Forever Young

12.2.2008

By Noah Michelson

Elizabeth Peyton has made a career of capturing the ephemeral in her portraits, nimbly toeing the line between exultation and documentation. Employing vivid colors and dramatic brushstrokes, the painter depicts famous figures as youthful androgynes caught in quiet, introspective moments staged years before they gained notoriety. The result has the moody, nostalgic quality of photographs taken through bleary, rain-streaked windows.

Coinciding with a new exhibit, Peyton's first print retrospective, Elizabeth Peyton: Live Forever (Phaidon, $59.95), chronicles the 15-plus years she has used her medium not to merely honor her illustrious subjects but to present dreamy, commonplace moments snatched from their early lives. Along with more than 200 paintings collected in the book are sketches, photographs, and inspirational references Peyton used to create her stirring work, which routinely transforms celebrities, like Marc Jacobs or a young David Hockney (above), into the anonymous. Frozen in time, the legendary become approachable, feel knowable, and are -- at least on canvas -- temporarily freed from the weight of their inevitable celebrity sheen.

'Elizabeth Peyton: Live Forever' runs through January 11 at New York's New Museum of Contemporary Art.

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