Ellen Altfest

Ellen Altfest

Ellen Altfest is an artist based in New York.


What artworks would you have/do you have in your drawing room?

My drawing room is where I go to recharge when I’m creatively depleted.
What artworks would you have/do you have in your drawing room?
Still life paintings; they get short shrift amongst painting genres.
On my walls are:
All twelve Goya’s dark paintings of dead animals. They were found after his death. I can only find eight reproduced online and I would love to see them all.
Still Life with Fruit by Caravaggio. I used to visit this painting in the Wadsworth Atheneum when it was discovered and on view for a year. Its attribution has been called into question, but it’s so good, I still believe it’s by Caravaggio. Very sexy.
I also have an Ensor still life, The Ornamental Cabbage, on one of the shorter walls just for pleasure. 


What books would you read/are you reading in your drawing room?

I’m reading:
De Kooning: An American Master by Annalyn Swan and Mark Stevens: The best artist biography ever.
The lonely City by Olivia Liang.
Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art Hardcover by Nancy Princenthal.
Jens F. by Collier Schorr: Her photo series of  Wyeth’s “Helga”, transposed onto young men.
Lives of the Artists by Vasari.
Dinner With Jackson Pollock by Francesca Pollock: Pollock’s childhood food faves.
Dessins d'Ingres: Catalogue raisonné des dessins: The complete Drawings of Ingres, in French, where I get all of my ideas.


What movies would you watch/are you watching in your drawing room?

I’m watching:
Eva Hesse, American Masters which just came out and I can’t wait to see.
Joni Mitchell, Joni Mitchell's Stylistic Journey, American Masters: A classic!
Georgia O’Keeffe, About the Painter: Directed by the documentary pioneer, Perry Miller Adato who recently died
New York Stories, Martin Scorcese: One of best fictional portrayals of an artist I’ve seen in film.
YouTube coloured pencil how to demos (I’m learning)

What music would you listen to/are you listening to in your drawing room?

Music that drones and moves in between vocal and instrumental, allows me to focus. But then sometimes I need something to pep me up. Right now I’m listening British female bands, past and present.
Elecrelane: Axes
Stereolab: every album
Cate le Bon: Cyrk
Would-Be-Goods: The Camera Loves Me and Brief lives
Girls At Our Best!: Pleasure 


Who would you/do you invite into your drawing room?

I’m asking other slow painters so we can commiserate.
Hilary Harkness’ work takes as long as mine; talking to her makes me feel normal. We went to school together. She has a passion for artist materials and we can geek out.
Catherine Murphy was my professor at Yale, she’ll bring candid, wise (and voluble!) opinions about art and art making, and the special hardships of being an observational painter.
I’ve never met Vija Celmins, but I heard her speak once and remember her shaking her head and saying “It doesn't get easier.” I think that could be a good starting point for a conversation.
Also Tomma Abts: working and reworking a very small painting over months or years is the kind of perverse endeavour that would make her welcome in the drawing room.
And, ideally, I’d like to disinter Ivan Albright, and prop him up on a big wood and leather high back chair. He’d be a nice addition to the group.