Close Inspection: Victoria Gitman’s Point of View

Artist Victoria Gitman's ultra-precise paintings of handbags are on display in Los Angeles this month.

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“I imagine that some people would go mad doing what I do every day, but it’s kind of perfect for me,” says Miami-based artist Victoria Gitman, whose detailed oil paintings of vintage beaded purses, jewelry and Old Master portraits take months upon painstaking months to create. “I love to really focus and to come in [to my studio] every day and know, OK, today I’m going to do another 60 beads.”

Born to two architect parents, Gitman grew up accustomed to the notion of devoting long spans of time to meticulous renderings. “I love working small, and I like working from life,” she says. Yet Gitman’s paintings, on view at Los Angeles’ Daniel Weinberg Gallery through Oct. 24, are not just ultraprecise reproductions of other artists’ creations. “I have to, in a sense, disappear when I’m re-making these images, because I’m trying to capture somebody else’s style and somebody else’s marks,” she says. “But at the same time, it’s kind of inevitable that what comes out is also me.”

This story first appeared in the October 15, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Gitman, who lives with her parents and does not use e-mail, holds a fiercely intellectual view of her craft and lives a disciplined, almost acetic, lifestyle as a result. “What varies is whether I go for a walk or a swim in the morning or the afternoon,” Gitman says of her routine. It’s no wonder that her increasingly high profile in the art world — her pieces have been acquired by top-tier contemporary art collectors and institutions such as MoMA, The Whitney and LACMA — gives her pause. “I’m very, very private and kind of removed from the social part of the art world,” she says. “The work is out there, but I’m not.”

As to whether the antique bags or baubles get any play once they’ve been painted (a process that takes three to four months), Gitman admits, “I feel funny about wearing the purses. For one thing, they’re really small and not a lot of things fit in them. So, they basically go in a box.”

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