The Process

In Which an Artist Discusses Making a Particular Work

Jemima Kirke is a painter and an actress, known for her role of Jessa on the HBO show Girls. She attended Rhode Island School of Design, where she made small, abstract works on paper that carry an influence of German expressionism. Later, she made an acute turn toward a more traditional form of portraiture painting, using easels and live models, mostly friends and family, some of whom are nude. Her images are often charged with uncertain psychological tensions, and are constructed from deep, earthy hues and strong, oily brushstrokes.

I met Kirke at her Brooklyn studio, a converted apartment on the ground floor of her home in Carroll Gardens. In the space she’s built a wooden dais for her models and hung some old photographs on the walls. As we talked about her work, we browsed her collection of art monographs (Joseph Beuys, Elizabeth Neel), and opened some of her mail, which included an ebay-ordered poster for the 1981 German film Christiane F., and some snack bags for her daughter’s lunch.

—Ross Simonini

THE BELIEVER: What’s the name of this one?

JEMIMA KIRKE: It’s probably going to be my daughter’s name, Rafaella.

BLVR: Do you usually name portraits after people?

JK: Yeah, naming is hard. Since it’s my first painting of her I don’t want to name it anything different.

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