Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Photos of Recommendation: Thumbs-Up Mandala: Inka Essenhigh

Inka Essenhigh, originally uploaded by Bromirski.

This is Inka Essenhigh. Here's the Chuck Close version.

Inka gave a lecture at the VMFA last year and one piece of advice she had still sticks in my mind, especially when considering her own work. Talking about her abrupt switch from enamels to oil she said she did it because she knew that she wanted to eventually start painting in oil and decided there was no reason to put it off; she should just switch immediately. I’m not sure if I’m wording this very well but the gist of the advice was that if you can see yourself doing something differently in five or ten years you should make that change now.

Today on Franklin Einspruch's Artblog they are discussing Richard Serra's work; frequent commenter oldpro states "like Kelley and Johns and so many of our current art culture heros his {Serra's} virtue is to have evolved a "signature" style and stuck with it, unaffected by the changes inspiration always forces on art, for decades. It really is soulless stuff... ". I'm pretty sure that oldpro is not an Essenhigh fan but going by his definition above I don't think he could call her work soulless.

All of the following are recent Inka Essenhigh paintings: Ice Cliff(2005), Bullies(2005), Brush with Death(2004). This newer work has so much more emotional depth than the earlier stuff - much richer. Haircut(2005) is so sweet, almost like a Norman Rockwell. The earlier work had an art-nouveau futuristic feel but much of the latest stuff seems to be looking back to American art of the 30’s and earlier. I’m thinking of some members of the Ashcan School like George Bellows, Everett Shinn, and especially the under-known William Glackens (click on the title of an image and then click on the thumbnail to enlarge), and also Ryder and Rockwell; I wonder how much she and husband Steve Mumford influence each other and share sources.

RELATED: The VMFA recently acquired a 2002 Essenhigh, Green Wave, which Jennifer Reeves describes thusly at the end of this short essay on Essenhigh's work.

"One gigantic eyeball hovers among huge waves, in a recent painting, wherein a figure attempts to rise at the shoreline. This eyeball clues us in to the powerful undercurrents of imagination ready to be harvested from our very souls. Refusing to be beached along the shores of the unconscious, Essenhigh plunges headlong into its ocean of mysteries. May we take on the high waves with her, navigating between the dangerous undertows, devoutly awash in the grace of blue greens."

P.S. I had a great studio visit with her; she really narrowed in on some things, very sensitive and helpful.


Anonymous said...

Martin, these photos are pure gold - spiritually and artistically. I always look forward to seeing who might be popping up in them. Do you still have all the negatives?... a show of them as 8x10's would absolutely rock. I know you've done some things with them in the FAB, but did you ever show them publicly before this? Have you ever thought about doing a show without paintings, just a bunch of work about your artistic 'support structures'?

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