A Splash of Color
As New York’s weather gets grayer, artist Molly Goldfarb’s bright, pop-infused artwork offers an aesthetic escape. From abstract portraiture (a woman with four mouths on her head; a character whose eyebrows comprise yellow zig zags; a diptych of two faces, only one with eyes and mouth) to aerial landscapes, pictures of plants to surreal streetscapes, Goldfarb’s oeuvre evidences an inventive, vibrant imagination. Below, she describes her process and what fans can expect in the future.
You’re currently making work for two fairs in Miami, Superfine and Spectrum. Describe what you’ll be bringing to both and how you’re getting ready.
I’m very excited to be exhibiting during Art Week Miami for the first time. I’ll have seven digital pieces spanning both fairs and one custom-shaped face painting at Spectrum’s Saphira & Ventura Gallery booth. The themes of my work range from abstract portraiture to whimsical beach and city scenes from my “otherworldly” series, all of which embody my signature saturated color palette and the NYC-meets-Miami flavor that has become a consistent element of my work. People often assume that I am from Miami upon initially viewing my style, so I’m excited to bring it all down there and see the response.
Throughout next month, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on my painting, framing my large-scale digital work, and photographing my new pieces before shipping everything out. I’m also in the process of creating new “Downward Spiral” stickers and other prints that will be available at my Superfine! booth—visit for some fun surprises if you’ll be down there this December.
In addition to preparing for the fairs, I’m exhibiting two paintings from my “Aerial Landscape” series at the Museum of Russian Art in Jersey City from November 11th to 25th. Needless to say, things will be quite busy and exciting leading up to Miami.
Recently, you’ve been creating busy, colorful scenes of people and objects culled from a variety of sources. What are some places (particularly in New York), that have inspired the work?
Many of my scenes are directly inspired by the places I go, the people I see, and the things I do in my everyday life. In New York, that includes walking along the Hudson River, late nights out in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, attending concerts and music festivals, and people-watching near my West Village home. Since first moving to the city in 2010, my art has largely absorbed and reflected its singular, infectious energy—I like to place myself where that energy is concentrated in vibrant and alternative ways, both day and night.
My pieces also feature some personal effects, ranging from items found in my apartment (i.e. my flamingo neon light in “Detour”) to depictions of people who are close to me (I won’t give them away!). I’m constantly taking photographs and seeking out points of visual interest that exude the authentically “now”—in my life, the city, and/or the country as a whole—through style, attitude or gesture.
While some of the individual inspirations for these scenes are gathered from particular locales such as New York or southern Florida (others are imagined or in response to pop culture or current events), they are ultimately combined in warped, whimsical, hyperbolic settings that transcend locale and speak to the broader texture of contemporary cosmopolitan life.
Tell us about your path to making art full-time.
Despite being passionate about painting and drawing from a very young age, I never envisioned pursuing a career as an artist until somewhat recently. I was a History major and Studio Art minor at NYU, so while I was able to take several art and art history courses, the majority of my collegiate and immediate post-collegiate time was devoted to conducting research on contemporary political history. During that same time, however, I also began creating colorful abstract portraits outside of the academic environment; something clicked in me creatively when I moved into the city. I began prolifically producing colorful, psychedelic, free-association marker drawings of imagined faces in my dorm room—headphones always on and blasting—and found a constant, effortless flow of inspiration and new ideas. Because I kept this work to myself, I was unafraid to take visual risks and get weird; I was making art that that bent to nobody’s will but my own and felt invigorated and determined because of it.
Eventually after graduating, with support from my family and friends, I worked up the courage to start showing and concentrating on my work. I created an Instagram account under the handle @createdangerously as a means of sharing my work with others (I didn’t tell anybody I knew that I had created it for around half of a year). A few months in, that led to my invitation to participate in my first show at the old Brooklyn Night Bazaar location in September 2014, where I presented over 30 small marker portraits. I sold my first piece ever that night: a Bowie-like character smoking a cigarette, which I had created in my dorm room during my freshman year of college.
From there, I did a long sequence of pop-up shows at bars, in warehouses, and then, increasingly, in more formal gallery settings. One of my best friends helped me transport and hang my artwork all over the city during those initial few years as I learned more about exhibition presentation with each show—in addition to helping me celebrate after each one. (Thanks Nick!) I was and still am thankful for those who provided me with any opportunity, big or small, to share my creations in those early stages—when I needed to feel some sense of possibility and momentum the most.
The year of 2016 proved to be a big professional turning point for me: I participated in my first show outside of New York (“The Other Side of Pop” curated by Sean Beauford at the August Wilson Center); I began exhibiting in more established venues (such as the Angel Orensanz Center on the LES during New York Fashion Week); and I acquired a studio/work space outside of my apartment. This gave me more control over putting on my own exhibitions and allowing for more people to come and check out my work on a moment’s notice. This was the year I also began experimenting with new media including neon and digital art, allowing my portraits to be seen in a new light—no pun intended. These factors, combined with expanded exhibition participation, led to an exciting 2017 full of firsts: my first month-long gallery show in New York City, my first time participating in a fair during Art Frieze week (CONTEXT and Superfine!), and now my first time participating in a fair during Art Basel Miami week (Spectrum and Superfine!).
All of this continues to lead to a growing list of collectors (both across and beyond the U.S.) and exciting opportunities.
You work resides at the intersection of painting and graphic design. How’d you develop your process? How is it evolving?
I was introduced to Photoshop during a basic Intro to Digital Photography course in college. Initially, I used the skills I’d learned to take on freelance graphic design jobs (logos, concert posters, etc). One of these projects led to me experiment with “painting” over some of my scanned marker drawings on the computer. As an artist clearly driven by vibrant colors, I was excited to see how I could turn the visual volume up even more dramatically on the screen. I had found an alternate means of achieving the flatness and vibrancy that drew me to the aesthetics of fine artists from Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring to the spray-painted street art I would admire while visiting the city during my youth, to the visuals I would absorb while playing video games or watching cartoons as a child.
My most recent digital series entitled “Otherworldly” actually stemmed from a graphic design job proposal that was (thankfully) rejected. As I began laying out the foundation for “A Whole New World,” which at the time was much less detailed and slated to become an EP cover, I found myself admittedly and excitedly straying from the client’s immediate vision. I knew I was onto something I’d never done before artistically and felt that I had to follow the path to see where it would end up—even if that meant losing the commission. After several months of finding my way through the piece, losing the commission is exactly what happened. This opened the door to a whole new realm of possibilities for that first Brooklyn-based scene and then to an entire series that is continuing to evolve in the form of increasingly detailed and complex imaginary places, which I consider to be open-ended visual poems.
Going forward, I’m interested in experimenting with printing some of these graphic works onto different materials and different shapes, hopefully allowing me to bring some of their whimsy (i.e. the disco palm tree or taxi alien space ship) to life.
I’ve also discovered that creating these digital paintings has enhanced the neatness of my painting technique, changing the way I view and approach each canvas. This has enabled me to keep everything even flatter and has added precision to my line work.
I look forward to seeing how my continued pursuit of both painting and digital art continue to guide and alter one another as time goes on. Stay tuned!