG.
Richard Desroche, one of CRG’s co-owners, describes Bindernagel’s work as “…unabashedly beautiful. Color resonates and explodes off paper and canvas and at the same time a dark, brooding, even stained background is ever-present. For Bindernagel, soft and gentle must always be juxtaposed with harsh and aggressive.”
Bindernagel creates abstract paintings using a variety of techniques. His process is layered and can include pouring paint, glazing, painting out and erasing areas, and reworking the same area several times over.
Bindernagel’s success is no accident. Even in his undergraduate years at CCAD he was realizing the importance art would have in his life—and he was seizing every opportunity to learn, explore, and take risks.
“It was at CCAD that I realized I love making art and I was willing to do everything possible to do it for the rest of my life,” he said.
During his undergraduate years, Bindernagel learned to take criticism and defend his work. He enjoyed the critiques in his classes, learning to better himself and his peers. In particular, Professor Gordon Lee taught him how to defend his work and creative ideas and the importance of helping other artists grow.
“I remember his insights and keen ability to speak simultaneously to the emotional content of a painting as well as to the technical aspects of creating—it was in these classes that I really fell in love with the complexity and nuance of painting,” Bindernagel said.
His color concept and 2D design classes had a profound technical and tactile effect on his art. Today, Bindernagel still loves to use modulated color and semi-sculptural low-relief techniques in his paintings, which can be traced back to those classes.
Bindernagel participated in the New York Studio Residency Program in 2001, while at CCAD. The program allows students to study among art and design professionals in New York City for a semester, and Bindernagel capitalized on every minute of the experience.
“I spent a lot of time working in the studio, where I would spend hours and hours painting, and outside of classes I would try to visit as many gallery and museum shows as possible,” Bindernagel said. “I also spent a good amount of time just wandering around the city. It was an amazing, concentrated, and enlightening experience for me.”
He knew he wanted to return and live in New York following graduation. Bindernagel admits that the amount of time he was able to focus solely on his work during the program directly and positively influenced his last year at CCAD and was a precursor to further his studies.
Bindernagel did return to New York and earned his MFA at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). From his lessons in the studio program and at CCAD he was able to understand intense studio hours prior to grad school and “knew where to buy $1 noodles for lunch in the city.”
The move from Ohio to New York for Bindernagel was not just about attending graduate school; it was also about diving into the arts and culture scene.
“Once here [in New York] I set up a large support network of fellow artists and colleagues, friends, and mentors,” Bindernagel said. “As people know, New York is expensive and somewhat chaotic, and the art world is extremely saturated and competitive, but having a strong network here has been invaluable on countless levels—from help finding work when I needed a job, to swapping studio visits with friends, to devising how to make our goals and dreams a reality.”
Upon graduation from SVA, Bindernagel found himself searching for a full-time job to pay the bills. He had to learn to adapt to a life of balancing a full-time job with up to 40 additional hours a week in the studio.
CRG Gallery began showing Bindernagel’s work in 2010 and eventually offered to represent him. The gallery was founded in 1990 and has exhibited work by artists from the United States, South America, Europe, the Middle East, and China. It remains committed to providing exposure to emerging artists from around the world.
“I have known everyone at CRG for about five years,” Bindernagel explained. “I admire, respect, and trust them all, so I feel fortunate, and I couldn’t be happier to be working with them so early in my career.”
Bindernagel has been able to quite his job and now works more than 60 hours a week in his studio. But that doesn’t mean he has no free time. On Sundays he makes sure to take the day off to relax, read, and upload the photos of his artwork.
“Being an artist is a lifestyle choice rather than solely a career choice,” Bindernagel explained. “I came to terms [with the fact] that I was in this for the long haul, whether it ever paid off financially or not, because it is what I love to do.”
Since being able to devote himself solely to his artistic pursuits, Bindernagel has followed advice that he received from a professor years ago: as an artist, he needs to focus on making his art practice his primary and unwavering ambition. He understands that financial demands and countless other obligations may come up, but despite all of that he will find a way to stay unconditionally dedicated to his practice. His advice and motto: “Don’t stop creating”
Bindernagel believes possibilities are truly limitless for today’s artists, but times have also drastically changed due to technological advancements.
“Being an independent artist is like running a small business—you need a website, quality jpegs, business cards, etc. This may be common sense now, but in the late 1990s we were still looking at artwork on slides and projectors.”
Bindernagel’s success includes four solo exhibitions and 18 group exhibitions, and yet he still looks back to work completed his freshman year at CCAD.
“When I go home for the holidays and open the box with my work from CCAD, the memories flood back,” Bindernagel admits. “I still remember making every single project and the countless sleepless nights.”
His solo exhibition at CRG will run Nov. 15–Dec. 22, 2012.
The alumni newsletter is published four times a year and features the latest news and information for the alumni of Columbus College of Art & Design.