Nicole Eisenman

When Nicole Eisenman, 50, learned she was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, she said she was shocked. But the honor didn’t come as a surprise to those who know her work as a painter, sculptor, printer and draftswoman.

Eisenman is a painter who uses narrative elements to reimagine and explore gender and familial roles. The MacArthur Fellowship, an award this year of $625,000, which she plans to use to hire a much-needed assistant to help her with administrative tasks, is hardly her first recognition. She received the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996 and the Carnegie Prize in 2013.

“I’ve been walking around on a little bit of a cloud for two weeks,” she said in an interview with the Forward when the MacArthur news was announced.

Eisenman was born in Verdun, France, and grew up in New York, going on to earn a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. This year, the Jewish Museum displayed her painting “Seder,” where the tension of family relationships are reflected in the grotesque proportions of figures and where points of view comment on group dynamics.

In a Bomb Magazine “artists in conversation” piece featuring Eisenman and David Humphrey, Humphrey said, “People will say to me that it looks like I can do whatever I want in my paintings, since I pull images from my imagination, throw in media images, abstract gestures and shapes, and swerve in any direction. I’ll say, ‘Well, no, it doesn’t feel that way at all, but my friend Nicole Eisenman, that’s really true of her!’”

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