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Artist Nicole Eisenman & Puppeteer Basil Twist Among 2015 MacArthur 'Genius Grant' Winners

Bastil Twist

The two openly gay artists are among the 24 recipients of this year's fellowships.


One of the most prestigious fellowship programs in the country, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's grants are often termed the "genius grants," but it's also essential for progress in creative and scientific fields since it comes with a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000 -- with no strings attached on how they should use it. This year's outstandingly talented 24 recipients include two proud members of the gay community: artist Nicole Eisenman and puppeteer Basil Twist.

As Andrew Durbin recently explained in a profile piece on Eisenman in Out's October Tastemakers issue:

"[Her work] sits at the points where those spheres intersect. In her paintings, figures often seem as though they have struck a private pose in public, making a face they might make in a mirror except that they are making it for an audience, for "the viewer." Eisenman is perhaps best known for her portraiture, where multi-colored faces appear in the between-states of the various cycles of feisty emotions -- some of them big, some small, some devastated, some mournful, some grinning (stupidly), some neutral and contemplative. They are common expressions often made uncommon, squared in paint to curious effect. A woman sits with death. A woman performs oral sex on her lover, their bodies resting beside a stack of books and an Eve Fowler print ("It is so, / is it so, / is it so, / is it so / is it so / is it so," it reads, a quote from Gertrude Stein). Eisenman's work is big, gay, and funny, borrowing a humor that is often deeply New York, deeply lesbian, but also deeply none of this, or only ambivalently so. In her essay on Eisenman, the poet Eileen Myles writes: 'Nicole has always had the gift of unselfconsciously converting her own self-consciousness into yours.' "

Eisenman, who along with LaToya Ruby Frazier were the only two contemporary artists included in this year's winners, told the New York Timesthat "[t]he part of the award that is most meaningful is the validation and the vote of confidence from my peers or whoever this mysterious force is that decides I'm going to get this. That feels deep and important."

Bastil Twist

Twist has been a mainstay in the New York City downtown artistic scene for decades, most notably collaborating with Joey Arias on a Arias With a Twist, which was a breakout success several years ago. His latest work, Sisters' Follies: Between Two Worlds, begin this Thursday, October 1. Commissioned for the 100th Anniversary of the Abrons' Playhouse, it's a "dark musical extravaganza" that stars the legendary icons Arias and Julie Atlas Muz.

Watch a video with Basil Twist for MacArthur Fellowship below:

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