In an exhibition at the Locker Plant in August 2010, Ellen Altfest showed a painting, The Leg, that she created during her residency, working outdoors with a local model.
Altfest is a New York-based painter who makes small-scale still lifes (of, for example, plants, rocks, driftwood, and tumbleweeds) and portraits (of men—or of parts of men, for Altfest usually crops her models in order to isolate certain features of their physiques). She works directly from a model, whether animate or inanimate, and builds up a painting slowly, over a period of months, using small brushes and oil paint. Altfest’s meticulous technique and attention to texture and detail give the paintings a certain undefinable quality: an air of meditative otherness. The painter’s realism, based on prolonged scrutiny, disorients and unsettles what it simultaneously denotes and describes.
Ellen Altfest received an MFA from Yale University in 1997 and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2002. She was awarded a studio at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation in 2005-05 and a residency at Yaddo in 2006. Altfest has had two solo exhibitions at Bellwether in New York (2002, 2005) and one at White Cube in London in 2006. A monograph about her work was published by Jay Jopling/White Cube and Bellwether in 2007. Altfest curated the group show Men at I-Beam in New York in 2006.