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Eric Forstmann

by Joseph Montebello

Eric Forstmann’s goal as an artist is to make us see what is around us from a different point of view. Consider his painting Everything/Nothing which consists of crumpled brown paper.

“We overlook so many things around us,” Forstmann explained. “There is the story of the Chinese immigrant who began to collect the huge amounts of brown paper she saw being thrown away. She collected it all and made a profitable business out of selling it back to a recycling company who turned it into more usable brown paper. No one else ever paid attention to it.”

Such explanations illustrate Forstmann’s ability to amuse us and yet encourage us to discover his deeper themes. To view his famous paintings of shirts hanging from tacks on a wall is to never look at a shirt the same way again. The bodiless shirts, not perfectly buttoned or ironed, take on lives of their own.

A Connecticut native, Forstmann grew up in Warren and knew from an early age he wanted to be an artist. “I have three brothers, all born between 1960 and 1965, so my mother always had pads and pens to keep us busy. Drawing was a spinout from the roar that was our general family activity,” Forstmann said. He attended Wamogo Regional School and then went to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

“Warren was a very interesting place to grow up,” Forstmann said. “It’s a small place but it had an extraordinary number of people in the arts – directors, writers, actors, and painters. At a young age I was aware that you could have a life in the arts and be successful.”

And that philosophy has indeed worked for Forstmann. While in art school, he had started making trompe l’oeil furniture. After learning the techniques, he created a line of tables that he sold on Madison Avenue.

“That was the first money I ever made for my paintings. I’m still amazed sometimes that I get paid for doing what I love.”

An encounter with Karen Kellogg, a framer in Sharon, led to the next step – his first ever solo show. That was in 1994 and Forstmann has never looked back. Today his work is widely sought after and represented in both private and public collections.

He has been called an “intuitive realist” and an “eyeball realist” and he possesses the ability to make the viewer take a second glance and see something in an entirely new way.

"I’m a strong believer in slowing down and looking more closely at things that may appear totally innocuous,” said Forstmann. "There is beauty in so many ordinary things, a little moment or a particular angle of the sun. I try to draw beauty from the simplest and perhaps overlooked images."

Living in Connecticut works well for Forstmann and his creativity. “The smallness of it. One might look at the breadth of my work and my life’s experiences and say ‘maybe you ought to get out more.’ But I’ve always been impressed with what is around me, no matter how insignificant it may appear. I can take a trip to a nearby town, take a different road and be amazed at the new things I see. It all contributes to my work,” Forstmann said.

And that, of course, is what makes his art – and his world – so special and enviable to all of us.

A show of his most recent work, including some unique interactive installations, will open at the Eckert Fine Art Gallery in Millerton NY on October 4th.

Banner above: Seven @ 12:30 a.m.2014 Oil on board 48 x 74 inches