Zienna Brunsted Stewart (b. 1995) is a Danish-American representational oil painter living and working in New Mexico. Beginning instruction in traditional painting and drawing methods at an early age, Zienna has always been enamored by the female figure.Though she has enjoyed a largely self-led education, Zienna has studied under painters Odd Nerdrum, Marika Popovits and Daniel Sprick, among others.
As an emerging artist, Zienna has been written about in American Art Collector magazine and interviewed by the Santa Fe Reporter. She was most recently named finalist in the Portrait Society of America's 2021 "Future Generations" and "Members Only- Outside the Box" competitions.
Zienna has exhibited in the US, Denmark and Norway.
With a focus on depictions of womxn, the themes in my work are quiet, exploring the ambivalence of desire, the intimacy of close friendships, indecision and introspection.
There is a fantastic quote by John Baldessari that goes, “Great art is clear thinking about mixed feelings.” I think about this quote a lot, particularly because it feels so poignant when considering the many blended reactions we have towards subjects like the human body and sensuality. In my paintings, I confront these issues with a light touch. How might a regular body, filled with stretch marks, bruises and all the rest of it, be portrayed as lovely as a porcelain-smooth, classical Venus? I hope to portray beauty in its complexity, in its self-consciousness, uncertainty, and boldness. And while rendering a figure in all her curves, rolls, and dimples, how can I make the painting less about body image and more about an emotional narrative?
Living beings are known to respond to so much more than formed language. What our bodies are, when stripped of cultural context, is simply nature. Nature, like art, communicates without using words. A body, gushing subtle texts, has so much to say. The inaudible communication between people is powerful, and also often quite confounding. What is conveyed cannot be described, only felt.
In my view of body as nature, I intend to create subtle, dynamic impressions of a variety of women and the stories their bodies wish to express.
When did you first begin creating art?
Since the beginning of my existence! I am told that as a child if I couldn't express something in words, I would often try to draw it instead. However, at age 13 is when I discovered oil paints—I've been obsessed ever since.
When did you first consider yourself to be an artist?
"Artist" feels like a very large umbrella under which a wide scope of creatives lie. I'm not sure I ever turned that term towards myself specifically. Though others definitely have, for as long as I can remember. That said, I have always kept some sort of artistic practice, be it painting, sculpting, jewelry making, sewing, crocheting, gardening...
Who or what influences your practice?
Women! Nature. More recently, twilight.
Tell us about a specific moment in your career that you would consider a turning point.
The moment I began making images that were truly vulnerable and personal to me, my work started getting seen. At first, I was a bit shy to release those paintings. Everyone's nervous of criticism. Now, I have realized how much the viewer can intuit from an artwork, so creating a piece from a deeply honest place is very important. Another big shift for me has been making the commitment to painting every day (or as often as I can manage). I find myself progressing much quicker and am learning more than ever.
Where would you like to see your artwork go in the future?
Oh gosh! I have big dreams, big ideas. I feel myself in the infancy stage of my practice and career. So, so, much more to come.