April 7, 2019


Interview with Steven Rudin

By Simon Espinosa-Bourdnocle

Introductory questions:
I want to do a brief introduction about yourself and your background, so I’d like to ask you a few questions.

What was your major? (where did you study in college)

I studied Spanish Literature at Cornell University.  My junior year abroad at the University of Seville in Spain formed the trajectory of my life in big ways.

What brought you to NYC?

I came to New York City for medical school.  At the time, I had no idea that I would spend the next twenty-five years here.  I can’t imagine life without the subway.

What do you teach at Columbia U?

In recent years, I trained psychiatrists how to treat patients with cognitive behavioral therapy for depression, anxiety, phobias, and difficulty coping.

In which psychology field are you specialized?

My expertise is in anxiety and other problems related to psychological trauma. My first position was helping people who’d been affected by the events of 9/11/01.  I’ve been involved in treatment, teaching, research, and writing about PTSD. 

Interview :
1. Hi Steven and welcome! First, could you introduce yourself in a few words?

I am a New York based visual artist and psychiatrist.  I create hand-cut paper collages that celebrate the subjective, ever changing nature of memory and identity. 

2. How did art come to you?

I’ve been an artist all my life.  I started drawing Snoopy before I learned to color inside the lines.  Over the years, I’ve enrolled in formal classes, which provided useful feedback.  But, mostly I’m an independent learner.

3. What is the purpose of your artwork?

To get the viewer to pause and engage. To capture an imaginary moment filled with beauty and wonder. To share my view of the mind through visual storytelling.

4. In which way does your experience and knowledge in psychology influence your artwork inasmuch as you might somehow have a more accurate perception about human behavior than other people?

In over 20,000 sessions, I’ve visualized a lot of people’s memories. As a psychiatrist, I’ve been trained to develop constructs for abstract concepts.  My collages are a metaphor for how the mind consolidates memories from fragments into layers in a way that is dynamic and highly influenced by feeling.

5. What are your motivation when you start to conceive a collage? Do some situations inspire you more than others?

My art is autobiographical.  The compositions appear in flashes, often when I am daydreaming and/or handling my materials.  With some time and distance, each tableau makes sense given what was happening in my life and what I was thinking about at the time.

Travel inspires me a lot.  Museums, churches, fashion magazines, and auction catalogs get my mind racing.  New York City and Spain consistently amaze me.

6. Basquiat or Haring? (And why?)

Basquiat’s work takes me back to my early days in New York City in the mid 1990’s when I used to make installations in my tiny apartment with things I found on the street.  I am drawn to art that transports me through my feelings. 

7. Art popularization or democratization? (Why?)

I believe that art should be available to everyone, that the health of our society is related to the accessibility to art.  Art is a universal salve that helps us to connect with ourselves and to envision new possibilities.

8. Practice or teach psychology? (You can answer both, and why as well)

Therapy is education.  Education is therapy. I see myself as a teacher.  My goal is to create art that people can talk about and relate to their own lives.  Right now, I’d like to show people that, like my collages, their stories can be told in a multitude of different ways.  So, let’s not get too stuck in one way of seeing something.

Thanks a lot for your time Steven!