Nikki Maloof

Understated domesticity, with a lingering sense of weirdness.

Nikki Maloof (she/her) was born 1985 in Peoria, United States. She now lives and works in the countryside of Massachusetts, United States.

Peers

Painter Barry Gealt, Maloof's undergrad tutor, had a big influence on her practice – along with artist Danielle Orchard, a good friend. She’s also worked in Peter Halley’s studio in New York. “The energy of the artists I have gotten to know here is infectious. I feel lucky to be a part of my community of painters.”

Poetry

Poet Elizabeth Bishop “totally changed my world,” says Maloof. “There’s something about the compression within a poem. The multiple angles that you can look at it. The lack of concrete ‘meaning’ within a poem opened me up to looking at painting in the same way.”

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Collaborations with Nikki Maloof

Avant Arte and Nikki Maloof have one upcoming collaboration.

Practice overview

Nikki Maloof brings a whole new take to still life. Fish, food and crockery all have an intentional lack of perspective. By contrast, intensely patterned wallpapers and tablecloths create depth. Together these elements amass into quietly strange domestic scenes. “Equal parts joy and anxiety,” as the artist puts it. Her process is measured but emotion-driven, building images from her imagination. Occasionally she refers to photographs or IRL objects, but "something is lost" if the scenes are “too real,” she says. Initial ideas are developed via sketching and collage, then translated with oil onto canvas. The artist’s influences are vast. They range from modernist Edvard Munch to postwar American painter Lois Dodd, along with contemporary painters like Nicole Eisenman and Jennifer Packer.

In the paintings, the subjects are not the real subject. Objects and animals – dead or alive – are instead conduits for emotion. “I always feel like at any given time I am housing so many different feelings and experiences.” As such, juxtapositions litter throughout. Dismemberment (2020) shows a kitchen countertop contrasted against the violence act of cutting off a crab's legs. Or Bird Cage (2020) shows a cute bird on top of a copy of the New York Times. The headline: Cry Whenever You Need. This understated sinister weirdness lingers everywhere. But simultaneously the chaos of life, parenthood, love, intimacy and anxiety find order. A deliberate order that re-invents the resilience and charm of existing.

“The work is an attempt to get at the experience of being a person in general.” Nikki Maloof