Kirsten Valentine

Region: Midwest


City / State: Chicago, IL

  Someone once asked me to describe my art in ten words or less. I said: “I paint people: mostly people in their underpants.” It’s a joke, but like most jokes, there is truth in it.

My paintings take a Midwestern sensibility to American eccentricity, though the figures may be caught in a moment of unintentionally erotic grappling or clad only in underpants, a prudishness remains. The fabric of underpants might conceal, but it also reveals. These figures are plain, homely, and vulnerable. Their imperfect physiques are highlighted and their often bizarre actions open to scrutiny.

I work from found photographs, lost or discarded snippets of private lives. Similarly, my paintings are fragments, deliberately and glaringly unfinished. Large areas are left untouched; the painting ground is clearly visible, messy brushwork and scribbles contrast with realistic academic portraiture. Figures are isolated, stripped of context, exposed. The viewer is made to feel that they are peering into the subject’s heavily curtained basements, revealing secret sexuality, hidden ambitions, private poverty, and concealed illness. It is a Midwestern Gothic.