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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vision To Visuals: The Model Project

A cutting-edge display for a cutting-edge project

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Barbara Nessim’s Model Project

Illustration has long struggled to gain a distinct place for itself in the fine-art world. Perhaps because of its commercial applications in the advertising and entertainment industries that have rendered it into popular culture, illustration seems to have been silently stigmatized as inferior to the other fine arts—sculpture, painting and even photography.

Artist Barbara Nessim is a unique artist who has defied the conventional “silos” that have separated illustration and fine art for more than 30 years. Considered an influential visionary in the art world, Nessim’s exemplary contribution to illustration as art was recently recognized by the Norman Rockwell Museum when they nominated her their first Artist Laureate.

Barbara Nessim and Duggal share a relationship that goes all the way back to the ’80s when we were the only digital-imaging house in New York City to enable artists to reproduce their digitally created work. Nessim was one of a handful of visionary artists who understood very early on the tremendous potential of digital technology to create sophisticated imagery. I was privileged to work with Nessim again after all these years to help launch her latest work—The Model Project.

The project was conceived as a conversation between Nessim and the Director of Duggal Select, Karl Rudisill, at her Soho studio and ended up as a unique two-year partnership leading to an exhibition of her prints and a book. When Rudisill first saw Nessim’s studio bathed in bright illumination from the skylights, he proposed that she photograph fashion models in this natural light and imbibe them in her artwork. Nessim, whose large-scale digital paintings often have a feminine form underlying them, had never brought in fashion photography to her work. She loved the idea and worked with Rudisill over six months to develop the project further.

The Duggal Select team employed their extensive experience in fashion projects, from casting and shooting to printing and publicity, to assemble a team of models and hair and makeup stylists, and conducted the photo shoot at Nessim’s studio. Following the photo shoot, Nessim transformed each photograph of the models into a fine-art collage, each with a surreal sensibility that symbolizes Nessim’s distinctive avant-garde style. After rendering these photographs into digital collages, she worked with the Duggal team to explore the spectrum of technological possibilities for reproducing her images with the right combination of surface and substrate.


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