Kiki Smith. Afternoon. 2010. Lithograph with glitter additions; composition and sheet: 16 1/8 × 20 11/16" (41 × 52.5 cm). Publisher: Tamarind Institute, Albuquerque, NM. Printer: Tamarind Institute, Albuquerque, NM. Edition: artist's proof before the edition of 24. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist in honor of Deborah Wye. © 2022 Kiki Smith

There are many ways artists document and share what happens behind the scenes: through how they work with materials, sketchbooks and journals, instructions for making their works, or early artworks that led to a signature style. Here, MoMA staff talk about favorite artworks that throw open a window onto an artist’s process—and provide inspiration for our own acts of creativity.

Laurie Simmons. Blonde/Red Dress/Kitchen, from the series Interiors. 1978

At my kids’ current ages, playing with dolls and figures, I have experience carefully placing differently (and oddly) proportioned objects in small spaces, and have always marveled at Laurie Simmons’s skillful and deliberate positioning and provocation in her scenes. How can such miniature familiar objects—with intentional staging and delicate balance (note the woman’s hand gesture)—inspire reflection and criticism around such large topics as domesticity and interiority?
–Heidi Orley, Curatorial Affairs

Madelon Vriesendorp. Flagrant Délit (In the act). c. 1979

Don’t we all want to know what the city does while we are unaware? Madelon Vriesendorp draws a New York where the Chrysler Building has an affair with the Empire State, only to be caught in the act by an enraged Rockefeller Center. One character stands out in the film, though: a doubtful but resolved Statue of Liberty (of whom a character sketch is shown here). She looks at herself in the mirror, tries different hues of lipstick, and walks through a flooded city with the passion of someone going on a mission, a beautiful metaphor of what the statue itself embodies.
–Paula Vilaplana de Miguel, Department of Architecture and Design

Kiki Smith. Afternoon. 2010

Kiki Smith. Afternoon. 2010

Kiki Smith. Afternoon. 2010

This Kiki Smith work is the screensaver on my work laptop, and whenever I see it I feel a little more at ease. Being outdoors brings me so much peace, and I love spotting beautiful birds while on hikes or long walks. Not to mention, there are little specks of glitter on the work’s surface, and glitter also brings me joy!
–Oriana Gonzales, Department of Learning and Engagement

Lenore Tawney. Dark River. 1962

Lenore Tawney made Dark River in a 19th-century loft where the commercial sailmaker’s sign still hung outside, at the edge of the East River in downtown Manhattan. I love how this majestic piece tells a story of the place where it was created, and of Tawney’s ambition to push woven forms to a new relationship among the painting and sculpture of the artists working around her. Dark River grew so tall (more than 13 feet) that Tawney couldn’t see the whole thing as she was working on it; it pooled at her feet like water coming off the loom. Its radical open, vertical linen threads (which make it more fragile and floating despite its strong presence) evoke the wakes of the tugboats she watched from her window and the ink line sketches of water and birds she drew in her journals. It’s finished at the top with thick sailor knots like those thrown over the sides of boats to avoid hitting the dock. And yet, like the river just outside where it was made, the work doesn’t give up all its secrets.
–Prudence Peiffer, Creative Team

Edvard Munch. The Storm. 1893

This is a favorite painting of mine because it allows the viewer to immerse themselves in a sense of solitude in a crowded space. The violent winds are a symbol of Edvard Munch’s scream of nature. Looking at the figures, we can see that they are placing their hands on their faces. This is an indication of Munch’s The Scream, which was painted shortly after. The lone figure walking away from the crowd speaks to an internal reality that Munch was familiar with. As an artist, I admire Munch’s choice to depict internal reality.
–Jorge Cruz, Retail

Howardena Pindell. Memory: Past. 1980–81

I first learned of Howardena Pindell’s work as a video artist, and was lucky enough to see her printmaking process as a student, but her work includes so much more. This work is defined by its materiality: it’s acrylic, dye, paper, thread, tempera, photographic transfer, glitter, and powder on canvas. The material is intricate and attractive, almost seeming to be in motion. The creation represents labor—the gathering and layering of materials, the technique and time of the process—but it also evokes an ethereal quality.
–Rebecca Walsh, Groups and Tours

She is one of my favorite artists and I’m fascinated with her deconstructive constructive process. Her pieces are so time-intensive and complex to look at. There are so many layers to take apart.
–Obi Smith-Johnican, Visitor Engagement

