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Artist Statement—State of Being

When I moved from Germany to California in 2011, I struggled to find my voice amidst the California Lifestyle—the glamour, the superficial beauty, the intense friendliness of the people. It seemed that look was everything, and everyone was acting. Positivity felt like a cult, and I distrusted those that didn’t freely express their struggles with me. Rather than feeling the exhilaration that often accompanies the experience of landing in a new place, I felt powerless—I thought I had to act like someone else to fit in.

Through my work I began to search for the seat of my own power in a state where I felt I had none.

Most struggles with power get messy. Power attempts to order the world in its own image, so the equal and opposite reaction is to push back, go your own way, or resist by standing still. But before I was ready to exert my own force, I had to explore the symbols that, for me, have come to represent this country—the star and the diamond.

The star for me symbolizes the American obsession with individualism and selfdetermination: the star-spangled banner, the stars of Hollywood, the stars you find on lottery tickets. The star is a reminder that we’re this close to “making it”. It’s about striving and the self-consciousness that comes with it. One star can mean excellent or terrible—decorated generals, Yelp reviews. The star is used to bestow power. Rarely can one give a star to themselves.

Contrary to the exuberance of the star, the diamond is a symbol of caution. Street signs, carpool signs, cones, pennants, marks on the street, manhole covers— diamond shapes are ubiquitous in the United States. They warn, restrict, and exclude. Their presence feels overdone to me—protecting people from something. Sometimes I feel these symbols of caution are making us dumb because we have lost the ability to recognize danger for ourselves.

At first I used the stars and the diamonds to exert my power little by little. Then, I developed this further, using my initials VN like a crest, a logo, a flag.

What started as incremental land grabs claims to establish my voice in a foreign land has now become a determined vision for my own statehood—my own State of Being.

In my State of Being, I am safe, my children are protected, and my struggles are heard. I make the rules and cast judgements. I answer to no one but myself, and I look to no one for answers.

1971 born in Wuppertal, Germany


2008             Nomination “Meisterschüler” of I. Kamp
2003 – 2008 Fine Arts under I. Kamp at the Academy of Fine Arts Dusseldorf, Germany, finished with the degree of Akademiebrief Diploma
2001 – 2003 Baukunst under L.Ortner at the Academy of Fine Arts Dusseldorf, Germany
1996 – 2001 Architecture at the University of Wuppertal, Germany, finished with degree of Diploma


2017 Dave Bown Projects 13th Semiannual Competition kuratiert von Helga Christoffersen, Assistant Curator, New Museum, New York; and Kelly Kivland, Associate Curator, Dia Art Foundation, New York –
2014 Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, Marietta, Georgia, USA: 3rd place winner for Metro Montage IX Exhibition
2009 Art Award: New placement on an orphaned base Wuppertal/Germany
2008 Scholarship from the City of Düsseldorf: Artist in Residence to Ein Hod/Israel
2007 Support Art Award for painting of PSD Bank Düsseldorf/Germany
2006 Support Art Award of Deutsche Bank AG including realization
2004 Scholarship trip from DAAD to Japan

Solo Exhibitions

2014 Museum Abbey Kamp, County of Kamp Lintfort, Germany
2013 Sabaki Space, Contemporary Art Gallery Frank Gerlitzki, Guangzhou, China
2011 Museum Abbey Liesborn, County of Warendorf, Germany
2009 Galerie Samuelis Baumgarte, Bielefeld, Germany
2008 Galerie Winkelmann, Düsseldorf, Germany
         Galerie Koch, Hannover, Germany
2006 Sculpture inauguration of Deutsche Bank AG Art Award, Düsseldorf, Germany
         Galerie Janzen, Wuppertal Düsseldorf, Germany

Group Exhibitions

2017 Dave Bown Projects 13th Semiannual Competition kuratiert von Helga Christoffersen, Assistant Curator, New Museum, New York; und Kelly Kivland, Associate Curator, Dia Art Foundation, New York –
         espace apart “Tono subito”, Diekirch, Luxembourg
         Hotel Adagio-ArtSpan, San Francisco, CA
2016 Kunstverein Gelsenkirchen in the Kunstmuseum Gelsenkirchen, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
         ARTINA2016, at Sandy Spring Museum, MD; curated by Washington Sculpture Group,Washington DC
         Art Galerie7, Cologne, Germany
2015 Art Olympia, Toshima City Hall Tokyo, Japan
2014 American University Museum at Katzen Arts Center, Washington, DC
         Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, MARINMOCA, Novato, CA
         Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, Marietta, GA
         Museum of Fine Arts der Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
         Todd Art Gallery, Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN
2013 Museum of New Art (MONA), Detroit MI
         Museum of Fine Arts of Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
         Attleboro Arts Museum, Attleboro, MA
         Schlosspark Stammheim, Köln, Germany
2012 ArtPadSF with Project One Gallery, San Francisco, CA
         The Crocker Kingley Sacramento Museum Competition, Roseville, CA
2010 Galerie Koch, Hannover, Germany
2008 Representation of the german state NRW, Brüssel, Belgium
2007 Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany
         Halle 6 - Galerie Christine Hölz, Düsseldorf, Germany
2006 Alexia Goethe Gallery, London, GB
         Frieze Art Fair London, Gallery Goethe, London, GB
2005 Grosse Kunstausstellung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany
2004 Nagoza Zokei University of Art, Nagoya, Japan
2003 Skulpturenlandschaft, Hamburg, Germany

Works in collections

Deutsche Bank AG, Sparkasse Karlsruhe, AIDA Cruises, Museum Abtei Liesborn, C&A Gruppe, von Rundstedt HR Partners, United Internet, Dada Janco Museum Ein Hod/Israel, private collections