New York-based painter Inka Essenhigh‘s works — described by critics as both “exotic and operatic” — have been exhibited internationally and featured in prominent public collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Tate Gallery. Next week, the artist will talk about her paintings and method at Mary Baldwin University as the 2012–13 Firestone Lecturer in Contemporary Art.

Essenhigh’s visit includes a classroom visit, one-on-one meetings with upper-level studio art students, a look at student work on exhibition in Hunt Gallery, and dinner with art and art history faculty. Her lecture begins at 7 p.m. Monday in Francis Auditorium and is free and open to the public.

“Through a visual language that references aspects of surrealism, the fantastical, and elements of the gothic, Essenhigh’s paintings tap into the desires, fears, and hopes that all of us encounter as human beings,” said Professor of Art Paul Ryan. “Her work is beautifully crafted, and her inventive use of visual metaphor offers new insights to ourselves and others.”

A native of Pennsylvania, Essenhigh studied at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio and the School of Visual Arts in New York.

The Susan Paul Firestone Lecture Series in Contemporary Art is made possible by the generosity of donors in honor of the creative work and professional accomplishments of Susan Paul Firestone ’68.