Sculptor Genevieve Goffman’s Fantastical & Historical Inspirations

Geneviève Goffman can't tie her shoes. She suffers from a disorder called dyspraxia which hampers her motor skills – an even greater testament to what the great artist accomplished. Although knots continue to be a problem, Goffman can create high-level, multi-layered 3D renderings of quasi-historical vignettes cast in colored nylon, resin, plastic and metal.

Trained first at Reed and then at Yale for a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture (2020), Goffman is best known for assembling technology and fantasy, bringing her imaginary landscapes into the tangible world using Blender and 3D printing. These physical fairy tales have made her a fixture in the New York art world, having exhibited at popular downtown galleries like Alyssa Davis and Lubov. Goffman says she creates “romances” around the rigid structures of modernity, drawing inspiration from the work of controversial architect and early postmodernist influencer Adolf Loos. Recently, she has also been attracted to anime Aria the animation (2005) and the architecture of Venice as a whole. This is fitting, as her work positions her as both architect and storyteller, simultaneously developing structure and narrative with each digital fragment.

Goffman is a virtuoso of the absurd. Her pieces subvert their period and historical contexts with a fanciful Genevieve-ism. Take The Assassination of Winston Church Mouse – a three-tiered sculpture depicting the revisionist post-World War II Balkans in which all the political figures have been reinvented as mice. There is movement, the characters are frozen in movement, Pompeian in their last act in front of the oven. This kind of artifice and camp only belies our understanding of truth and history. What if, what if, what if?

This young artist continues to dominate in her field. Although she has faced obstacles throughout her career, neither online scrutiny, nor accuracy, nor even her own hands can stop the building of her quixotic, iridescent empire. Goffman will exhibit at Petzel Gallery and Blade Study in New York in February and will open a solo exhibition at Espace Maurice in Montreal in March to accompany his first book, published by Inpatient Press and Espace Maurice. Ahead, Goffman presents NYLON through his recent work, photographed by Sasha Ernst and styled by Anna Daminova.

Geneviève Goffman: I often find myself in parts that don't seem to fit together. On the one hand, I want to show you a magnificent castle in the sky surrounded by winged cats and dragons. On the other hand, Ludwig II was assassinated on a lake by his own government for building castles, which may have been fair. In 1886, castles were a terrible waste of resources, especially in the way they were built. Like Neuschwanstein, a magnificent fairytale castle located on a small mountain outside a rural Bavarian town, built for no reason other than decoration and completely empty inside. But on the other hand, are they not powerful examples of symbolic power and, in contemporary society, a monument to the fall of kings? And on the other hand, I can't say anything to anyone if I don't spend my day in front of a gray-toned computer screen looking at Blender. These things have to come together to form a whole for me, that's why I'm a collage artist.

GG: This piece is titled Monument to Craft Arts. I originally made it digitally in 2018 while learning how to use Blender for 3D printing and modeling. I was in a phase of Boris Grois and Russian cosmism. I invented an imaginary utopia on the Moon where all the animals we sent into space during the Cold War space race lived together in perfect harmony, resurrecting the dead animals of Earth. This structure was meant to be a utopian workshop equipped with every tool of craftsmanship, from printing presses to architectural design models. A sort of Marxist ideal of an artist's studio where all art is at the service of craftsmanship, which is at the service of society. I completed this piece in 2023 by having it 3D printed in wax then having it cast in brass by Crucible New York. The title is a bit ironic because my work has been criticized in the past due to my reliance on mechanical production rather than traditional sculptural methods.

GG: This little purple tower is one of my oldest works from my graduate studies. This was the first time I used 3D printed nylon as a material and it is now one of my favorite materials. There is much less narration than my current works, which are usually scenes, buildings or creatures taken from a story. It is very roughly inspired by the Hercules monument in Kassel, Germany. The monument consists of a 235-foot-tall statue of Hercules, atop a 107-foot-tall tower, atop a 100-foot pyramid, which sits atop an octangular man-made mountain 20 feet high. From this mountain, an artificial waterfall descends a 350-foot staircase at regular intervals into a huge lake at the bottom. This is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen. I'm obsessed with it. It was commissioned by Charles I from the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel in 1701 and the waterfall was added by William 11th Elector of Hess to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon in 1801.

GG: Two things really fascinate me about this monument. One is the way in which the power and nature of man, and by extension, the ruler, are represented by the monument carved from an artificial mountain and decorated with prefabricated ruins. The other is a Germanic king's desire to decorate the tower with figures from Greek mythology. In Giovanni Francesco Guerniero's original design, the octagon and pyramid would have been decorated with statues from throughout the Greek pantheon.

GG: This piece is called Miss Astor throws a tantrum. I show it to Blade study in February. I originally realized this when a curator contacted me about participating in an exhibition about the holidays. It made me a little anxious that I had gained a reputation for being a bit of a party girl. I 3D scanned a series of vintage liquor bottles, then converted them into structures and dioramas of iconic party moments. This bottle was inspired by the Gilded Age conflict between Mrs. Astor and Alva Vanderbilt. Long story short, the Astor matriarch wanted nothing to do with the nouveau riche Vanderbilts. In 1883, when Mrs. Astor failed to invite them again to her society-defining 400-person ball, Alva decided to plan a provocative and lavish masquerade ball, large enough that even the Astors couldn't ignore it. Everyone wanted to go, including young Miss Astor. She threw a tantrum until her parents finally admitted, even though their appearance at the masquerade ball would forever legitimize the Vanderbilts into polite New York society.

GG: I enjoy this story because it's a little drama between old money and new money, but I also think it says a lot about the anxieties of those in power at the turn of the century, when systems and ways of thinking began to collapse and new ones sprouted. And who doesn't love a story revolving around a girl's desire to go to a party in New York? Maybe being a party girl isn't such a bad thing after all. The architecture I constructed these two liquor bottles with is meant to replicate New York's neo-Gothic mansions of the era with a touch of looming European Art Nouveau influence. I wanted to demonstrate this feeling of inevitable “invasion” of the new or the “foreign”.

GG: The metaphor here is that I am tied to the computer. Get it?

GG: Here's a photo of me looking into the future. Believe in art. Believe in beauty. Or maybe I'm just tired of staring at the computer screen. Designer Anna Daminova let me into her home studio to try on the clothes I'm wearing and it was truly a breathtaking experience. Everything is handmade and specially selected with care, down to every button or buckle. It's so magical to meet someone who has mastered their art. It gave me a lot of hope and inspiration to be able to wear the objects that she imbued with a feeling of perfection.

Photographer Sasha Ernst is also a brilliant visual storyteller. Location, style, and narrative were all his choices in creating this computer repair shop dream lair for me. Like me, she loves bringing ornate little worlds to life in her work and these photos are her fairy tale of a woman trapped in computer land. Making art is a solitary process and I can't express how grateful I am every time my process can reach out and connect with people like Anna or Sasha.

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