Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Studio Visit with Nikki Schiro By Yasmin Spiro

On a saturday afternoon in the fall, with my 6 year old in tow, I headed out to Nikki Schiro's show -Let Them Find an Effigy, They’ll Never Find Me - at Crossings gallery in downtown Flushing, Queens. Flushing is chaotic - filled with lots of noise, smells, food, LOTS of food, and lots of people. Once we parked and navigated our way through the busy streets - with a short stop for a sticky bun - we found the gallery tucked away in a shopping center. 

The gallery is large and spacious - a surprising and unexpectedly calm space within all the chaos of Flushing. Nikki Schiro's show was comprised of many drawings and paintings - mostly large - that filled the sizable gallery. Schiro's work is filled with story and drama and you feel the intensity of her artistic practice in each piece - in it's labor and expressiveness. 

Her work is mostly large pastel figurative works situated in far off places - with Schiro inserted into various imagined scenarios - cobbled together images that become montages of faces and places. Schiro spent many months over the last 2 years in China on 2 separate residencies and this is visible in the environments in many of the pieces. Other works are close-ups of seemingly tortured and angst filled faces and bodies - sometimes Schiro herself - sometimes others both male and female. But somehow, they all read as Schiro herself - whether they are literally portrayed that way or not, their conflict is felt as hers. 

A series of works and ongoing project - Johnny and Nikki - retells the story of being courted by an art collector who then wants to take advantage of his position of power as the collector, by trying to acquire the art on the cheap. Nikki lays bare the somewhat humiliating situation, but turns it into a form of triumph. A triumph over someone attempting to take advantage — of the artist/collector relationship and male/female one. It includes letters and notes, general correspondence as well as portraits of this character, detailing their relationship. In many of these pieces Nikki includes herself - lurking in the background, whispering, laughing and inserting herself into his world. Schiro writes that, " this makes for a wild fantasy ride and bizarre journey of exploring private and public 'photo albums', art history and the ways pop culture triggers mass desire and personal yearning."

In the end - though tasked with choosing a work for the show - I found it hard to pick one piece. I thought the more recent works were really strong and clearly Schiro's work is so much about telling her story. So we agreed that we would look at a couple recent pieces before the show and decide which vibrant story she wanted to share in that moment.