Posts tagged Identity
Qiurui Du

Qiurui Du is an artist from Beijing, China and is currently based in New York City. Having grown up in an artistic family his love of art grew tremendously. Queer identity and life experience give Qiurui a unique point of views and inspirations in art. As an introverted person, he expressed all his emotions and ideas through colors and images, and he believes art is a way to tell stories. In Qiurui’s work, he deconstructs his inner fears, love, and Chinese pop cultures, and the subject matter in Qiurui’s artworks is also inspired by his surroundings as well as daily experiences within the social framework. He creates corny scenarios with bright colors and flat images to bring the viewers into an illusionary dimension, where reality and imagination have been combined. In the Qiurui’s recent solo exhibition “A Bizarre World” (May, 2018), he has explored his childhood memories in his hometown Beijing with the particular attention to the social conflict and pop cultures that were influenced by China’s tremendous development and used acrylic to create a colorful imaginary world with black senses of humor to address the social issues, such as environmental problems, the conflict between poor and rich, and traditional Chinese lifestyle in Modern Chinese society.


The series of paintings "The Adventure Of Dama Wang" is inspired by my childhood memories with my grandmother. My grandmother liked to take a walk with me after dinner every day. It was like an adventure because every day we could see different people and discover exciting events in the city. In the artwork, I have explored my childhood memories with the particular attention to the social conflict. The character - an old lady with a purple cloth and big hair is a representation of a group of middle-aged Chinese women who rushed to purchase gold and stocks as an investment without thinking. They were also profoundly influenced by Chinese tradition, willing to serve in the household and concerned about daily expenses in a developing society. Through the character's eyes, she sees a " Pengci" ( It is a Chinese term referring to the practice of scam such as being hit by a car intentionally for money ), characters from Nothern Chinese Nianhua, and people who enjoy their happy hour. The corny scenarios with bright colors, characters, in which are inspired by people I saw in Chinese memes and pop culture, and flat images bring the audiences into an illusionary dimension, where reality and imagination have been combined. It is a satire and a celebration of modern Chinese society.

Instagram: @qiuruidu

Crystal Latimer

Crystal is currently a full-time painter based out of Pittsburgh, PA. She is represented by BoxHeart Gallery and Studio Director at Radiant Hall Susquehanna. Crystal completed her BFA Slippery Rock University. She then went to receive an MA and MFA from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2013 and 2016, respectively.

Crystal's work has been shown extensively in both solo and group exhibitions, including at the Pittsburgh International Airport, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Chautauqua Institution, The Mine Factory, George Washington University, and Framehouse and Jask among others. She has shown her work in Hong Kong, China, as well as participated in a residency at the Joaquin Chaverri Fabrica de Carretas in Sarchi, Costa Rica. Crystal's work has been featured in Local Arts PGH, Art Maze Magazine, Ruminate Magazine, and Fresh Paint Magazine. Her work is included in both public and private collections including those of Indiana State University of Pennsylvania, PNC Corporate, the Benter Foundation, and Wyndham Tryp.


I stood at a Wal-Mart in Escazu, Costa Rica, and felt like I was experiencing that moment in late autumn when you realize that all the fiery reds and oranges had faded and fallen to the ground. My life had been a staccato of visits to my mother’s native Costa Rica and, in that second, I realized that I was witnessing the dilution of the vibrant culture.

My paintings explore the hybridity of Western and Latin American identity. For me, understanding identity, and its existence within a historical context does not assume a position in words, but in shape. Embedded in my compositions is Latin American culture: its intricate folk arts, tropical flora, and warm hues; while graffiti tags, bold mark making, and images of conquest interrupt this patchwork of shape and color. Patterns, both traditional and commercial, are fragmented and pieced together. Colors infused with Latin flavor are diluted by a ubiquitous white. Organic, blooming forms are contrasted by flat or rigid fields. My paintings use the tools of paint and brush to consider the colonization of Latin America, and its continuing role as “colony” in Western society. Without taking a political stance, I aim to draw attention to the visual tapestries and unknown histories of this underrepresented area.

Nadia Waheed: Wearing Your Braid as a Badge
Gender Reveal1.jpg

Wearing Your Braid as a Badge: Challenging Expectations and Finding Your Place

By Christina Nafziger

Through the female body and cultural iconography, Nadia Waheed’s paintings explore dichotomies present in her own life as well as those that affect the female experience, one that forces women to navigate through the unrealistic, and often contradictory, expectations from others. Originally from Pakistan, and now based in Austin, Texas, the artist has lives all over the world, with her artistic practice being the space where she can claim agency and be her true self, away from judgment. The blue, pink, and orange women in her paintings often sport henna on their skin and long braids, both strong and beautiful, nodding at her cultural roots. Recently represented by the London-based gallery BEERS, Waheed shares honest advice on how to stay focused on what is truly important as an artist. Join me as Waheed opens up about her struggles overcoming personal obstacles, and discusses the challenge of balancing the two sides of East and West in her work and life.

artist image.jpg

Have you always considered yourself an artist? When did you first feel like you had found your voice artist voice? 

