Chainsaws, Cocktail Dresses, and Prozac Pills: A Painter and Sculptor Subverts Consumer Symbols

What do chainsaws, cocktail dresses, and Prozac pills have in common? They are all choice subjects of painter and sculptor Kelly Reemtsen, who explores the subtleties and paradoxes of femininity and consumerism in the 21st century from a unique perspective. She uses a playful, figurative approach to subvert both the symbols that traditionally tend to be associated with post-feminist womanhood in America and Western decadence and addiction. Her work asks us to ponder the correlations between these two fundamentally modern themes and consider how cultural influences inevitably end up defining us as individuals. 

In De Buck Gallery’s Art Southampton booth, Reemtsen showcases the confusion of mass culture and identity politics through intriguing paintings of both female figures and consumer goods in works that echo the works of Wayne Thiebaud, injected with ironic undertones. Pink Study (2013), depicts a theatrically lit modelesque female from the neck down, wearing a gleaming pink dress; the twist is that she’s gripping a large axe. Similarly, in Power Source (2014), the figure holds a chainsaw as though it were a vacuum. While Reemtsen’s style is warm and ebullient, the dark subtleties of her subjects create a quality that is at once ominous and imaginatively stimulating. The intensity of the shadows in these works gives them a foreboding quality, as if the women depicted are on the edge of performing a potentially disastrous act. 

Among the other works included in the De Buck booth are large sculptures of pastel-colored pharmaceuticals created from resin and automotive paint. A Promise of a Better Tomorrow (2013)is an installation made up of a variety of these sculptures, in all their colorful variations, which are giddily, and ironically, scattered across a vertical plane. Blue Valium (2013) and Pink and White Prozac (2013) are single pieces, blown-up portraits of the substances pumping through human brains. Reemtsen’s sculptures comment on the objecthood of mass-produced chemicals and invite us to look closely at a visual landscape we might otherwise miss. Her work holds a magnifying glass up to a smaller world and reminds us of the complicated politics of objects we often overlook.

Charlie Ambler

Visit De Buck Gallery at Art Southampton 2014, Booth AS50, July 24th–29th.

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