Eric Zener creates narrative paintings that float between introspection and escapism.
Artist Eric Zener paints what he values. And like his paintings, Zener is a thoughtful, contemplative soul traveling through his own process of self-discovery. He doesn’t have all the answers, but he’s very aware of the process.
His recent oils show subjects standing on hilltops, submerged in water and standing at the ocean’s shore. They’re introspective and show the interrelationships between the natural world and people. At the same time, they offer the viewer an emotional escape.
Zener watched his wife give birth to two children. He nearly drowned on the Rogue River in Oregon. He has watched friends and family battle illness. “Where do I put my energy? It shows up in my work,” Zener said. “I paint these images as a cathartic relief for myself. And hopefully, the viewing of the paintings is cathartic for other people.”
“My work is about psychological turning points and transformations and risk, taking that proverbial leap of faith, balanced with that quest for finding refuge, finding quietness and stillness and escapism,” he said. “Some [paintings] are very, very introspective escapism. Some are just the joy, the pool full of people in this temporary oasis. The 10 minutes when you hit the water for the first time and the smell of sun tan lotion hits your nose. You really don’t think about anything for those first few minutes.”
Zener was born in Astoria, Ore., in 1966, but grew up in Encinitas, a small beach town just north of San Diego, Calif. “It’s a little surf town,” Zener said, “or it was until the invasion of suburbia and Targets.”
He spent his first 17 years in Southern California, in what he describes as a “very ’70s, touchy-feely environment.” His grandmother was a painter. His Father was a psychologist and prior to moving down south, his mother played violin with the San Francisco Orchestra. “[At home] art wasn’t something you did after your math homework,” he said. “Art was appreciated and encouraged as much as everything else.”
From an early age, Zener was influenced by classic masters like Picasso and Edward Hopper, “probably because those were the big art books my parents had laying around. You get those big, archetypal images in your mind. And I just evolved from there.”