I haven’t always considered myself an artist, actually. I hold that word and title in very high regard and I don’t think that everyone who makes “art” is an artist. Artist to me implies a very high level of commitment to a certain type of work and practice. Mentally, it is not a “part time” relationship; the thinking about the work becomes something that’s always there, processing in the background of everything you do. It’s everything. I wasn’t comfortable calling myself an artist until I realized that this really was my only purpose in life. I could’ve taken another route after graduating with my BFA, but I felt so empty without my work, it was a clear sign that making paintings is an inherent part of my identity and that I could never be a functional version of myself without it. 

I grew up drawing and that was my primary method for communicating myself artistically. When I moved to paint in 2013, I didn’t at all have the same fluidity or finesse as I did with line. I believe I found my artistic voice many years ago when I was young, but it’s been a years long process of honing it. When my mentor Kevin Wolff passed away in early 2018, his death rattled and pushed me to the brink emotionally—it was like a rebirth. I lost my apprehension and stopped thinking about painting and just did it. Everything clicked into place and this body of work is what came out; Blue Portrait (Sisyphus’s Boulder) is the painting that started it all.

Nikka (Pink)1.jpg

Originally from Pakistan (born in Saudi, but from Karachi), how has your cultural background affected your artistic practice? Are there aspects of your work that are influenced by cultural elements or iconography?

I think it’s affected everything - it has always been something that I’ve responded to. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere, so my sketchbook was always my sanctuary. I could be my unadulterated myself, outside the sphere of judgment from Western or Eastern culture. My practice was born from a need to belong and be understood as myself, and my studio became the space for me to do it. I am heavily influenced by the styles and themes I see back in Pakistan, and am so in love with miniature painting and Islamic architecture, but I only draw from the pieces that feel mine. The things that I’m most excited by, or scared of, are the things that you’ll see in my paintings. The weight that I see carried by women, the different weight of expectation that I see carried by others and myself. Iconography aside, I’m interested in the social dynamics of the East and West - what’s “societally appropriate,” primarily in regards to the development of young women. The difference is incredible, and balancing the two has been a challenge for me. 

Nikka (Red)1.jpg

There seems to be an emphasis on hair, specifically on the braid, in your work. Can you speak a bit to this?

The braid has become a metaphor for so many things. Connection, worth, beauty, vulnerability... but maybe the simplest answer would begin with me saying that I wore a long braid similar to the women in my paintings for many years. I felt it was a tangible connection to my culture, a badge I could wear that said, “This is where I come from.” Long braids are symbols of traditional beauty in Pakistan and I pay homage to that tradition in my paintings. It’s a heavily layered symbol, a liberation and simultaneously a huge weight. It can be your pride and your greatest vulnerability; the interdependence of opposites is something I think about all the time. My grandmother’s nurse in Karachi has an incredibly long braid, down to the back of her thighs. She says she keeps her hair wound away and hidden when she’s in public because she’s afraid that her hair is going to be cut off by a jealous woman or a man who thinks she’s being shameless about her appearance. She says it’s happened before to others. I don’t think I’ve fully unpacked it, but to me, the braid says, “I’m trying to be a good Pakistani girl.” It’s totally contradicted by the nudity, but that’s my point - we can have both and still be good.  


Can you tell me about the presence of the female in your work? Are the scenes in your paintings allegories or are they perhaps reflections on your own thoughts or experiences?

I’d say a combination of both. I love women. I love men too (I love all humans!) but I’m amazed by women every day. So much is put onto us, and for generations women have persevered, raised families under constant abuse, broken countless glass ceilings and fought for respect in society and from our male counterparts. In my paintings, all my imagery is very personal; a lot of it is a surrendering, the resignation and the waving of a white flag. Someone looked at my paintings and said that none of my figures were empowered, that this work doesn’t empower women. I still grapple with that today, but I don’t disagree. Some of these figures are not empowered. It’s because sometimes I don’t feel empowered. There is an idea of “conditional” love that I see everywhere in my world which panics me - why is our worth and value as an entity dependent on our appearance or our paycheck or our marital status? I paint women because I am a woman, and mitigating the endless layers of complexity surrounding femininity and vulnerability and whatever ideas are thrust onto us, hoops we need to jump through to be given “worth”... these are all questions I’m painting through. At this point I have no definitive answers, rather I’m more interested in the question and the idea.

