We came across Angie Crabtree and her stunning artwork via gemcutter Jean-Noel Soni‘s Instagram feed. Both based in the Bay Area, it’s no surprise that these two creative forces are fans of each other’s work. Angie produces remarkably precise paintings of diamonds in a range of shapes. From emerald-cuts to the increasingly popular cushion shape, each has its qualities highlighted and celebrated through her realistic oil paintings.
A statement on the material, in a world that encourages us to covet and acquire, Angie’s art challenges through beauty. We caught up with her to hear more about their meaning, her plans for future collections, and her passion for art education.
You came to our attention through your diamonds collection but, at a larger level, your art provides a commentary on materialism, luxury and the importance many of us place on our social status. Can you tell us why this is a focus of yours?
The commentary behind my work revolves around the power that diamonds hold, both culturally and economically. I’m very intrigued with the history of diamonds, the role they play in today’s society, and how they’ve come to symbolize romance. As a child, I thought diamonds were rare and only for the wealthy because that’s how the media seemed to portray them. Nowadays, they can be found at high-end stores as well as big-box stores, which is quite a contrast to the natural soil they are formed in. In my eyes, they are glamorous sculptures created collaboratively by earth and man.
What is it about diamonds that makes them such a great subject for your art?
Besides their sparkling beauty, I’m really drawn to the geometric faceting and the colors they reflect. I like both balance and asymmetry, which is what I see when I look at a diamond under a bright light source. It creates a dramatic contrast, and I like to accentuate it in my paintings using transparent glazes that can only be seen in-person.
Do you have a favorite diamond shape to paint? If so, can you tell us why?
That’s a really hard question! I don’t know if I can pick a favorite cut, but I think my favorite painting is “Renae” which is a cushion cut. It reminds me of broken glass, so maybe I’m attracted to its asymmetrical qualities. This winter, I’m going to paint some of the less-traditional cuts for my first time – including marquise, oval and heart. They are also interesting, so maybe my favorite will change next year.
Your work is generating quite a buzz in the jewelry industry. Do you plan to dive deeper into colored gemstones and jewelry design?
Colored gemstones, absolutely! I’d like to start a series of sapphires in 2016, then after that I’d love to experiment with some other colored stones. I’m very inspired by Jean-Noel’s work and have talked about doing some type of collaborative show down the road.
Is there a concern that, with those in the luxury sector applauding your work, its more critical underpinning is lost? Or is it ok with you if people enjoy the work simply for its aesthetic beauty?
That’s a good question, and something I’ve thought about, having graduated from a concept-based art college. Although my work has an idea behind it, I think the visuals hold the most weight, and I want them to be enjoyed first and foremost. It allows my viewers to interpret them in their own way, which I think is more interesting. Jewelers and gem enthusiasts always know they’re diamonds, but many viewers interpret them as abstract art, kaleidoscopes, or mandalas — all of which I’ve experimented with in my past work. It’s great to have found a subject that combines all the patterns I’m attracted to.
While your subject matter concerns materialism, you seem truly passionate about art education and social responsibility. Can you talk us through your volunteer work and why it’s so important for you to give back?
As a former high school art teacher, I’m very passionate about seeing students succeed. At age 12, I was hired by my most favorite art teacher, Lisa Russell, to assistant-teach – and since then my whole life has revolved around it. It’s so rewarding to see them excited and engaged. I’ve worked with all age ranges but I really enjoy working with the older kids because they have so much potential. I’m still close with many of my graduated students who have pursued art degrees.
Earlier this year, I quit my part-time teaching job to focus on my art, but haven’t been able to give up education completely. I now volunteer teach with 1 Brush Initiative, an organization that offers free art classes to at-risk youth in San Francisco.
This year I’ve also partnered with The Greener Diamond and MiaDonna, which supports child soldiers in West Africa who have left the diamond mining industry. A portion of my sales are donated to their newest project that funds teachers and orphanages in Liberia to help rebuild after the Ebola epidemic. I’m so excited to have found them because it’s such a great cause. More info can be found here. Please spread the word!