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Nicole Eisenman: Artist Talk and Drawing Workshop

APR 12, 2012

New York City teens meet with artist Nicole Eisenman in front of her work in the Whitney Biennial 2012 exhibition. Photograph by Berry Stein

New York City teens meet with artist Nicole Eisenman in front of her work in the Whitney Biennial 2012 exhibition. Photograph by Berry Stein

I was very excited to meet artist Nicole Eisenman on Friday, March 9, at one of the Whitney’s teen talks. Her work is currently on view in the Biennial 2012 exhibition. The event was open to all New York City high school students and it was great to see a diverse group of youth who were there simply to hear Ms. Eisenman speak about her work. This was understandable, as the artist is known for her vivid colors, paint handling, subject matter, and especially her slightly misshapen figures that translate fluidly from paintings to prints.

Ms. Eisenman sat comfortably in front of her wall of prints and spent a few minutes talking about her work, but she mostly opened up the discussion to the fifteen or so teens at the talk. A large crowd of Biennial viewers formed around the artist, but questions remained reserved for teens. Topics included her experience as an undergrad at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), finding inspiration in graphic novels by writers such as Charles Burns and paintings by French artist Claude Monet. She also spoke about the continuous aspects of her work, personal vs. private issues, and her choices of medium.  A comment that particularly stood out to me was about printmaking. The artist said that she made the prints on view during an emotional part of her life. She explained that the fast process of monoprinting (about fifteen to forty minutes), and the compositions that were mostly made up on the spot allowed her to capture a lot of emotion. 

New York City teens meet with artist Nicole Eisenman in front of her work in the current Whitney Biennial. Photograph by Berry Stein
After the conversation with artist Nicole Eisenman in the Whitney’s third floor galleries, teens participated in a costumed, life-drawing workshop. Photograph by Berry Stein
Visiting high school students prepare their materials for an evening of life-drawing at the Whitney. Photograph by Berry Stein
Youth Insights Leaders acted as costumed models for the figure drawing workshop in the Whitney’s fifth-floor conference room. Photograph by Berry Stein
Participating students were good sports as they moved from drawing with their dominant hands to their non-dominant hands. Photograph by Berry Stein
Youth Insights Leaders give it their all as they struck imaginative poses for participants in the life-drawing workshop. Photograph by Berry Stein
Youth Insights Leader Zoe shows off her flexibility as a model for this life-drawing workshop. Photograph by Berry Stein
After drawing with both their dominant and non-dominant hands, participants were asked to further give up manual control by drawing with their dominant and then non-dominant feet. Photograph by Berry Stein
Teens were kept on their toes as they were asked to draw with their feet rather than hands. Photograph by Berry Stein
YI Leader Elleni strikes a regal pose atop the conference room table. Photograph by Berry Stein
Teens kept up with one-, two-, and five-minute poses as the YI Leaders changed configurations rapidly. Photograph by Berry Stein
YI Leader Isaiah gets comfortable for a five-minute drawing pose. Photograph by Berry Stein

After the talk, teen participants gathered in a private part of the Whitney for a figure drawing workshop with Youth Insights Leaders as our impressively still models. Inspired by the wacky figures of Ms. Eisenman’s work, we were given increasingly difficult assignments, from thirty-second to one- or five-minute gesture drawings, ending by drawing with our non-dominant foot! After these challenges, the control of drawing with the dominant hand felt like a luxury. After this experience and having examined Eisenman’s work, The Drawing Class (2011), I felt like the owner of the thumbs in the foreground of that painting. 

Elizabeth, YI Artist

Nicole Eisenman (b. 1965), The Drawing Class, 2011. Oil and charcoal on canvas, 82 × 65 in. (208.3 × 165.1 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

Nicole Eisenman (b. 1965), The Drawing Class, 2011. Oil and charcoal on canvas, 82 × 65 in. (208.3 × 165.1 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago