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Eshkar, Shelley

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1970-    ) American artist. His background and interests are unlike those of traditional sf artists, for after receiving a BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art in 1993, he has focused most of his attention on digital art, experimental animation, and multimedia presentations, often collaborating with artist Paul Kaiser. He has become a fixture of the New York art scene, regularly exhibiting his innovative artwork and films at museums and staging unusual dance recitals in collaboration with avant-garde choreographer Merce Cunningham. Yet by means of some connection, Eshkar also began receiving assignments to produce distinctively designed covers for Tor Books in the mid-1990s, sometimes in collaboration with two other artists, Waldo Tejeda and Jan Uretsky. Among many noteworthy efforts, he provided Nancy Kress's Oaths and Miracles (1996) and its sequel Stinger (1998) with irregular, boxlike designs foregrounding human eyes, and he illustrated the three volumes of John C Wright's The Golden Age trilogy (2002-2003) with stunning covers all showing an ethereal giant contemplating spaceships and starscapes. At times, his approach can seem overly minimalist – for Damon Knight's Humpty Dumpty: An Oval (1996), for example, he merely provided the image of a backlit egg against a grey background – but other designs have greater impact, like his cover for Margaret Wander Bonanno's Preternatural Too: Gyre (2000), showing manuscript pages floating within bright blue spirals.

Since Eshkar has apparently made no efforts to attend science fiction Conventions, or to cultivate an audience of sf readers, his work to date has garnered no nominations for major awards, but some authors, at least, have come to appreciate his talents; John Scalzi, for example, enthusiastically praised his singular cover for his collection The Android's Dream (coll 2006), showing a sleeping robot next to white sheep within a rich, sky-blue background, stating in his blog that "Shelley Eshkar's cover makes the book." Overall, although their styles and techniques are very, very different, Eshkar seems poised to emerge as his generation's equivalent to Richard M Powers, swimming against the tide of representational art to provide sf books with bold, extravagantly abstract visions that can genuinely evoke a Sense of Wonder. A compilation of his best cover art would provide a refreshing contrast to the collections of other contemporary sf artists. [GW]

Shelley Eshkar

born New York City, New York: 1970


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