Inka Essenhigh is what is known as a pop surrealist. Born in 1969 in Pennsylvania Essenhigh completed her degree at the Columbus College of Art and Design. Her works have been featured in hundreds of museums across the country, and became most popular around the mid 1990’s. Essenhigh mainly works with oils on canvas. Essenhigh lives by William Blake’s motto “Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is a great shadow”.
While looking at her works the viewer feels as though they have entered a three dimensional alternate universe. Her creativity mimics that of a beautifully detailed dream, everything in the dream is a bit off putting but, at the same time alludes a sense of comfort and belonging. Her mass amount of organic shapes and feathered brushstrokes add a sense of movement to most of her works. This movement makes her work seem to capture a specific moment in her work’s dream like universe, almost as though Essenhigh is a photographer in another world.
The more work I see from Essenhigh the more I can understand her immense popularity. The more I view her work the more Tim Burton pops into my mind. I was raised watching many of his movies and I always respected his dark sense of creativity, and humor. To me, Essenhigh produces the same kind of work in that it is truly imaginative and, allows the viewer to create a story in this imaginative universe of her work.
She can take a simple everyday scene and transform it into exactly what she wants. That is probably the thing I respect most about Essenhigh. She doesn’t simply paint from a photograph or observation instead, she molds her models into her own perception of them. She isn’t afraid to push boundaries in her work, and make viewers really think about the meaning of her pieces. She leaves much open to interpretation. To me, her work is a reflection of her own daydreams, and the way she would like to see the world. She can evoke fear, comfort, curiosity, and passion in her works without needing a face to slap an emotion on. I think one of her most successful works would have to be “Subway”. Pictured on the following page, this piece shows a transformed reality of a subway stop. The monochromatic businessmen and women seem to just glide through the chaos that defines a metro station. Waiting for a train is not an activity most people would see as monumental, or beautiful in any sense. Subways are known for their lack of hygiene and, stressful atmosphere however, Essenhigh recreates this space into a masterpiece. To me, it almost seems as though these everyday figures are dancing. Drifting beautifully across the page, and receding into space as they continue on through their everyday activities.
Essenhigh is phenomenal when it comes to working with organic forms. She has definitely inspired the colors, and flow of my work. Her pieces are so cohesive and flow both as a unit and, individually. Even though, Essenhigh’s style may not be directly reflected in my senior seminar it most definitely has given me some wonderful ideas for future pieces.