How did I meet Anna Maria Bieniek, a.k.a. Anna B.? It was at the Closing Party of Momoshi’s exhibition at the Möbelhaus Roter Punkt, Gleißbühlerstr. 11, 90402 Nuremberg, on November 2nd, 2019. She gave me her business card, which immediately piqued my interest to find out more about her as a person and to learn more about her art. That’s why I am incredibly happy that we finally got together for this interview. It’s a rainy and cold Tuesday September afternoon and Anna has invited me to her studio, which is also her apartment. Before we started to talk, we made ourselves comfortable with two big cups of chocolate chai tea.
Lydia: Good afternoon, dear Anna, it is good to see you and thanks for inviting me and taking the time for this interview.
Anna B.: You are welcome, and I am glad that you are here.
Lydia: So, Anna, just to let you know, before we start, I am going to interview you in a non-traditional way by asking you 15 questions, both common and uncommon. I would like you to try to answer them as spontaneously as possible, please.
Anna B.: No problem. I am quite used to that. Therefore, you can ask me anything that interests you.
Lydia: Okay, so let’s start, here is my first question for you:
- Lydia: Are you a night owl or an early bird?
Anna B.: I used to be a night owl, but for the last few years now I love getting up incredibly early in the morning. Preferably between 5 and 6 a.m., when everyone is still asleep, and everything seems so mystical and innocent.
- Lydia: Where do you get your inspiration for your art from?
Anna B.: I find a lot of inspiration from everyday life, from my friends, and by observing people in the city and their human behaviour. TV documentaries, non-fiction material, and picture books also pique my interest. When I’m curious and hungry for new input, I soak up everything like a sponge, especially pleasant and uncomfortable impressions, particularly the latter.
- Lydia: Do you have any artistic role models?
Anna B.: I appreciate a lot of other artists and their work, but generally I like all kinds of art that conveys a message or any kind of art that offers something completely unexpected. I think that (contemporary) art nowadays should not lose sight of the demand for sustainability. I produce a lot of art by myself. The question of who is going to benefit from it seems quite justified.
- Lydia: Do you get angry about criticism?
Anna B.: It depends on what type. There’s good and there’s bad or unnecessary criticism. In any case, I am only briefly annoyed by it. Since the person offering their criticism is simply expressing their own views, their claims are not necessarily founded on truth. Sometimes I even use that criticism to improve and get even better.
- Lydia: What are you proud of?
Anna B.: I’m proud of my continuous development that will never end…
- Lydia: Where would you like to be exhibited once in your lifetime?
Anna B.: Haha… only once? To be exhibited once as an artist is of no use. I would like to be exhibited as often as possible and then in the typical galleries and museums known to all of us.
- Lydia: What is your favourite place and your favourite part of town in Nuremberg?
Anna B.: My favorite places are my studio, the forest nearby, construction sites, the library of the Neue Museum in Nuremberg, and Obi (the hardware store) especially on Friday evenings.
Lydia: Why Obi and why on Friday evenings?
Anna B.: You know because I used to go out on Friday evening or had (Tinder) dates, but now I have a lot of time on Friday nights. Obi the hardware store has a lot of nice and useful things, and it’s just around the corner.
- Lydia: What is your favourite dish?
Anna B.: At the moment potatoes and grapes, if that can be seen as a proper dish?
- Lydia: What do you always have at home in the fridge?
Anna B.: Vanilla flavoured soy milk.
- Lydia: Who would you definitely not want to sit at a table with?
Anna B.: Donald Trump!
- Lydia: What character traits do you appreciate or value in others?
Anna B.: Honesty and helpfulness in everything that you do.
- Lydia: How do you relax?
Anna B.: Preferably by hiking in the mountains, but that isn’t always possible. An alternative option would be a visit to the local forest, doing sports, or working on my sculptures.
- Lydia: Where is your next trip going to be?
Anna B.: It will be a winter journey within myself… It has already begun!
- Lydia: Which dream would you like to fulfill?
Anna B.: To have a house in the woods with a large window where I can work well. One house for me and another for my mother.
- Lydia: Life is too short to …
Anna B.: To die!
Additional info about Ann B.:
The 41-year-old Anna Maria Bieniek was born in Wroclaw (Breslau), Poland. After she successfully completed her A-levels at the school of Fine Arts in Wroclaw, she started studying landscape architecture and environmental planning, spent an Erasmus semester abroad in London and finally moved to Schwäbisch Gmünd in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, for love in 2000. Whilst there, she graduated at the University of Applied Sciences with a Master of Arts in product design. Therefore, besides Polish, Anna Bieniek also speaks German and English. After a personal crisis, she gave up her original job as a product designer for a company in Erlangen and sought new impetus and meaning in her life. During a chance visit to a pottery workshop at E-Werk, a cultural centre in Erlangen, she rediscovered ceramic as material for her artistic work and her first homemade vase initiated her new career. In addition to her artistic work, she also works as a freelance graphic designer and product designer. That is also the reason why she has two different websites, and two separate Instagram and email accounts.
Her art is very personal and intimate. She deals with human sexuality and pleasure in all its facets and forms and sometimes deliberately provokes extreme emotional responses. Breaking down taboos concerning ideals of beauty, lust and sexuality is characteristic of her work and especially the male gender and female lower body appear again and again in her artwork. That being said, she still often tries to focus purely on the physical attractiveness of the female and male body without oversexualizing them.
As an artist, she achieved national and international recognition for her art almost overnight by a happy accident, when a man broke her ceramic penis artwork “I am not a Toy”. The idea behind this work emerged originally from Bieniek’s self-professed “anger” toward men. What happened during the vernissage is now in the past, although it gained a lot of attention in the media. Shortly after the exhibit opened, a fellow artist leaned in just a little too close and fell over Bieniek’s ceramic sculpture, one of three 15 to 23-inch colourful penises on display at the Kunstpalais Erlangen exhibited on October 21st in 2018. Bieniek says she immediately thought to herself: “I’m not Banksy,” because a little earlier that same month, a piece by the anonymous British Graffiti artist intentionally self-destructed after it was sold at auction in London. So far she has been exhibited at the Milano Design Week (2017), at the Coburger Designtage (2018) in Güterbahnhof Coburg, Herbstsalon (2018) Kunstpalais Erlangen, group exhibition/Gruppenausstellung Studio B11 in Erlangen (2019), Erlanger Poetenfest August 2020 and at the 5th Art Weekend Nürnberg October 2020.
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