Rose Nestler Explores The Societal Constructs of Clothing

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.

Rose Nestler’s magnetic soft sculptures take the forms of clothing styles – some presently worn, some historical – but all containing nods to societal constructs. Through her work, Nestler explores how the clothes we wear and the bodies we live in heavily influence the lives we lead. Nestler’s practice is not just confined to sculpture; she is greatly interested in performance and video art and explores similar themes through the different mediums. Nestler lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.


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

Being part of a supportive and strong female community means a great deal to me. I’m truly in awe of many of my peers in the art world, their perseverance and the dialogue I am lucky to have with them is what keeps me going and making my work. My NYC art community inspires me daily!

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

Louise Bourgeois forever and always. Joan Mitchell, Nancy Grossman, Diane Simpson, Ana Mendieta, Nicola L, Anthea Hamilton, Lynda Benglis, Adrian Piper, Mika Rottenberg, Rachel Whiteread, Nicole Eisenman, Senga Nengudi and Mary Reid Kelley to name more than a few!

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

I was an art history major in undergrad and I definitely experienced the underrepresentation of female artists within my course studies. Even then this lack stood out to me, prompting to do my own research. With a few exceptions the artists who inspire me the most weren’t included in my art history curriculum.

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

I have noticed a change! There are more female artists gaining momentum and taking up space right now than in the past. Recently a man told me “you (as in women) are having a moment.” My hope and intent is that it’s more than a moment, things are changing and the new normal is here to stay.

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

I want women to be paid equally across the board. I also hope that one day the art world stigma surrounding having children and motherhood will disappear.

Your sculptures are closely tied to the fabrics you use to create them. How do you choose what material will fit with a specific work?

When I choose fabric for my work it is important to me that the type of material and its functionality match or compliment the intent or content of the piece. If the work is about business I’m looking for and using seersucker, pinstripes, linen, if it’s about sports I’m using spandex, neoprene and athletic mesh, when I want something to feel fancy or kinky I use leather or velvet. Sometimes those materials and themes cross pollinate too!

What themes are you exploring through your work?

I use fabric as a sculptural material because it is linked to clothing – our second skin. I sew and stuff fabric forms to create sculptures that evoke an alert softness. The bodies I make are abstracted and dissected. They represent feelings of awkwardness, power and attraction. The sculptures are reduced to individual body parts or iconic items of clothing, as a comparison to the objectification of women in our culture. Within this reduction I can also investigate the ways societal norms and gender stereotypes are placed on individual body parts, further illuminating how clothing can denote power and profession. Recently, I have been adapting ancient subject matter with contemporary materials and reimagining iconic patriarchal institutions (sports or business worlds) as feminine spaces, chipping away at the entanglement of gender and history.

What interests you about soft sculpture?

I love the way fabric is a soft and floppy material, through patterning, sewing, stuffing, stretching and draping it can take a strong and rigid form. In that way I see fabric as a bit of a rebel material within the sculpture world. Soft sculpture doesn’t easily detach itself from craft and humor, but that’s what I like about it, I can sneak something a little more sad and serious into my work through an approachable and comical material.

What artists have informed your practice?

A lot of the artists I listed above but currently I’m looking to artists who work in a project based, multimedia way because their trajectory acts as a wayfinder for me! Recently I saw Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto video installation at Hauser and Wirth in LA and was blown out of the water, I’m obsessed.

You often pair video with your sculpture. How does video work shape your practice?

Bringing video into my work about 2 years ago was monumental for me. Though always compelled to make three-dimensional objects, I felt slightly disappointed by them, that they weren’t able to do more. My sculptures play a role in my videos and the costumes that my characters wear match the fabric of the sculptures, so that when you see the video installed with the objects, one might imagine a life for my sculptures outside of the gallery setting.

About a year ago I incorporated dance into my videos and that was also pretty thrilling. I believe dance, fabric and sculpture are linked and make so much sense together.

I think my multidisciplinary approach serves my work because the work that I create is character based. Through time-based work I’m able to give each of my characters their own history.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

I’m extremely honored to have been nominated for an award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a handful of my works from the past year will be exhibited in an Invitational Show at the Academy this March. At the moment I’m finishing up work for a two person show that I will be a part of for the Spring Break Art Show opening in a week or so. I’m looking forward to both!

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?

Amie Cunat or Padma Rajendran