Nikki Maloof

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What is my work about?

My work explores intense human emotions through imagined portraits, animals, and landscapes. These subjects are an embodiment of my search for self. Paint is always the entry point into my world. I am constantly searching for moments where exacting brushwork can unleash the spontaneous and transcendent potential of paint. Images evolve through an orchestrated but spontaneous dance of mark-making. Saturated color and adept paint handling draw attention to the subjects but also contrast and complicate them. The goal is to create meaning that extends beyond the image and evokes the unnamable.


Artist Statement

Imagined portraits, landscapes, and animals become proxies for human emotions. My subjects convey existential loneliness, but that loneliness is buoyed by humor, capricious paint handling, and the use of a saturated palette. A squiggle in a rain cloud, a drooping, cartoonish flower, or a comically disillusioned monkey draw the viewer’s attention to the melancholic tone of the imagery while simultaneously undermining it. This self-defeating melodrama points to an ambivalent view of the world, to a need to laugh and cry at once.

I look to nature when starting these semi-narrative paintings, but I upset familiarity and dodge cliché by treating areas of the canvas disparately, and by allowing competing textures to exist side by side. The paintings begin simply, often catalyzed by a basic formal painting idea. That idea can manifest in a specific person, animal, color, or brush stroke. As I work, I search for and then encourage the points where paint overwhelms subject. When this happens, time falls away and unexpected things are unearthed, things that are necessarily unplanned and unnamable, and that seem intrinsic to the material itself. Working this way can feel like an archeological dig taking place in the subconscious, where clues about who I am and how I relate to the natural world are sometimes revealed.

I usually execute a painting in a single sitting, but with as much intensity as I can muster. I want the energy of making to be preserved. Brushstrokes record impulsive decisions, and like a child’s signature drawn in wet cement, act as evidence of an ineffectual yet poignant attempt to assert one’s place in the world.





2011   MFA Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
2008 BFA Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana


Tiger Tiger, Salon 94, New York, NY
Please Excuse Our Appearance, 247365 Gallery, New York, NY
Immediate Female, Judith Charles Gallery, New York, NY

Buying Friends, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, MI
One Month One Week One Day, Human Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Don’t Look Now, Zach Feuer Gallery, New York, NY
Shrink It, Pink It, Cathouse FUNeral Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Do The Yale Thing, N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, Detroit MI
Other People’s Paintings, Torrance Shipman Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

Summer Mix, Thierry Goldberg Gallery, New York, NY
Diff’rent Strokes, Henry B. James, New York, NY
Deep Cuts, Anna Kustera Gallery, New York, NY

MFA Second Year Thesis Show, Yale School of Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
CAA MFA Exhibition at Hunter College, New York, NY

MFA First Year Show, Yale School of Art Gallery, New Haven, CT


Helen W. Winternitz Award in Painting and Printmaking

Gloucester Landscape Prize

Glazer Award for the Arts

Harry Engel Award for the Arts


“30 Emerging Artists to Watch This Summer”, Artsy, July 2015
“10 Badass Female Artists You Should Know” Priscilla Frank, Huffington Post, Jan 2015
“Garfield and Cyborgs”, Art F City, July 2014