The below interview was originally published in The Gallerist Speaks, online here. Much thanks to Editor, Art Writer and Symbolist Painter Zara Kand for taking the time to speak with our Editor-in-Chief, Danijela Krha Purssey.
What got you started along a career path in the arts?
I have always had a deep love of the arts! My personal experience with visual art began with my studies in high school, where I did Fine Art studies in my senior year. This then progressed to my joining the artist platform DeviantArt – at the time there were over 20 Million artists all sharing their work online. It was a wonderful community for creatives. I created a group on this platform to share my favourite artists works and grew this audience over some years. When Facebook launched I moved the group to Facebook – actually March 2022 was the 10th anniversary of the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Facebook account! I was spending much of my time sourcing and sharing artwork on this page whilst still working full time in my non arts related day job. In 2013, I decided that I needed to find a way to pursue my passion full time.
Serendipitously self-publishing became a reality at this time. Prior to this, in order to publish a magazine one would have needed to collaborate with a large publisher and distribute through traditional channels which is a huge up front investment. One I could never have afforded at the time. With the availability to self-publishing Beautiful Bizarre Magazine was born! I published the first issue in July of 2013, by December of that year the 3rd issue was released with Audrey Kawasaki’s work on the cover, our Facebook account was around 50,000 followers by this stage.
By the end of January 2014 – just 2 months later we had grown to 250,000 followers! From this huge growth in such a short period of time [I remember the days before the algorithm very fondly! If only we could still achieve the same level of organic growth] I knew we had found our niche, and that our community needed a magazine like Beautiful Bizarre Magazine – that showcased emerging and mid-career artists working in all static mediums including painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, photography, digital art etc. – and across all styles from traditional realism to lowbrow and pop surrealism.
I needed to find a way to pursue my passion full time.
In 2016, I was awarded the prestigious AMP Foundation ‘Tomorrow Makers’ Award, which
included grant funding to expand Beautiful Bizarre Magazine [AMP is one of Australia’s largest financial institutions]. This was given in acknowledgement of my dedication, tireless hard work and support of young and emerging artists locally and internationally. AMP’s Tomorrow Makers Fund provides acknowledgement, support and funding to extraordinary change-makers, who are positively impacting communities – individuals who are creating a better tomorrow.
This grant allowed me to quit my day job and work full time for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, which enabled me to grow and expand the business. This recognition and grant funding was a pivotal turning point and one I am deeply grateful for!
Since, I have gone on to publish 38 issues of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine. Our 9th Anniversary Issue 37 was released on 1 June 2022! I have also been able to bring the pages of the magazine into the real world by working with our partners in leading galleries in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia on Beautiful Bizarre Magazine curated exhibitions – which have included the best representational artists from around the world.
Our most recent exhibition opened at the New England Regional Art Museum in Australia on 13 May. This exhibition was our lucky 13th, and our 2nd Museum exhibition, which for the first time exclusively included local Australian artists. It was a real joy to bring the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine brand aesthetic to my own country.
We also host our own non-acquisitive international Art Prize – the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize! Now it its 5th year, we are giving away over US$57,000 in cash and prizes, generously donated by our incredible sponsors. The Grand Prize Winner will receive US$13,500 cash! The Prize is open to all static mediums and styles from February to July each year. I strongly encourage artists of all ages and stages to enter at www.beautifulbizarreartprize.art when the Prize opens for entries again next year!
In 2013 you co-founded Beautiful Bizarre Magazine – Have you always imagined it would become the outlet that it is today?
I remember when I won the AMP Tomorrow Makers Award I said that, I want Beautiful Bizarre Magazine to be like Australian national radio station TripleJ, who are an incredible platform for musicians to have their work discovered, and shared with a national and international audience – to help their careers grow. I believe this is what we have achieved through our various projects including the magazine itself, the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize and our curated exhibitions.
We, of course, are always striving to help our community. Every single day we post 12 artworks on our social media to over 1Million followers – most of which is simply work that we have found and love. It is purely to give the artists the visibility they deserve. We also have a regular call out – ‘Submission Sunday’, which allows our community to have their work chosen and shared every Sunday just by hashtagging #beautifulbizarre on their posts on Instagram. Some of these works are also published in each issue of the magazine in the regular editorial called ‘Join The Tribe’ – our socials community feature.
I am also deeply honoured and grateful to curate a platform which enables me to raise the voices of women and minorities, both through my staffing choices and Beautiful Bizarre Magazine projects.
I can also now reveal the most exciting news ever – 20 issues of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine from Issue 17 [June 2017] to Issue 26 [March 2022] are being archived and sent to the moon next year as part of the Lunar Codex project! Yep literally to the moon! Check out the details here.
I am deeply honoured and grateful to curate a platform which enables me to raise the voices of women and minorities, both through my staffing choices and Beautiful Bizarre Magazine projects.
Dr. Peralta, physicist, film producer and novelist has digitally archived a diverse collection of contemporary culture from 91 different countries – including art, literature, music, and film – onto nickel-shielded memory cards that will be placed into three different time capsules headed to the moon. Twenty issues of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine will be included in the Lunar Codex Polaris time capsule which will head to the south pole of the moon in Autumn 2023 via the Astrobotic Griffin/NASA VIPER mission.
This is truly the most incredible legacy for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, and the artists and contributors inside these special issues – I am very grateful and deeply honoured. To think that future generations of humanity, and perhaps sentient beings from other worlds will one day read Beautiful Bizarre Magazine to understand our culture is totally mind blowing! You can read more about this amazing project here on the Luna Codex website.
