Nikki Maloof’s Paintings Contain Equal Parts Joy and Anxiety

Ladies Choice is an ongoing series highlighting female artists working in New York City and beyond. This series honors the power and ingenuity of women in the arts. Women have traditionally received much less exposure and recognition in the art industry. In their support of one another, these women stand as a testament to furthering the careers of female artists.

Nikki Maloof invites multi-layered imagery and varying emotions onto her canvases. Creating scenes that include animals, vegetation, and other elements of the natural world alongside of grim symbolism, Maloof constructs narratives that are equally familiar and uncanny. Maloof incorporates intricate patterns and precise detail that leave every inch worth examining. Currently on view in “Caught and Free”, a solo exhibition at Jack Hanley Gallery, Maloof is based in South Hadley, MA.



You are part of a young generation of female artists hustling and gaining recognition. What does being a part of a strong female community mean for you?

I feel pretty proud to be working among so many fantastic female artists at the moment. I am cautiously optimistic that the trend of inclusivity will continue in the art world and beyond.

Which female artists, living or dead, inspire you most?

There are so many it’s hard to count. For the sake of space I’ll stick to the present: Catherine Murphy, Nicole Eisenman, Danielle Orchard, Holly Coulis, Ann Craven, Cynthia Talmadge, Veronica Pausova, Heidi Hahn, Shara Hughes, Tschabalala Self, Jenna Gribbon, Madeline Donahue, Xylor Jane, Becky Suss, Keltie Ferris, Jennifer Packer, Sara Faux, Josephine Halvorson, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Lois Dodd. I could go on and on and I know I’m forgetting so many.


Have you experienced firsthand the underrepresentation of female artists in the art industry?

Even if I haven’t felt a pointed, personal attack due to my gender I do feel like auction prices and gallery rosters still speak volumes about the need for continued change.


Have you noticed a change in opportunities available for female artists since you first entered the art world?

It does feel like there is an increased awareness of gender inequality and it appears that more women are the subject of biennials and retrospectives. I think it’s a long road, but every step forward is a triumph.


If you could change one thing about the current landscape for working female artists what would it be?

I think it would be great if there were increased support for artists with children. This could take the form of residencies and grants, an area I feel is really lacking for the portion of the art world that choose to have children.

Much of your work examines the natural world. From where does your interest in this subject matter derive?

I’ve been captivated by the natural world for as long as I can remember. I was definitely a kid who was constantly in the backyard and I still like to learn all the names of animals. I am always thinking about our position within and outside of the nature. It’s a big source of curiosity and creativity.


Can you discuss the balance of familiar, almost comforting figures that appear in your work with the darker, uncanny elements, which you incorporate?

The mash-up of these opposing forces within the work is an attempt to get at the experience of being a person in general. I always feel like at any given time I am housing so many different feelings and experiences.

What emotions are you trying to capture in your work?

Equal parts joy and anxiety.


You create drawings, paintings, and collages. How do you split your time between the different mediums and how do you think the different styles of creating impact your practice?

I find myself jumping between different mediums as a way of keeping myself excited and engaged all the time (which can be a challenge). I see each medium as having their own strengths and they definitely inform each other constantly. I think of the works on paper as a method to take the pressure off and get back to a more basic way of making an image. I find that since I’ve started including collage in my practice, there are moments of collage-like layering in the paintings. I’ve also noticed that my increased interest in more precise drawings has led to a heightened level of detail in my paintings. The gradual changes that happen from these relationships with the different mediums is one of my favorite aspects of making art.

What is your experience as an artist living outside of New York? How do you stay connected to the art scene in the city?

I was definitely pretty nervous about making the big move however I think subconsciously I knew it was what I wanted. I have always been really interested in houses and I wanted to raise my family in a non-city environment, so it just made sense. Moving helped me be more open to change in general which was a great outcome. I don’t feel nearly as isolated as I thought I might. Partly because I live a reasonable distance from the city and I can get back whenever I need to visit friends or see art. I also think the connectedness of the art world through the internet and social media helps to dispel a lot of feelings of distance.

What’s next for you? What has you excited right now?

I am definitely most excited about my current solo show that is up at Jack Hanley Gallery until April 21.

At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?

Jenna Gribbon!