Inka Essenhigh is a very powerful and interesting artist. At the young age of 43, she has already made quite the name for herself. Her Online portfolio goes all the way back to 1996; therefor I was able to view her different styles and her progress as she grew. It is very interesting to watch her art grow, and change as she experiments with new styles. However, in order to understand an artist, you need to know a little about their schooling, where they were raised and where they live now. After you know where she is from, you can easier understand and pick apart her work.
Inka Essenhigh was born and raised in Belfonte, Pennsylvania. She went to school at Columbus College of Art & Design in 1991 and went to the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1993. Her first solo exhibition was in 1997. It was called “Wallpaper Paintings,” and was at La Mama La Galleria in New York. However, that was not her first exhibition; her first exhibition was a group exhibition in 1993, simply called “Group Show,” with her School at the Wooster Street Gallery, New York. New York is where her art career took off and is also where she gets a lot of her inspiration.
Inka Essenhigh currently lives in New York City with her husband Steve Mumford, who is also an artist. Inka Essenhigh’s work in 1996 is very pattern and society base. It would make sense because the title of the Exhibition was “Wallpaper paintings”. It would seem that she was trying to depict what boys were pressured to be in those times, either a soldier or a hoodlum. She ventured out from this pattern but retains the same style of small figures, with the same bright color pallets. She becomes more whimsical and abstract as she progresses, doing an excellent job of hiding the meaning in her paintings.
In fact without the title of the pieces most of her work is indecipherable and makes you think. It is clear that she is trying to send a message to society. She is trying to show how messed up the culture has become. This message tends to stay true throughout her work. In the year, 2001 Inka Essenhigh dramatically changes her color palette and her voice. She went form bright warm colors to dark deep cool colors. Inka chose to stick with her whimsical and abstract style, however she completely change the meanings.
Her pieces became less controversial and started showing every day activities. You would think darker color–darker meaning, however that is not the way she went. She began to become more in tune to her creative side. She used this time to start defining and fine-tuning her talent instead of fighting the war on society. It was in 2003 that Inka Essenhigh started to venture away from the abstract style and began a more realistic cartoon feel. She could not completely abandon her love for the abstract art; so she tried to incorporate her new stuff into her old.
She went back to making controversial societal pieces. She added clearer objects and made them easier for the average person to understand. In other words she ‘dumbed’ downed her art with her new style of realistic cartoon. She continued to add a little abstract to her realistic paintings; however, her more realistic style eventually won out. In 2006, Inka Essenhigh completely abandoned her usual style and starts focusing more on the seasons and landscapes. She had spent the last 13 years defining her skills, and she needed a new challenge.
She still has the occasional person here and there but she mostly works completely in landscapes. She focuses on the seasonal changes, fall to winter, winter to spring. She does it in such an artful way that it really causes you to think about the seasons changing, instead of just letting them happen. Inka likes to make people think and wonder, so this was a perfect way for her to do so. She is currently still working on perfecting her landscapes and season changes. After looking at Inka Essenhigh’s work it is easy to see how she has grew and developed as an artist.
You can also see how much her New York surrounding influenced her art. Many of her pieces have to do with an average setting that she transforms into something more. It was interesting to see an artist do a complete turn from controversial abstract pieces starting out, to seasonal landscapes now. She does this transition in a very subtle and slow way. However, you can still see some tiny connections between her new and old stuff. Over all I very much enjoyed Inka Essenhigh’s art. I found it very whimsical and fun, even if I didn’t understand them at first.