Eric Forstmann's still life paintings often feature returning items—dramatically pleated Oxford shirts, glass vases or jars with long, twiggy flowers, an assortment of rounded fruit, a variety of chairs—and they always have two things in common: They're enhanced by light, shadows, and reflections dancing throughout, and they're completely and utterly innocuous. "Objects have a special place in people's lives. We have a special relationship with things," Forstmann explains. "A certain shirt in a certain light suggests...what would it suggest? I could give a backstory, but it wouldn't help the viewer at all."
It's immediately obvious that Eric Forstmann is self-reflective—a considerate artist with a sense of humor, an open mind, and an accelerating national reputation. His art hangs in the homes of the rich and famous, including Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Clinton.
In 1994, Forstmann had his first show at Garuda Gallery in Sharon, Connecticut. It immediately sold out, and his painting career took off. Before then, he played a number of roles—stay-at-home-dad, furniture maker, student, teacher. But ever since he was little, he knew he wanted to paint. "I didn't know it would work out," he laughs. "I just knew I loved it."
His work revolves around what he calls "the universal particular," in which any set of items takes on new meaning according to the viewer "well beyond what the artist meant, or even what the manufacturer or maker of the object meant." Forstmann explains, "If I take the time to really explore an empty jar, it gives it a little more credence in the world. It goes beyond its utilitarian job. I like the understated. I don't like a huge amount of narrative."
Forstmann isn't trying to make any sweeping statements about the art world. The best he can do, he says, is offer his point of view on the seemingly vague to be interpreted by viewers. While a piece may portray certain objects or convey a certain mood, Forstmann believes it's the viewer's ability to insert themselves in the piece that makes paintings universal.
For now, his breathtaking renditions of mundane objects are visual playgrounds for observers to interpret within their own parameters. "The story may come later, but it may just be about beauty and looks." Forstmann pauses, laughs, and adds, "I am an American after all."
Forstmann's art is available for purchase at Eckert Fine Art Gallery in Pine Plains. (518) 771-3300; Janeeckertfineart.com.
Film by Stephen Blauweiss. Produced by ArtistFilmDocs.