Sculptor Genevieve Goffman’s Fantastical & Historical Inspirations

Genevieve Goffman can’t tie her shoes. She has a disorder called dyspraxia, which impedes her motor skills — which is only a greater testament to what the fine artist has accomplished. While knots continue to pose a challenge, Goffman can build high-concept, multi-layered 3-D renders of quasi-historical vignettes cast in colorful nylon, resin, plastic, and metal.

First educated at Reed and then Yale for a Masters of Fine Arts in sculpture, Goffman collages technology and fantasy using Blender and 3-D printing. These physical fairytales are making her an eminent staple of the New York art world — she’s shown at popular downtown galleries Alyssa Davis and Lubov, and later this month, she has exhibitions at Petzel Gallery and Blade Study before a solo show at Espace Maurice in Montréal in March to accompany her first book.

Perhaps what’s most intriguing about Goffman’s “romances” is that they subvert their epochal and historical contexts with whimsy. Take The Assassination of Winston Church Mouse, a three-tiered sculpture depicting a revisionist post-WWII Balkans in which all the political figures have been reimagined as mice Pompeii-ed in their last act before the kiln. To inform these imagination-scapes, she says she looks to the work of Adolf Loos, a controversial architect and early influencer of postmodernism, as well as the anime Aria the Animation and the architecture of Venice. Ahead, Goffman takes NYLON through more of the inspiration behind her recent work, shot by Sasha Ernst and styled by Anna Daminova.

Sculptor Genevieve Goffman On Her Fantastical & Historical Inspirations

Genevieve Goffman: I often find myself all in parts that don’t seem to fit together. On the one hand, I want to show you a beautiful castle in the sky surrounded by winged cats and dragons. On the other hand, Ludvig II was murdered by his own government for building castles, which was maybe fair. By 1886, castles were a terrible waste of resources, especially the way he built them. Like Neuschwanstein, a gorgeous fairytale castle built for no reason other than decoration. But on the third hand, aren’t they potent examples of symbolic power and in contemporary society, a monument to the fall of kings? And on the fourth hand, I can’t tell anybody any of this if I don’t spend my day in front of a gray-toned computer monitor staring at Blender. These things have to come together to form a whole for me, which is why I am a collage artist.

Sculptor Genevive Goffman On Her Fantastical & Historical Inspirations

GG: This piece is titled Monument to the Hand Made Arts. I originally made it digitally in 2018 while teaching myself how to use Blender for 3-D printing and modeling. I was in a Boris Grois and Russian cosmism phase. 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 dead pets from Earth. This structure was meant to be a utopian workshop complete with every craftsman tool, from printing presses to architectural design models. A sort of Marxist ideal of an artist studio where all art is at the service of craft, which is at the service of society. I completed this piece in 2023 by having it 3-D-printed in wax and then cast in brass by Crucible New York. The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek because my work has been criticized in the past because of my reliance on machine production over traditional sculptural methods.

Sculptor Genevive Goffman On Her Fantastical & Historical Inspirations

GG: This small purple tower is one of my older works from grad school. It was the first time I used 3-D-printed nylon as a material and it’s now one of my favorite materials to use. It has much less of a narrative than my works do now, which usually are scenes, buildings, or creatures pulled from a story. It was very roughly inspired by the Hercules Monument in Kassel, Germany. The monument consists of a 235-foot-tall Hercules statue on top of 107-foot-tall tower, on top of a 100-foot pyramid, which is on top of a 20-foot-tall octangular artificial mountain. From this mountain, a manmade waterfall flows 350 feet down a staircase at regular intervals of time into a massive lake at the bottom. It’s one of the most ludicrous things I have ever seen. I’m obsessed with it.

Sculptor Genevive Goffman On Her Fantastical & Historical Inspirations

GG: Two things really fascinate me about the monument. One is the way man’s, and by extension, the ruler’s, power and nature are depicted by the monument being carved out of an artificial mountain and decorated with pre-made ruins. The other is the desire of a Germanic king to decorate the tower with figures from Greek mythology. In the original design by Giovanni Francesco Guerniero, the octagon and pyramid would have been decorated with statues of the entire Greek pantheon.

Sculptor Genevive Goffman On Her Fantastical & Historical Inspirations

GG: This piece is called Miss Astor throws a tantrum. I’m showing it at Blade Study in February. I originally made it when a curator reached out to me about participating in an exhibition about parties. It made me a little bit anxious that I had earned myself a reputation for being a bit of a party girl. I 3-D-scanned a series of vintage liquor bottles and 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 again didn’t invite them to her society-defining 400-person ball, Alva decided to plan a provocative and lavish masked ball large enough that even the Astors couldn’t ignore. Everyone wanted to go — including the young Miss Astor. She threw a tantrum until her parents finally conceded, even though their appearance at the masked ball would forever legitimize the Vanderbilts in New York’s polite society.

Sculptor Genevive Goffman On Her Fantastical & Historical Inspirations

GG: I enjoy this story because it’s a petty drama between old money and new money, but I also think it reveals a lot about the anxieties of people in power had during the turn of the century as systems and ways of thinking started to collapse and new ones were sprouting up. And who doesn’t love a story of history pivoting on the desire of one girl wanting to go to a party in New York? Maybe being a party girl is not such a bad thing after all. The architecture with which I scaffolded these two liquor bottles is meant to replicate the neo-Gothic New York mansions of the time with a touch of the impending European Art Nouveau influence. I wanted to demonstrate this sense of inevitable “invasion” of the new or the “foreign.”

Sculptor Genevive Goffman On Her Fantastical & Historical Inspirations

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

Sculptor Genevive Goffman On Her Fantastical & Historical Inspirations

GG: Here is a photo of me gazing into the future. Believing in art. Believing in beauty. Or maybe I’m just tired from 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 really a breathtaking experience. Everything is handmade and specially selected with careful thought, down to every button or buckle. It’s so magical to meet someone who is a master of their art. It gave me a lot of hope and inspiration to be able to wear the objects she imbued with a sense of perfection.

Photographer Sasha Ernst is also a brilliant visual storyteller. The location, styling, and narrative were all her choices to create this dream den for me inside a computer-repair shop. Like me, she delights in making ornate little worlds come to life in her work, and these photos are her fairytale of a woman trapped in computer land. Making art is a lonely process and I can’t express how grateful I am each time my process can come into contact and connect with people like Anna or Sasha.

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