Kristen is a lifelong artist, having painted and created in various medium since she was a child. Her subject matter is inspired by her experiences and surroundings. As an example, her BFA thesis, “The Human Body: Nude and Exposed,” presented a body of work featuring nudes of traditionally unacceptable figures: elderly, larger figures, scarred skin; which presented the viewer to examine skin and its correspondence to the soul within, as the condition of skin often narrates the history of a person. Over the years her children have often been subjects of her paintings. The quarantine era of 2020 offered an opportunity to portray her teenage daughter as she coped with challenges presented during this unusual time.
“She Builds Houses” and “She Waits” are portraits of my teenage daughter during quarantine-era 2020, a time when so many losses were experienced; these paintings illustrate just one of millions of life-as-we-knew-it changes.
Sitting at her vanity in her unused prom dress, her gaze is focused on herself. What does this time hold for American high school traditions? Each day presented news on a minute, local scale: no prom, no graduation, limited social interaction…as well as worldwide: millions of deaths, loss of jobs, businesses closing, international border closings. In the secure bubble of her room, she quietly absorbs uncertainties and finds solace in building miniature houses. This activity provides focus and is symbolic of her generation: positioned on the cusp of their future. I witness her resiliency, and am fortunate to be able to capture it in my art.
What does “Gaze” mean to you & how do you connect it to your work?
“Gaze” means multiple things to me.
Certainly, in studying art, we learn of the gaze of women staring back from the canvas, full of interpretation through centuries.
As young women we feel the gazes upon us: an attraction from an older man, or fellow peer, perhaps jealousy from another, a supportive teacher, a curious toddler. These too have a plethora of interpretation. Often a gaze is uncomfortable, an invasion, so to speak.
As an artist we subject ourselves to the gaze of the viewer, this too can be uncomfortable, as we are exposing ourselves to interpretation.
In writing about my painting submissions for “All She Makes: Gaze,” I explain the quarantine situation my daughter and I were in. The “gaze” in this scenario was the opportunity that I had to witness her, her strength and coping skills. As a beautiful, confident young woman, she experiences gazes in public and the uncomfortable feeling that accompanies them. She has learned to deal, her older sister has passed the “death stare” skill down to her. But in her bubble, her gaze is inward, whether in the vanity mirror or toward her miniature house projects. Comfort for her and her mom.