After graduating from Parsons School of Design and working as a fashion designer in New York City, Fahren Feingold traded the East Coast and the needles for Los Angeles and her watercolours. Her works are deeply influenced by Egon Schiele, as she herself reveals, but her erotic and sensual paintings have a less dark, more fun spin to it. We speak with the artist before her debut solo show at The Untitled Space gallery in New York which opens today September 26.
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Fahren, could you please introduce yourself and your work?
My name is Fahren Feingold, I’m an artist living and working in Los Angeles.  I grew up in Los Angeles, but moved to New York City at seventeen, where I attended Parsons School of Design and studied illustration. I lived in the city for six years and became a fashion designer, before returning to Los Angeles, where I continued to design clothing. A few years ago, I left fashion design to revisit my painting and illustration education. I have since been painting in watercolours commissioned for fashion illustration projects and my own nude subjects.
You paint mostly bold feminine nudes clashing the imagery from early 20th century French erotica, ‘70s and ‘80s American vintage magazines, and today´s internet girls. Why women? Why nude?
Painting the nude is a genre of art that’s always interested me. I connect with women on a deeper level, intellectually, experientially, and physically so it seems natural that I would paint women as my subject – especially considering the current political climate. I believe that women can find a way of connecting through their own feminine wisdom, it’s something that bonds us all regardless of where we are in history, which is why I find it intriguing to paint women from different chapters of time.
In an era where female bodies are being censored, your work is explicitly translating it with all its gear. Does the censorship affect your work in any way? Do you feel that things are changing?
I think that change is constant and it’s always in reaction to the opposing side of the scale. I also believe that whatever state we are in now, will not be lasting. That said, the current state of imposing censorship on female figures, while not new, is very troubling. And I hope that, through my art, to speak out on the subject and address how unfortunate this issue is. Women should have the right to determine what they want to show, where and when – just as any man, we should have ownership of our bodies and the way in which we use them. I’m not sure that censorship affects my art, but I do hope my art can affect censorship.
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Are your paintings based on photographs and live models, or are they products of your imagination?
I generally paint from photographic references, but I build upon those pictures with my imagination. Something about the photo has to capture my attention which intrigues me, and from there I begin to wonder the story about the woman – what brought her to that moment, what was she thinking about at that time, where in her life was she, where is she now, how does she feel about the photographs she took, etc. I envision possible scenarios that create emotions with which I can then paint.
Is there somebody who inspires you? Do you have a favourite artist who influenced the way you work?
I am heavily inspired by Egon Schiele, I love his palette and signature figures. I also really love the work of Marlene Dumas, Aguste Rodin, and Louise Bourgeois.
Your paintings seem to be moist, blending all the colours together in beautiful gradients. Is watercolour the only material you use? Do things go wrong sometimes?
I paint using the ‘wet’ technique with watercolours, so while painting, everything is always ‘active’, so to speak. I make mistakes constantly! Often, I keep pushing through as it may end up becoming a happy accident, and other times I try to fix it as I work but it just makes it worse. There is no going back in watercolours or covering up, especially with wet painting since the paper is getting saturated. At a certain point, it’s just muddy water. I will add in watercolour pencils, and sometimes after drying I will go back and add in gold and silver leafing for added depth.
“Women should have the right to determine what they want to show, where and when – just as any man, we should have ownership of our bodies and the way in which we use them.”
Your work floats somewhere between romantically dreamy and roughly sexy. Do you consider your work personal? In what way?
I like to think my work reflects my personality – in that I am a constant juxtaposition, never just one simple definition. I might seem sweet – but with an edge, I am petite –but tenacious.
You shared your skills with names like Ralph Lauren, Nicole Miller, J.Crew and Nick Knight and many others. Do you have a preference between your independent artistic practice and collaborations?
They both are fantastic ways of working. If you spend too much time working independently, you can get absorbed in yourself and lose contact with the outside influences that keep you current. And if you only collaborate, then you lose the ability to find your own voice. Best is to find a balance of doing both types of projects so that you can creatively feed off all ventures.
What did you like the most about working in the fashion field?  When and why did you quit fashion design and moved back towards what you initially studied-illustration?
I love creating a tangible product from concept to finish, where you can walk into a store and see your garment hanging on a rack – and watch someone on the street wearing it. There is something so satisfying about making a piece of art that can be used, and connecting to the person who enjoys purchasing it. The fashion industry, in general, undervalues designers and unless your name is on the door. I wasn’t prepared to start my own line so I felt it was time to look for something that could give me a sense of significance from within.
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Living from art is not an easy thing to do. Do you have to worry about your economy sometimes? What jobs have you done other than being an artist or a designer?
Everyone worries all the time, but you can only deal with things as they come at you. I’ve really only worked in fashion and art (of course when I was young I was a shop girl and a hostess).
You have your debut solo exhibition at the gallery The Untitled Space in New York City, opening on September 26. Could you share your feelings concerning the big day?
It’s a mix of excitement and anxiety. I’m beyond exited for my first solo show, it’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl! But I’m also nervous, I hope the opening goes well and people are eager to see all the new paintings.
What can the visitors of your exhibition expect? Are you satisfied with the results of your work?
I’ve worked for months on these paintings, and I’m really excited to share them all. For the first time, I will be showing much larger works than ever before – and I look forward to seeing people’s responses.
Do you have a dream?
I dream that the show is a success and all the paintings sell out. And then I can take a vacation to relax (smiles).
Fahren Feingold opens on September 26 and will be on view until October 8 at The Untitled Space gallery, 45 Lispenard Street Unit 1W, New York City.
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