Fahren Feingold's Ethereal Watercolors Reclaim the Female Nude

Fahren Feingold's Ethereal Watercolors Reclaim the Female Nude

V sits down for an interview with the artist on the cusp of her first solo show at Untitled Space, opening September 26.

V sits down for an interview with the artist on the cusp of her first solo show at Untitled Space, opening September 26.

Text: Christina Cacouris

Fahren Feingold is not a household name—but it soon might be. The L.A. based watercolor artist has steadily been on the rise ever since catching the eye of Nick Knight, who invited her to do an artist residency at his SHOWstudio, capturing catwalk collections through her unique, almost Fauve-esque watercolors. Since then, her work has been exhibited from the West Coast to Tokyo, and lands next week here in New York for her first solo show at Untitled Space. Ahead of her show, V sat down with the artist to talk about her process, and the politicization of nudity in art.

What drew you to watercolors?

I was a regular painter when I was in school. I was doing oils, and collaging, and things that took a lot more time. When I decided to come back to illustration, I was like, well watercolors are really popular among illustrators—I had worked with pen and ink but everyone was always on me saying I didn’t use enough color. Which is really ironic, because now I put a lot of color in! So I started using watercolor and painting flowers and abstract things, teaching myself. And I thought: I miss painting nudes. I thought [about] how interesting it would be to combine watercolors with nude paintings? Maybe it would be more approachable for people to look at that, because watercolors are traditionally used for serene landscapes, and flowers, and things that people are used to looking at in a calming setting, whereas nudes are such a hot topic. They’re so controversial. So I thought marrying two opposite concepts, maybe I could get more people to look at my work and almost lure them in.

FAHREN FEINGOLD, MON MANÈGE À MOI

Do you feel like your work is political then?

I didn’t start out political, but it has become that way. I just have always enjoyed painting nudes. I’ve always been a part of women’s empowerment, and to me, it’s just about equality. It’s not about a struggle for anything else but being equal, which I believe that free the nipple is completely about. If men can show their nipples, why can’t women?

Your work has been endorsed by Nick Knight; how did you meet him?

I’ve always loved his work. I was on Instagram and I randomly tagged him in some of my work thinking he’ll never, ever, look at me. And he did, and he liked my paintings, and he reached out to me! I was completely shocked.

When people started seeing my work as erotic, which I didn’t intend either, I would talk to him about that. I [would say] I don’t know if I want my work to be seen as that, and he would say: “It’s the oldest art form in the world, so that’s not bad at all.” I was like: you’re right! As long as more people view and enjoy my art, then I don’t care about what category they’re putting it in.

FAHREN FEINGOLD, LAST OF THE ENGLISH ROSES

What inspires you about the people you paint?

I look at so many images and people. It’s sometimes just a feeling I get from them. And I might in my head tell myself a story about them. I look at photographs from 1910, and this French woman who is posing, and you can see everything so clearly… I just think historically, what an interesting time to be alive. So I’ve connected visually with the picture. I also look at those Playboy photos from the 70’s and 80’s; there’s something kind of cheeky about them. Once I find a picture that I feel like, or an image of a person that somehow jumps out at me, I start to get really involved in it. It’s ineffable. You can’t really say why this one image jumps out at you; I just know that it does.

This isn’t the first time you’ve shown with Untitled Space; tell me what brings you back.

I’ve worked with Indira [Cesarine, the curator] a few times on these group shows, and I like that her messages have been about women’s empowerment in art. When I’ve looked into the research, it shows that women artists show in galleries something like 25% compared to men, which is so crazy to me. So I appreciate that someone is willing to make space for women in art. And the fact that she’s not only making space but giving us a voice and a platform. I feel like she understands my art, and is using little bits of everything, it’s not just one type of image, it’s little bits and pieces of all the girls.

Fahren Feingold opens September 26 at the Untitled Space and runs until October 8.

FAHREN FEINGOLD, LOVESICK SAVIOR SHALOM HARLOW
Credits: COVER IMAGE "LOVE PLAYGROUND" BY FAHREN FEINGOLD, 2017. ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF UNTITLED SPACE NEW YORK.

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