You never know who you’ll meet at the Greenacres Carnival. Last weekend I was taking photos of cotton candy, budding stars and the jumping castle when I ran into Scarsdale Village Trustee Kaye Eisenman with her daughter Nicole and two grandchildren, George and Freddy. I knew that artist Nicole Eisenman’s work was on display at the Whitney Biennial, but here she was with her two kids in tow, right here in town. After a brief chat and a photo opp I was intrigued and determined to learn more about Nicole, a 1987 graduate of SHS and rising figure in the art world.
I went to the Whitney and perused the 45 portraits that covered two massive walls of the 3rd floor gallery. Bold and colorful, the work appears to be a commentary on gender identity, politics, technology, fitness and other contemporary obsessions. Some were easy to read while others were far more ambiguous. Displayed together they were serious, humorous, disturbing and arresting and each demanded a look.
I chatted with Eisenman about her work, her experiences in Scarsdale, and her life as an artist and as a parent. Growing up, her family was very supportive of her artwork and she took classes from sixth grade through college with “standout teacher” Joan Busing. Busing is a painter and printmaker who teaches art classes in Hartsdale. Eisenman says Busing was “hugely influential” and introduced herto “a world of art, music and ideas.” At Scarsdale High School Eisenman painted two murals on the school walls that stayed up for almost 20 years and were only recently removed.
Speaking of her personal feelings about Scarsdale she says, “I spent my formative years there and got a wonderful education.” However, she notes that growing up here posed some challenges. She says, “Being a queer person in the 1970’s and 1980’s I tried to figure it out on my own. It was important but not easy and being in a hetero-normative culture gave me something to react against later in life.”
The monotypes seem to express feelings about alienation, human interaction and gender and I asked Eisenman about the mobile devices that I noticed in several of them. She explained, “Technology is another way in which we negotiate relationships – it becomes an extension of us and has restructured how we meet, communicate and carry on relationships.” I also asked her how being a parent has impacted your work and she said, “My imagery reflects what’s going on in my life,” and added, “there are pieces that include them (the kids).”
Inclusion in the Whitney Biennial has garnered a lot of attention for her work and she is scheduled for shows through the fall of 2013. In fact, a solo show is opening at the Leo Koenig Gallery on 23rd Street in Chelsea this week. On display will be works on paper ranging in price from $1,000 -$6,000. I asked if the 45 monotypes in the Biennial are on the market and it turns out that these, plus 50 more, have already been purchased by one collector.
What are her plans for the future? Eisenman intends to go 3-D and will be translating her images into large plaster sculptures. She says she has not sculpted since college and is excited about embarking on this new work, which will be shown in London in 2013.
See Nicole Eisenman’s work at the Whitney Museum through May 27 or view her solo show at Leo Koenig in Chelsea from May 24 – June 30th.Leo Koenig, Inc
545 West 23rd Street
New York, N.Y.
May 24- June 30, 2012
Gallery Hours, Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 6 pm