Whitney Biennial 2017

Solo en Inglès

Aliza Nisenbaum (b. 1977), La Talaverita, Sunday Morning NY Times, 2016. Oil on linen, 68 x 88 in. (172.7 x 223.5 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy T293 Gallery, Rome and Mary Mary, Glasgow

Aliza Nisenbaum: I'm Aliza Nisenbaum.

Most of the people I've been painting for the past four years now are undocumented immigrants.

My paintings are always made from life. I feel like when you paint someone and they're sitting right in front of you, it's a very intimate encounter because you get to know them deeply. You're focusing on every part of their skin, the tonalities of their flesh, and it requires trust on both sides in some ways for somebody to sit for you to paint them for so long. 

The backgrounds in the paintings are usually a montage technique where I use crafts or some kind of textiles that refer back to where the people I paint are from. They refer back to particular places that they came from in Mexico, from Puebla or from Chiapas.

I don't know how much painting can do in itself in terms of huge political agendas, but I think the fact of sitting with somebody or paying attention is a form of ethics in my mind. I have to disclose my story as much as they do when sitting for them to actually be able to open up. I'm interested in the subtle politics of care in some way.