Currently on view in the group show "Redux" at New York's Cristin Tierney Gallery (through Feb. 4) are two works by Joe Fig, both related to his 2009 book on interviews, Inside the Painter's Studio. He's also included in the exhibition "Small Worlds" at the Toledo Museum of Art [through Mar. 25]. For the book, Fig spoke with dozens of painters about their practices and the quotidian life. The interviews also resulted in a series of diorama-like sculptures showing the artists at work. Here, he talks about his model of New York painter Inka Essenhigh in her studio.—BRIAN BOUCHER
I captured Inka at a moment when she had just left Mary Boone's gallery, after a meteoric rise in her career. She had become famous for her enamel paintings but she felt she had to continue to grow and had recently switched to oil paint. Her work is very intuitive and could change on a dime, made easier by the switch in medium. Regarding her process, she said in Inside the Painter's Studio, "I don't have a creed . . . perhaps I used to have one? I used to be much more opinionated about what was good art, but now I want to be useful. I want to be useful as an artist. These paintings are for an audience . . . I think in my earlier work I was much more about searching around for an image inside the painting. Whereas now I conjure up an image first and put it out there for the viewer's pleasure."
This image comes from my series of sculptures and photographs of artists in their studios. I've visited over 50 artists, documenting their creative processes and the spaces where they work. I interview them, focusing on the real day-to-day practicalities of the artist's life. I measure and photograph everything in the studio, including the artists contemplating their work. I then create the scene in miniature scale, with one inch corresponding to one foot. I prefer to depict the artist in contemplation, as it is in that moment of what appears to be inactivity and laziness that artists are really working their hardest.
I found Inka’s floor to be one of the most beautiful artists’ floors I’ve seen, because of the way the plates are used as palettes, each filled with different values of paint and strewn across the floor. The actual floor is also encrusted with brilliant colors of paint. It carries the history of years of work.
I'm always curious about what artists look at for inspiration. The books sprawled out on the futon and floor were about a wide range of artists. At the time Inka was getting inspiration from Philip Guston, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Picasso, El Greco and Matthias Grünewald, to name a few.
The window at the top of the wall where Inka is sitting is a window into the attached studio of her husband, the painter Steve Mumford. The sculpture that this image comes from was actually a dual portrait of both Inka and Steve. I love how the window connects the two artists with a metaphor. It is just out of reach and thus hard to peer through, offering privacy yet still the possibility of an obtainable glimpse.
Ahlam Shibli's first major retrospective, "Phantom Home," featured nine series of her documentary-style photographs, dating from 2000 to 2012. Fo...