Miriam Cabessa’s Evocative Paintings

Sitting down with an artist is always an enlightening experience. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about their process, the inspiration for their work, and how they see themselves within the larger art culture. This is what we discovered when sitting down with Miriam Cabessa at her first solo exhibit at the Jenn Singer Gallery in Gramercy Park titled, Anthropometry. The cornerstone of our conversation: her evocative paintings, and her unique method for bringing them into the world.

Cabessa has global roots. Living in New York for more than a decade, her heritage spans both Morocco and Israel. Art is in her DNA. Her father was a jazz trumpet player, who, when he could no longer find places to play in Israel, worked as an artist, creating reproductions of Picassos to make ends meet. Cabessa’s work is about her own need for self-expression, both sensual and feminine, her paintings give voice to women whose experiences have long been overlooked in art and the world beyond.

“When you look at art history I can’t base my own [work] on women painters. [I asked] how do I bring something that is not the [male] tradition to painting? I started using tools that you use to clean the house – squeegies, rugs, an iron. I used black paint, garbage cans, plates, cups. It was a comment about women and the arts. Instead of cleaning, I’m making it dirty.”

With Cabessa’s work, there is an interaction with each piece. A conversation between the artist and her canvas that the viewer can experience. Books, letters and personal objects make up the work that is in Anthropometry, and it’s as if each piece is an x-ray or impression from her life. “I wanted something real. I’m not creating an illusion. I’m creating an action and that action becomes the image,” says Cabessa.

Having left behind the paint brush years ago, her paintings are made literally by hand. “Yves Klein used models to paint and actually used them to create the painting. He was standing there with a suit and telling the women what to do. I took it another step using my own body and objects that I put on the surface. So I’m having a little discussion with Yves Klein. I’m doing something that is much more feminine. For me it’s translating a feeling, emotion and even an understanding.” Cabessa loves the challenge in creating each piece. “In my work I want to be challenged,” she says. “I’m challenging myself to create a different image.”

The works themselves are deeply personal and transformative – changing our perception of the materials as we take in the larger work. A nondescript book spine becomes an erotic allusion. Love letters take on the shape of landscapes. Open pages are formed into a sunset. “I like the transformation in art. Something you take and you touch it and it becomes something else,” says Cabessa. “Every image here has a different energy to it and I am the tool.”

Anthropometry is showing at the Jenn Singer Gallery until December 22nd
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Images furnished by the Jenn Singer Gallery:

Slide 2
MIRIAM CABESSA
Sunset 3, 2014
Oil on canvas
40 × 40 in (101.6 × 101.6 cm)

Slide 3
MIRIAM CABESSA
VB 97, 2015
Oil and spray paint on canvas
40 × 40 in (101.6 × 101.6 cm)

Slide 4
MIRIAM CABESSA
Full Trash Can, 2015
Oil and spray paint on canvas
40 × 40 in (101.6 × 101.6 cm)

Slide 5
MIRIAM CABESSA
A Letter from My Mother, 2015
Oil on panel
12 × 12 in (30.5 × 30.5 cm)

Slide 6
MIRIAM CABESSA
A Love Letter 2, 2015
Oil on panel
12 × 12 in (30.5 × 30.5 cm)

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