Artist Laura Collins on the “relatable” moments of celebrity culture which inspire her paintings
Chicago-based artist Laura Collins talks us through capturing celebrities in their most fleeting moments, and her ongoing collaboration with THNK1994 Museum.
- Joey Levenson
- 23 June 2021
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Laura Collins’ vast array of paintings and illustrations of the surreal world of candid celebrity culture capture the zeitgeist in a way only a few in her contemporary have been able to match. The paintings have particularly generated a buzz online, with many noticing a successful Warholian nature to Laura’s work that looms over a distinct style of her own. “I’ve always been interested in the mass circulation of images,” Laura tells It’s Nice That. “I think this really picked up in 2007 when I started working with collage, and I was inspired by the little scraps and clippings of celebrities from tabloids.” Laura’s work carries an unmistakable pastiche of celebrity tabloids but takes them to a bizarre kind of beauty in their painted form. Laura’s ideas stretch anywhere from Instagram videos of Britney Spears as an uncanny series of portraits; to paparazzi snaps of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen as evocative black-and-white mixed media; to Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise immortalised in the realism of still life work. “I like my paintings to be splashy, and I try to let the paint do what it wants to do,” she says on crafting a signature style. “I embrace the drips and imperfections of the process and I hope this gives the work a loose feel.”
The moments Laura captures float somewhere between quotidian and aspirational, oftentimes appearing as random as they do deliberate. “I look for celebrity blunders that I find incredibly human,” Laura explains. “For instance, when Paris Hilton is caught grinning ear to ear with lipstick on her teeth, I can’t think of anything more relatable”. They’re clever snapshots into the pockets of relatability every celebrity carries with them, but especially so for the women of the industry oft-touted as the denouement of “low-brow” culture. By taking these women out of the context of which they may have originally been ridiculed or gawked at, and consequently placing them in a context of fine art, Laura reimagines how we can draw entertainment out of these moments that doesn’t rely on tabloid exploitation.
Brooklyn-based THNK1994 Museum recognised these elements in Laura’s work, and has since been working with her for some years now. Founders Viviana Olen and Matt Harkins first came across Laura’s work after she submitted a painting of the mugshot of Tonya Harding, who their museum is in part named after. From then, a collaborative relationship grew. “I was working on my Olsen Twins Hiding From The Paparazzi series and we collaborated to build an exhibition with the paintings,” Laura tells us. “They have spearheaded my solo exhibitions including, The Real Housewives Pointing Fingers and Anna Wintour Double Crossing Her Legs.” The museum in itself is a thrilling and hilarious walk through the world of “low-brow” pop culture as interpreted by fine artists, so it is to no surprise Laura has flourished there. “Matt and Viviana bring so much great energy and creativity in displaying the work,” Laura says.
As for any feedback Laura’s gotten from her many celebrity subjects, she quickly points out Dorinda Medley from The Real Housewives of New York, featured in The Real Housewives Pointing Fingers exhibition. “On the opening night of [the exhibition] Dorinda Medley called me,” she says, full of admiration. “She was so sweet and congratulated me on the exhibition.” Other Real Housewives such as Sonja Morgan have reposted her work (with supportive words), and some such as Tamra Judge have even gone so far as to take a selfie with the painting itself – all good-faith acts which suggest the women do not take themselves as seriously as they appear in their paintings. If anything, it suggests the off-kilter humour of Laura’s paintings are closer to the heart of these women than the televised moments Laura is capturing in the first instance.
Now, Laura is working on a Britney Spears animation – something as amazing as it sounds. “I also just completed my latest series, Princess Diana Curtsying, and I have some books coming out later this year with THNK1994,” she says. “We’re starting with The Olsen Twins Hiding From the Paparazzi. It will be fun to see the art in a hardcover”.
Laura Collins: Lisa Pointing Across the Table (Copyright © Laura Collins, 2019)