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Esta Nesbitt papers, circa 1942-1981, bulk 1964-1975

Biographical Note

Esta Nesbitt (1918-1975) was an illustrator, xerography artist, filmmaker, and educator who lived and worked in New York City. She was a fashion illustrator for about two decades before becoming a children's book illustrator, performance artist, xerography artist, and filmmaker.
Nesbitt taught at Parsons School of Design from 1964 to 1974. Around 1970, Nesbitt created the piece Walk Up --Tape On with her Parsons students. The piece involved documenting social interaction by taping themselves to each other and then others as they walked through New York City, creating what Nesbitt called a "living organism," before presenting themselves to the Whitney Museum of American Art. The event was documented with film, photography, and audio recordings.
In 1970, Nesbitt contacted Xerox Corporation about creating experimental art investigations of the Walk Up --Tape On documentation using Xerox machines in their New York City office. During Nesbitt's time at Xerox, she experimented with many different copying machines, materials, and techniques to create what came to be known as xerographic artworks. She invented three xerography techniques: transcapsa, photo-transcapsa, and chromacapsa. A transcapsa work is created by moving a piece of material over the copier's window during the printing cycle. A photo-transcapsa work is created by moving a photographic image over the copier's window during the printing cycle. Chromacapsa is a process of adding color to xerographic works using Xerox copiers. Nesbitt referred to her work at Xerox as "Xerox Xplore," which culminated with the exhibition "Xerography - Extensions in Art" (1971-1972) and the commission of the print All the Lines are Nines.
To demonstrate "the media bombardment surrounding 'everyman' today," Nesbitt created a film and sound performance piece titled "Everyman as Anyman, or Putting On, On, On, On, On" in 1969. The performance consisted of five Super 8 film projectors and a multi-layered soundtrack. Nesbitt further experimented with filmmaking and xerography with the films "Folding/Struck" and "Light Times 499," which was created with Anibal Ambert. Her interest in xerography is further illustrated in the exhibition "Electrostatic Structures: 'New Morphs'" (1972-1973). The exhibition "1000 Empty 49.3 Grams: A participatory environment" was a culmination of her interest in participatory art.
Nesbitt died November 30, 1975 in New York City. Three posthumous exhibitions include "Esta Nesbitt: Xerography Prints" (1976) at The Art Center of Waco, "Memorial Exhibition of Drawing and Illustrations by Esta Nesbitt" (1977) at Parsons School of Design, and "Electroworks" (1979-1981) at the George Eastman House.