Wandering through five jam-packed floors of art student studios at the New York Academy of Art MFA Open Studios last Friday, I realized that despite the Academy’s emphasis on traditional figural art, many artists transcended this stricture through the use of multiple medias to depict nature-inflected whimsy or psychological disturbance.
I’ve always enjoyed open studios, particularly student open studios, which allow a glimpse into the next generation of artists before they are tainted by the market. In over 100 studios from the basement to the fourth floor of the Academy’s Tribeca building, the art ranged from detailed and strikingly realistic figural paintings and sculptures to more radical experimentation.
Brittany Alexandria Fields organized her studio, one of my favorites, as a cohesive installation entitled “Drawn Matter.” Connecting her wide variety of mediums, the studio installation featured drawings and prints of birds and their nests, as well as a sculpture of a nest in a tree. Through the representation of nature in various mediums, Fields’s installation allowed the open studio visitors to be surrounded by and almost inhabit her creative vision.
Interested in the behavior of birds and their nesting habits, Fields’s natural environment appeared striking within the confines of the industrial Tribeca studio building. Having only lived in New York for her two years of study at the Academy, Fields explained to me that her interest in the natural world is connected to her attempt to build a space that she can feel comfortable in within industrial New York City.
Similar to Brittany Alexandria Fields’s representation of nature, painter Daniela Krachtt also recently began experimenting with different techniques to create her almost abstract, whimsical paintings. Despite appearing as if she uses a combination of color and white paint in works such as “Departure Diptych,” Krachtt uses an old technique of painting a singular color and then wiping away the paint to construct a cloudy, textural appearance. With solvent, she creates various layers and patterns, giving the painting the appearance of oxidation and resembling waterfalls.
Working with this idea of the natural world despite the paintings’ near-abstraction, Krachtt occasionally adds playful and almost silly details to the works, such as the small boats in the right panel of “Departure Diptych.” Atmospheric and mesmerizing, Krachtt’s works merge traditional techniques with a fresh and innovative feel.
While some of the artists found their voices through depicting whimsical natural scenes, other artists at the open studios displayed work that was fascinatingly disturbing and undeniably psychologically motivated.
Multi-media artist Sherry Di Filippo‘s studio featured a wide variety of mediums from charcoal drawings to video animation to a mechanical doll with moving facial features. With a cast of figures who, like the woman in Di Filippo’s animation, seem riddled with anxiety, Di Filippo, who is an identical twin, works with the idea of an identical counterpart, as seen in her slightly unsettling smoking twin charcoal drawing “Baby A, Baby B.”
Possibly the most brilliantly disquieting art piece in the entire open studios was Di Filippo’s doll, which, in combination with her detailed and evocative drawings, reminded me of Hans Bellmer’s dolls.
Many of the more psychologically thrilling works at the New York Academy of Art presented women in strange or terrifying positions such as Elizabeth Shupe’s oddly romantic “Self-Portrait as Ophelia Sprawled on her Mother’s Bathroom Floor” (2013). Dressed in a beautiful white dress and pearls, Shupe depicts herself as the water-logged Ophelia on a stitched together canvas, a scene both troubling and beautiful, with its rosy glow.
Another artist who worked with psychological horror was Robert Fundis. With a studio filled with eerie images of children and almost Francis Bacon-esque fleshy bodies, I asked Fundis if he was at all inspired by David Lynch, whose surreal representations seemed similar to Fundis’s dark scenes. Fundis answered that while he never thought of the similarity, he is inspired by artists such as Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie and the sad, beautiful music he listens to while working in his studio.
Leaving 111 Franklin Street, I was glad to have seen that figural art could still be radical, whimsical, and even a little shocking. Whether using psychologically rich and disturbing subjects or playful natural environments, the MFA artists of the New York Academy of Art exceeded the boundaries of the more traditional techniques emphasized by the school.
An extraordinary variety of artists came to Jon Swihart and Kim Merrill’s backyard potlucks, discussing not just their work, but also the events and challenges of their lives.
With A Lion for Every House at the Art Institute of Chicago, Floating Museum riffs wildly on the art rental programs of some museums.
Art and photographs, publications from the 19th and 20th centuries, manuscripts, posters and more are set to cross the auction block on August 18.
A Thing for the Mind takes Philip Guston’s 1978 painting “Story” as a starting point to examine the myriad ways in which this piece has filtered into the work of other painters.
An Oakland librarian and a French teacher in Oklahoma City collect ephemera they discover in returned and used books, from photos and recipes to love letters.
Until you’ve seen a place for yourself, it’s a bit of an abstract idea. So why not ask Artificial Intelligence to create your travel poster?
Incarcerated people will be allowed to read Heather Ann Thompson’s 2016 Blood in the Water, except for two pages featuring a map of the prison.
The Nevada Museum of Art in Reno welcomes guests to learn about “The Architect to the Stars” through captivating black and white photography. On view through October 2.
The long-lost painting resurfaced at the upscale Urban Gallery in Tel Aviv, sparking the anger of Palestinians.
“Guests in love, please understand — most of the exhibits in our museum are objects ‘born’ many years ago and subject to completely different moral standards,” said the Fort Gerhard museum in a statement.
This week, the Webb space telescope wows, übernovels, crappy pigeon nests, the problem with “experts,” and much more.