Can you explain why one of your motives is “to help shift the paradigm in the global contemporary arts industry regarding what is defined and accepted as contemporary art”?
As a leader and advocate for the arts, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine champions emerging and mid-career artists. In the 9 years since our launch, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has proudly become a voice, a global community, and a platform for creatives whose work doesn’t always fit neatly into the traditional fine art “box”.
When it comes to the valuing of figurative and representational art in Australia we are still decades behind the United States and Europe, particularly when it comes to surreal work. Australia, sadly, has been slow to accept this resurgence of work that focuses on technical mastery, preferring to continue largely down the old path of conceptual and abstract art.
So too our Art Schools and Arts Degrees in Australia. In almost all of our institutions we no longer provide practical training in the technical aspects of painting, drawing, sculpture etc. So students who wish to learn these skills must look elsewhere, often overseas. Many Art Academies all over the world have taken up this mantle and are now teaching the next generation of artists the skills they need to create the kind of work that is now the focus of the new generation of creators and collectors.
This situation is a huge loss for Australian art and Australian artists. Through our various projects I have the ability to help shift the focus of the visual arts landscape in this country and internationally, and to give the practices of representational artists validation and visibility, particularly in the commercial gallery and museum sector where it is still hard to get representation. Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has become an important and influential part of the conversation regarding what defines “new” contemporary art in today’s society.
I personally agree with Beautiful Bizarre Magazine June 2018 issue cover artist Malcolm Liepke, who stated in his interview, “I saw a piece of art one time that I didn’t like and didn’t understand, but next to the painting was a page long description of what I was supposed to get from it. I remember thinking ‘this person should have been a writer!’ Art should be visual! If you don’t get that understanding just by looking at it then it misses the point.”
Considering that creative expression often reflects our zeitgeist, how do you feel about some of the recurring themes showing up in contemporary art?
The spirit of our age continues to shift and change. However, I have seen a huge increase in artists using animals and the natural world as their subjects over the last several years. I believe this is because the sensitive souls of artists are very in tune with the escalating devastation that is occurring to our environment and the planet as a whole.
I think they wish to draw attention to the climate crisis and its affects, and wish to inspire the viewer to form a deeper connection with the non human animals of this world – because it is through this deeper / more personal connection that we will feel moved to take action to protect them.
I feel the same. A number of our curated exhibitions have focused on this precise ‘theme’. Our first museum exhibition in Berlin in 2019, our exhibition in New York last year, and to some extent our next exhibition in Australia all explore this theme.
The upcoming Australian exhibition’s theme is ‘Interconnected’. Of course, we will each have our own thoughts and opinions about what Interconnected means to us in 2022, however I believe that the last few years of the global pandemic, draught, fires, floods, and now the war in Ukraine has made evident just how interconnected we are as a species – no matter our geographical location, society, ethnicity, or religion.
The climate crisis is also affecting Australians in extreme and devastating ways, making the fact of our interconnectedness to nature glaringly obvious. Sadly, we are not doing enough, quickly enough, to make real change in this area. My hope is that this exhibition will also shine a light on the importance of change now – not just for our environment and nature, but our human populations too.
To find deeper meaning in the current challenges we face, to reach out to those in need both locally and globally, and to demand change of our governments in order to save ourselves and environment for future
Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has proudly become a voice, a global community, and a platform for creatives whose work doesn’t always fit neatly into the traditional fine art “box”.
What do you find most rewarding about your position as editor?
I particularly love hearing about the experiences of the artists who have either won or been finalists of the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. It feels so wonderful to know that Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has had a real and significant impact on their lives and practices. I also really love curating the exhibitions and the magazine itself, and of course going through all the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize entries – it’s always a wonderful resource for our various projects!
Alternatively, what do you find most challenging?
Emails! I get so many – hundreds a day! This often feels overwhelming, and the task of responding seems never ending. I have now set boundaries around my email to help me achieve balance. I now only respond to emails from Tuesday to Thursday each week – this allows me to work on non email related tasks as well. It seems to be working well.
The importance of work/life balance is also something that I learnt the hard way.
The importance of work/life balance is also something that I learnt the hard way. As you can imagine starting a business, while still working in another full time job – so working 70-80 hours a week takes its toll! I am very grateful that I have been able to understand the importance of rest and unplugging, and to prioritize it for my physical and mental health. This is also something I strongly encourage for my staff.
Any advice for aspiring artists looking to be featured by Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, or elsewhere?
Invest in yourself! If you can afford it then please enter the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize next year, for just US$40 you get your work in front of me – I curate every issue of the magazine and our exhibitions. Entries for this year’s Prize have now closed, but pop it in your diary for next year – entries will re-open for the 2023 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize in February.
Make sure you also have your own website, just social media is not enough. Your website is a permanent catalogue of your work and very important.
If this is out of your budget there are other ways to have your work seen – I have mentioned some above in relation to Beautiful Bizarre Magazine specifically. More generally, make sure you are on social media and regularly sharing your work to create a community of people that love what you do. Make sure you also have your own website, just social media is not enough.
Your website is a permanent catalogue of your work and very important. It should also have a form allowing people to be added to your email mailing list – this is your greatest asset.
Finally here are a few simple pieces of advice to always keep in mind:
1) practice, always make time to practice your painting/drawing etc, to learn, experiment and
develop your technique and your unique vision
2) create work that brings you joy in the process and the outcome
3) create work for yourself and not for an audience.
Feature image at the top of this blog is by Alessandra Maria who gifted me that beautiful work some years ago.
I have had the wonderful honour of receiving gifts of original artwork, prints and art books from many artists over the years – for which I am deeply grateful.