How Artist Kelly Reemtsen Explodes Notions of Femininity

Elena Frampton here. Despite busy days at the helm of Frampton Co, I never take for granted that the power of women has been a driving force behind the success of the studio (greet my brilliant women-run team and the creative staff I have been privileged to work with to work together every day!).

We are now in the third episode of our digital conversation series “Short & Sweet”. For these last 6 minutes of joy, I am pleased to introduce the imaginative and multifaceted contemporary artist Kelly Reemtsenwho in her work shares the roots of explorations – or should I say explosions – of traditional gender roles. Clock:

Our frank conversation found mutual opposition to the “boxes” society tries to impose and revealed how this has played out in unique ways in each of our careers. Tune in when we get personal – from the shockingly outdated notion of women that fueled Reemtsen’s current art series, to (surprise!)

Reemtsen dials into her huge, sun-drenched studio in East Los Angeles. Her paintings have an interesting provenance, which at the same time combine and contrast traditional notions of femininity with classically masculine objects.

Kelly Reemtsen Artwork – In the form of light pink

Kelly Reemtsen artworks at Albertz Benda

“I was looking through an old Better Homes and Gardens,” recalls Reemtsen, “and I saw this poll with this really beautiful woman in a yellow dress. The poll was, ‘Should a woman be able to water the lawn?’ “I had to laugh – of course she should, along with everything else!

The idea that women should be limited to traditionally feminine roles hit a familiar nerve. I always say that I cannot be “boxed in” – and although I mean that in a very creative sense, it also comes from the social conditioning that being a woman was tied to certain feelings for beauty, marital status or the like. I love Reemtsen’s work because it unexpectedly turns these narratives upside down.

A young Elena Frampton in a woodworking class

However, ignoring certain imposed restrictions does not mean giving up what gives us strength. Take Reemtsen’s shelves with beautiful and whimsical clothes that she uses to style her designs. Just because we love tulle doesn’t mean we aren’t tough! Reemtsen and I share this embrace of paradoxes, which is another reason I was so eager to have and share this conversation with her.

We also share a tendency in our creative practices. “As a child, I was kind of lost in my own head,” says Reemtsen. “I didn’t think about what I did, I just did it!” The same spontaneous impulse is evoked in her art today. I too work from an intuitive place, and it is this guttural push forward that allows both of us to continue to question the status quo through our work.

Kelly Reemtsen

Check out the video above to see our colorful conversation about exhibition challenges during COVID, stories about the groundbreaking women in Reemtsen’s family tree, and a look at the “cake” dress in the front and center of her studio. (Makes for a pretty “cute” episode if I say that myself!)

The episodes are edited by Evey Joan, with selected images courtesy of Albertz Benda.

Special thanks to Frampton Co for this post and for having a media partner for their Salon Series: Short & Sweet Talks series.

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