Portraits of the Psyche pix
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 3/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Designers spend a lot of time thinking about the way people with impeccable taste want their houses to look. So does Sheri Warshauer. But, unlike an interior designer, this New York painter and sculptor is less interested in the interiors themselves than in what those spaces say about the people who inhabit them. That psychic terrain is the underpinning of her large acrylic paintings of people's residences. Measuring up to 80 by 95 inches, these works serve as a looking glass into the world of high design and its social dimensions.
Warshauer's paintings often start from images in magazines, including those in Interior Design. She prefers, however, to work from her own snapshots of a house, taken while the owner is either there or not. "I don't go so far as to open drawers, but I definitely search for clues like a detective," says the former psychology major, whose first New York solo show opened last year at Jack the Pelican Presents gallery in Brooklyn. Still, she continues, "I'm not looking for absolute perfection like a magazine photographer. You get a real sense of personality from looking at a home, but you also bring your own reflections."
Back in her studio, she retools the composition and the colors captured in the photograph, introducing traces of her own vision. She also adds new elements—fashionable clutter such as Jonathan Adler pottery, for example, or even a work of art on the wall. She snuck one of her own canvases into her portrait of art dealer Max Protetch's New York apartment. For even greater control, Warshauer has segued into the three-dimensional, experimenting with dollhouse-like dioramas, which she fills with tiny handmade furniture and accessories.
Both Adler and collector Richard Ekstract have volunteered to let their interiors be immortalized. And while Eckstract already owns a Warshauer, the artist has yet to sell any of her other paintings to the occupants whose spaces she's depicted. Perhaps more surprisingly, few have even asked to see the finished product. And many of those who have taken a peek have reacted rather strongly—shocked, perhaps, at how their refuges, or at least Warshauer's interpretation of them, fail to reflect the way they see themselves. Such is the provocative power of the Warshauer treatment. "People who take offense," says the artist with a mischievous laugh, "don't surprise me anymore."