Geboren in Mexico City en al dadelijk zou je haar werk kunnen associëren met de kleuren van de Mexicaanse muurschilderkunst, denk aan het werk van Diego Riviera dat je ook in New York City kon bekijken. Een relatie ook tussen het artistieke werk en de algemene arbeid, het werk van alledag. Vaak gaven die muurschilderingen een stem aan arbeiders en gemeenschappen. Je zou het een gevoel van solidariteit kunnen noemen, aandacht voor wat mensen in hun arbeid voor ons doen. Mensen in hun werkomgeving. Een stem geven ook aan degenen wiens stem niet wordt gehoord. Maar ook het persoonlijke lot van de eenling of de kleine groep is vaak een uitgangspunt.
Aliza Nisenbaum was born in 1977 in Mexico City and grew up there with her Scandinavian American artist mother, her Russian Jewish father who ran a leather goods business, and her younger sister. The family travelled widely, including to the UK and New York, visiting sights and exhibitions. Nisenbaum found early artistic inspiration in London and decided she eventually wanted to live in New York City. She studied psychology for two years in Mexico before taking up a place at the Art Institute of Chicago. Following her time as a student there, she stayed on to teach before finally moving to New York. Now resident in Harlem, she is a professor at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. (Juliet Rix Studio International)
My work has always been very much about sitting with people and painting them from life and, obviously, social distancing doesn’t permit that, so I’ve had to think differently and do more from memory and photographs. It’s really opened up my practice.
Since March 2020, I’ve been taking walks around Los Angeles drawing the flowers and plants which, unlike those in New York, are very similar to the vegetation I grew up with in Mexico City. My mother was a flower painter and one of my earliest artistic influences was the Marianne North Gallery in London’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, which I visited as a child with my parents. It is one of my favourite museums in the world and still influences the drawings I’m doing now. I’ve been making large-scale drawings of the plants and then painting and pairing them with people I’m thinking of in New York, or friends, students or models I’ve painted before.
De pandemie zette haar aan het denken over het maken van schilderijen van ‘keyworkers’ en wat zo mooi ‘first responders’ wordt genoemd in het engels. Ze wilde hen vermenselijken, een gezicht geven aan mensen die zo hard hebben gewerkt tijdens deze crisis. Het ‘essentiële werk’ denk bv. aan mensen die in supermarkten werken die vaak als laag geschoolde arbeiders beschouwd worden maar van cruciaal belang bleken voor ons aller leven-overleven. Zo ontstond ook de muurschildering ‘London Underground: Brixton Station and Victoria Line Staff, 2019 190cm x 361cm Hierboven al weergegeven maar ook hier onder (en in Tate Liverpool) en ook ter plaatse in Brixton Station in zijn geheel te zien:
In het filmpje van 12′ vertelt ze zelf heel overtuigend over haar onderwerpen en werkwijze. Ook haar ‘sitters’ komen aan het woord. Een tijdsdocument. Mooi gemaakt, maak er even tijd voor.
Aliza Nisenbaum, Team Time Storytelling, Steven Gerrard Garden, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Emergency Department, Covid Pandemic 2020
There are some similarities in terms of social enquiry running through Aliza’s works compared to artists such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh, who also drew attention to people and their work roles in their social context. I feel I should also mention that of my own father’s paintings, Robert Lenkiewicz’s portrait paintings of teachers, people in the medical profession, those who work in museums and the homeless, people from many walks of life. As with these artists, Aliza draws our attention to the person, not just creating a portrait of someone in general but looking deeper into the psyche and social issues surrounding that person’s relationships, thoughts and feelings as well as the effects experienced by their environment. (Alice Lenkiewicz Artlyst.com)
I notice in her work there is also a focus on growing food in community groups, this sense of sharing, the coming together of people helping each other, linking in with human rights and stories that travel back through generations, concerning memory, travel, home, immigration, racial diversity, a sense of bringing people together to do positive things, to heal and to create a sense of well-being is lovely to see. In the past, Aliza was a volunteer at Immigrant Movement International, where she taught English around the subject of Art within the class of “ English through feminist art history”. It was during this time that she painted life portraits of many of the people in her class. She says “I’m interested in painting people who might not have entered the canon of Art historical portraiture in the past. “ (ibidem)
Werk van haar wordt verdeeld bij Anton Kern gallery NY en is te bezoeken:
Usually, the models respond to me in real time as they see how I start painting their faces. I paint in a faceted way, small planes of colour next to each other showing the different temperature of skin. I think I’ll be able to capture that from photography as well. This is pretty much the crux of my work. The way I paint my sitters is quite intimate. You have to pay close attention to the subtle nuance of every little character in their face, and colour is something that is very contingent. Everyone perceives it differently and it’s a myth that even within a particular race there’s a seamless colour. To me, that’s like a metaphor of how nuanced identity is. We’re very multifaceted in terms of our identities. I’m Mexican, white, with parents from America and Russia. My father’s family fled the pogroms and ended up in Mexico City. I feel like my own identity is pretty complex.(Studio International 10/08/2020 Juliet Rix)
I’m much more interested in what it means to sit silently, in a relaxed setting, chatting with someone while you go through a very slow process of looking and paying attention, then translating that to paint. Only when you paint from life can you really see all the nuance of colour temperatures and hues that make a skin so complex. The process entails sitting with someone who I might not know very well, and who might be very different from me and, at times, spending three to six hours getting to know them. I try to do their image and character justice, and perhaps get a likeness. Most of the time these sittings are fun, but other times intimate, political or difficult conversations happen during the sitting. It’s a vulnerable thing for both me and the sitter. Yet, we often find common ground through the long process.(Ibidem)