NEW YORK — Sarah Chuldenko and Jenna Gribbon have two things in common: Jeff Koons and Album Co.’s upcoming art salon.
Both women worked for Koons. Gribbon spent a year painting for the artist; Chuldenko now logs 40-hour weeks in the vast Koons studio, which she likens to “Santa’s workshop with aprons and time cards.”
Chuldenko and Gribbon will be the featured artists at Album Co.’s second art salon this evening, at 515 West 29th Street, and their work couldn’t be more different. Chuldenko paints large canvases of historic explosions, such as the Challenger accident in 1986; she replaced the smoke with images of gastrointestinal cancer. Gribbon’s work is tiny. She places renderings of empty New York spaces inside small cedar boxes and populates them with people and objects.
Rather than being morbid, Chuldenko’s candy-colored paintings have a bright, upbeat intensity. Her latest work is based on the bombing of Baghdad in 1992; this time, she covered the smoke with shapes that are biomorphic and plant-like.
“I started thinking of the grotesque, and beauty and tragedy,” she said. “It’s about finding the life and humanity in the tragedy.”
Chuldenko, who grew up in Ohio, moved to New York in 1999 and got a job at Sotheby’s in the special events department. She received a graduate degree from the New York Academy of Art last year. “The paintings don’t look like they came from someone that’s dark and gloomy,” she said. “I’m definitely a person who believes paintings should be beautiful. I find them hopeful.”
Gribbon also believes art should be aesthetically pleasing. “I love objects, all things tiny and precious,” she said. “That comes from my love of Dutch and Flemish paintings. Jan van Eyck is my favorite painter.”
Gribbon, who moved to New York from the South, said trying to force things into spaces is “kind of a metaphor for me. It’s very similar to my own process of moving myself into these spaces in the city.”
She has used her own apartment as a backdrop and tags along with real estate agents as they show spaces to get inspiration. Deciding what goes into the tableau is an intuitive process, she added.
This story first appeared in the April 4, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Gribbon, who takes portrait commissions to supplement her income, recently finished three large portraits for Sofia Coppola’s new film, “Marie Antoinette.”
Chuldenko and Gribbon were chosen for the Album Co. event by Julie Trotta, an independent curator who founded the art salon series with Oberon Sinclair, a fashion publicist. “Our mission is to do nomadic salons for one night and invite people from different fields — fashion, art collectors, eccentrics,” Trotta said. “We wanted to create an environment that’s accessible to people.” The first salon was held in a gallery space at the Chelsea Hotel.
It looks as if Trotta and Sinclair’s artistic experiment might be around for a while. Album Co. recently secured a liquor sponsor — Ballatore, that all-important Medici for the millennium.