Ilse Bing. Self-Portrait in Mirrors. 1931

The piece I chose, Self-Portrait in Mirrors by photographer Ilse Bing, is a wonderful example of exposing the thin layer that lies between the artist and their process. The photo itself is an examination of how Bing uses herself as her subject, and at the same time it elicits a dynamic set-up so the photograph is its own individual work.
–Michael Meade, Visitor Engagement

Henri Rousseau. The Dream. 1910

This artwork brings us into the artist’s process by displaying how aesthetics, humanistic form, landscapes, and dreamlike realism combine to create an artwork. These elements combine to create an image that pulls the eye across the composition to synthesize a complex narrative. It evokes, possibly, Henri Rousseau’s curiosity about female sexuality, and how it may be unaccessible, exotic, or foreign to him.
–Isabella Hernandez, Department of Learning and Engagement

Erwin Wurm. Nordic sculpture (monument) do it with empty bottles. 2001

I chose this work as I am inspired by the curiosity Erwin Wurm’s sculptures provoke. When you see someone posing in his sculptures, you pause to wait to see what happens, and in that way, you are stuck in a moment in time, immersed together. As different bodies are incorporated into different instances of the sculpture, it changes dramatically and captivates you again. This drawing shows the artist’s interest in documenting the distinct sculptures each iteration creates.
–Stacey Carter, Retail

Eadweard J. Muybridge. Woman Emptying a Bucket of Water, from the Animal Locomotion series. 1884–86

I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of art and science. To make scientific discoveries, one has to have a creative mind. The photographs in Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion series were taken to study the motion of animals and humans. Here, a woman empties a bucket of water. We see the way her arm moves to support her wrist, the way the water remains together then slowly disperses. In other images an eagle flies, a horse gallops, a man jumps. I love that you can see the curiosity in each set of images and am astounded by what went into the process. Muybridge’s research eventually led to the creation of the first moving image.
–Allison Knoll, Creative Team

Moyra Davey. I Confess. 2019

Moyra Davey’s work spans photography, writing, and filmmaking, and in preparing a survey of Davey’s films that will open in September 2022, I’ve delighted in how wonderfully rich and surprising her approach to working across mediums is. Like a text that gets read for the camera but also exists as an artist’s book. Or photographs from the 1980s that take on new meaning as the subject of a film. Davey takes us to the heart of the creative process in her work—it is her subject and muse—stating, “The thing is only alive (and by extension, I am only alive) while it is in process.”
–Sophie Cavoulacos, Department of Film

Robert Gober. Untitled. 1986

The idea of an empty bed invokes the idea of recharging and creating new artwork. From personal experience, I am able to generate some of my greatest ideas while lying down in bed. It is from my bed that I do my daily journaling, creating a sense of calm and tranquility. When I first saw this Robert Gober piece at MoMA I had an overwhelming feeling of peace and creativity, and it still strikes me this way each time I pass it.
–Danny Reynolds, Information Technology

Jackson Pollock. Stenographic Figure. c. 1942

The movement and flow of the calligraphic lines in Stenographic Figure illustrates Jackson Pollock’s transition from form to abstraction. This is the emergence of a physical engagement with the painting, characterized by a rhythmic drip approach reminiscent of music and dance, which would become his signature style (exemplified by Number 1A, 1948 and One: Number 31, 1950). His sensational Abstract Expressionist art inspires me to play avant-garde jazz with my electronic saxophone and perform an experimental interpretative choreography!
–Israel Zaragoza, Security

Clara Porset, Xavier Guerrero. Entry Panel for MoMA International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design. c. 1950

Bridging local craft traditions and modernism, Clara Porset’s designs are manifestos on how design can have profound meaning. The drawing for “Muebles de Bajo Costo,” or Low-Cost Furniture, is a testament to her belief that design can improve standards of living. Porset and her husband, muralist Xavier Guerrero, created this drawing for MoMA’s renowned Low-Cost Furniture Design Competition of 1950. It showcases her technical ingenuity while articulating her ideas about socially inclusive design. Although her metal-framed chair with woven jute seating did not win an award, the drawing provides insight into this pioneering designer’s ideas.
–Amanda Forment, Department of Architecture and Design

Jeff Koons. Pink Panther. 1988

Jeff Koons is considered one of the most valuable and influential living artists of our time. I am inspired by his work and how he continues to impact, influence, and prosper in the art world. It’s also very inspiring to know that he worked at our museum! Pink Panther was one of my favorite cartoons growing up, and one of my favorite pieces of theme music. I can remember trying to play the theme song on my keyboard when I was growing up—I’m listening the song while writing this!
–Sheldon Clarke, Security