Nevine Mahmoud: Sculpting Forms of Desire

An Artist Photographs Her Studio in 35mm

I first met artist Nevine Mahmoud when we were students in the USC MFA program. It was a small, highly conceptually-driven program. As the only two sculptors enrolled, we became fast friends.

Our dialog that began with the long critiques and late night plaster pours (always deflecting blame as to who had clogged the sink) has never stopped. Nevine and I have shared studio visits ever since, discussing the capacity for objects to contain and reveal sensuality, and to speak directly as forms outside of language.

Nevine has taken 35mm photographs of her process for as long as I’ve known her, though she has never formally shown her photos. We took some time to catch up on the photography practice just before she headed off to show her work at Miami Basel this fall. I hope you enjoy the insights she shared with me. —Dwyer Kilcollin

I was taking 35mm photos before I was making sculpture. There was a very definite time when I decided I wanted to concentrate on making objects. Before that, I was always taking photographs. I thought about the photographs as objects themselves because everything from the process of developing the film to exposing it to light felt very material to me.

It’s a back and forth: making objects, then taking photographs of them to make them images to make them flat to make them like compositions. And then because I’m using 35mm film the photograph transitions back into an object because of the surface of the print and the effects that make it three dimensional again or material again. It’s like a conversation, that’s why I’ve kept it up I think, because it helps me see things.

I’ve always been interested in flatness into form. Consider the shape of a playground slide, which is like an “S”curve. It gives the impression of a [geometric] plane moving in space, making a curve, then multiple curves.

Full spheres are the most sculptural objects. They are so attractive to me, the way they exist in space. Nothing is as full as the sphere and so everything is flat around it.

These objects are so vessel-like and body-like and soft but it is just this sheet. The glass breasts and the slides are very simply planes that have been curved into these interesting shapes. I found them to be some of the most unintentionally sensual shapes I’d come across in the real world. I think that is where my work is. I’m looking for those things. I’m choosing current figures that are historically pretty erotic but the way I’m rendering them can be subversive.