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September 17th, 2020

Each week, Artful spotlights an art experience or destination that speaks to us right now.

When making her sensitive portraits of immigrants from Mexico and Central America, Aliza Nisenbaum normally relies on long face-to-face sittings—a process she has been known to extend into meals and art history lessons. Suddenly, when the pandemic hit, this very social painter with a background in teaching and community organizing had to work remotely. The disruption was even more painful because Nisenbaum's subjects were among those most vulnerable to COVID.

So she did what many of us do when people we care about are going through something difficult: she sent flowers—or, rather, drew them, in diptychs that pair images of blossoms with portraits made from memory and photographs. In this series of works on paper, titled "Flora" and on view at Anton Kern through October 24, lovingly rendered succulents, lilacs, and magnolias appear beside figures in contemplation or repose. Flowers and plants have figured in Nisenbaum's art before, mainly as references to her birthplace of Mexico City, but here they take on a new weight (as seen, most clearly, in the dark shadows beneath a vase of sunflowers).

Aliza Nisenbaum, "Sunflowers & Alex," 2020
signed, dated on verso, Gouache and watercolor on paper
Paper Dimensions (each): 30 x 22 in, 76.2 x 55.9 cm). Courtesy Aliza Nisenbaum and Anton Kern Gallery, copyright Aliza Nisenbaum.Installation view of "Flora," courtesy Aliza Nisenbaum and Anton Kern Gallery, copyright Aliza Nisenbaum.
Installation view of "Flora," courtesy Aliza Nisenbaum and Anton Kern Gallery, copyright Aliza Nisenbaum.Installation view of "Flora," courtesy Aliza Nisenbaum and Anton Kern Gallery, copyright Aliza Nisenbaum.

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