Now through May 20th, Artsy, Bergdorf Goodman, Dior, and American Express present The Artsy Vanguard exhibition, an in-store installation, and curated Fifth Avenue windows at Bergdorf Goodman.
In the windows and on display on the store’s 2nd floor will be the works of artists currently shaping the contemporary art landscape who have been selected by Arsty for their annual editorial feature, including TM Davy, Hayden Dunham, Rochelle Feinstein, Allison Janae Hamilton, Lena Henke, Hannah Levy, Tyler Mitchell, Cynthia Talmadge, and Lina Iris Viktor, alongside Dior looks from the fashion house’s pre-fall collection.
Ahead of the launch, BG visited Cynthia Talmadge in her Dumbo studio to get a behind-the-scenes look at her work and her process from ideation to creation. Here, you can read all about her experience as an artist and how she feels to be a part of The Artsy Vanguard exhibition at Bergdorf Goodman.
Photography by Brendan Burke
Bergdorf Goodman: When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist and how would you describe your aesthetic?
Cynthia Talmadge: I always loved making stuff but I realized I wanted to be an artist when I was around 16. My aesthetic changes slightly project to project since I work across disciplines but I guess through it all I’m interested in the aesthetics of sadness and the conventions of romance.
BG: Can you take us through your creative process.
CT: I usually imagine a scenario I want to see and then try to reconstruct it, photograph it, and then make a painting or work based on that. Recently I took over my friends’ mother’s powder room, sprinkled bath salts everywhere and then made a painting based on it.
BG: What are some of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of being an artist today?
CT: Working with Ellie Rines of 56 HENRY is incredibly rewarding. I think her whole model for 56 HENRY is innovative and unique—very specific to today, definitely not something that would have existed 5 or 10 years ago. Ellie really understands my work on a deep level and she is able to help other people appreciate it. Building our relationship and working together from the start has been the most rewarding part of my career.
I think the biggest challenge for artists throughout history has been carving out time and space to make work. For years I had a million bizarre day jobs to fund my studio. Finding a convenient and affordable studio space remains one of the most challenging aspects of being an artist today in New York.
BG: How does it feel to have your work on display at Bergdorf Goodman in partnership with Dior?
CT: It’s a privilege. I often refer to classic New York institutions in my work— Restaurant Lutece, Frank E. Campbell funeral home, Zitomer Pharmacy—so showing the work in a landmark like Bergdorf Goodman is exciting. Plus, my grandmother loved the Christmas windows and took me to see them every single year with a ceremonial pitstop in the ladies lounge, so it also feels very sentimental.
BG: Is there a piece of work that you feel particularly proud of? Why?
CT: Right now I’m most excited about my Frank E. Campbell pointillist paintings. I started off setting up still lives in my studio and making pointillist paintings from them. I wasn’t sure if the style would translate when I started to depict architecture, but I was on a very tight deadline and so I pushed forward, and in the midst of all this, ironically, there was a death in my family. The weeks I spent in studio are kind of a blur but I really like looking at the paintings now because they feel like a stranger made them.
I like how they capture a dark subject with a technique that is equally romantic and mechanical. I’m working on more paintings of that building right now and I hope they will convey the light at different times of day and feel sort of ethereal or sublime.