Rite of Passage1.jpg

Congratulations on your gallery recent representation with BEERS London! Do you have any advice for artists seeking gallery representation?

Thank you! It was an incredibly serendipitous occurrence and I couldn’t be happier about it, BEERS has been one of my all time favorite galleries for years and I’m so thrilled to join the team. 

Advice wise, there is only one thing that matters: making a good painting. We all know it’s a very difficult thing to do, so that honestly should be the only thing on your radar. If you try to curate your authentic voice towards a particular gallery or type of gallery, you are doing yourself and your work a massive disservice. The only thing an artist needs to be doing is making the work the best and most authentically that they conceivably can. There is no timeline. There is no falling behind. The only thing that matters is the quality of the work. If you can proudly stand next to your art and say, “This is me, this is mine,” then that’s all that matters. Everything else will come. Any young artists out there who are feeling anxiety, take charge and tell yourself this, “as long as it’s not impossible to do, it can be done”. Even a 1% chance is still a chance. Commitment is key.

Sun Salutation1.jpg

Do you listen to anything (podcasts, music, etc.) while you paint?

I used to listen to music when I worked, but I’ve switched to NPR and podcasts in October 2018. I’ve placed really stringent restrictions on the music I listen to because I’m just so overwhelmed by it now. Commercials make my heart race and make me cry, any music that’s too emotive takes me too deep inside myself and my vision warps. It’s almost funny how strongly I react to it! Pretty much the only music I can tolerate without weeping is lo-fi hiphop, very calm music with few words, and nothing too emotionally charged. I’ve become a really big fan of On Point and Fresh Air on NPR, and the podcasts Philosophize This! by Stephen West and Making Sense (formerly Waking Up) by Sam Harris, and also, The Adam Buxton Podcast. I highly recommend all three of those. I deal primarily in ideas, so these are great podcasts that explore a particular idea or person in each episode, a deep dive into the nuances of a certain topic. Nothing in this world is black and white; I love being exposed to shades of grey I hadn’t thought of before. 

Can you tell me about a time where you had to overcome an obstacle, either in your art career or during your painting process? 

Things in my personal life during 2018 overwhelmed me to the point that, at the tail end of the year, being alone with myself in the studio became dangerous. I prefer working without natural light so that I don’t see the passage of time and I can just get lost in the flow of the work, but things in my life were happening one after the other and I was drowning. Going into my studio and being alone in a windowless room for 10 -14 hours a day was so isolating. My studio was slowly becoming this echo chamber for all my terrifying thoughts and feelings: of failure, of worthlessness, of hopelessness - but I couldn’t stop working. More than being alone with myself, I was afraid of not painting, I couldn’t stop. If I stopped I was afraid that one day would become two, that two would become three, and that I’d wake up one day and it had been a year and I hadn’t painted. Even thinking about it now is terrifying. My practice is about communing with myself and my deepest thoughts about different ideas, if my mind is full of fear and anxiety, it becomes intensely amplified in the studio. Learning how to mitigate the part of me that is compelled to paint and the part of me that was terrified of being alone with myself is something I consider to be one of my biggest accomplishments.


Do you have anything coming up this year that you’d like to share?

At this point in time nothing in particular besides a group show in Toronto and my two-person show in May with BEERS! I’m very excited to make a whole new body of work for that show and to see what comes out. I’ve got some really good ideas rattling around in my noggin and while they’re very labor intensive I think they’re going to look super good. If you want to keep up with my work or get more insight into my process, feel free to follow me on Instagram at @nadiakwd.

(And thanks so much for reading!)

Tracy Murrell

Tracy Murrell is an Atlanta-based artist and curator.  A graduate of Centenary College, she has been a fixture in the growth and development of Atlanta's arts community.  Murrell assisted Louis Delsarte in the creation of the 125-foot mural “Dreams, Visions & Change” honoring Martin Luther King Jr., and studied under the direction of renowned artist Michael David as a member of Fine Arts Atelier (FAWS). 

Murrell has shown in numerous group, solo, and juried exhibitions.  Her work is currently on view at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport through January 2019.  Her work has been featured in ArtVoices Magazine and Studio Visit Magazine Issues 29, 35, 38, and 41.

Murrell is a board member for Burnaway, Atlanta-based digital magazine and advisory board member for ChopArt, a non-profit serving middle and high school youth experiencing homelessness through multidisciplinary arts immersion and mentorship.

Murrell served as the curator for Hammonds House Museum (2012-2017), the President of African Americans for the Arts (AAFTA) for two years and is currently the visual arts consultant with the National Black Arts Festival.


As an artist, I am drawn to the lines of the feminine form and source images to create figures personifying grace and strength.  I explore the use of silhouettes by re-contextualizing images from popular culture to use as entry points for deeper conversations on gender, race, and the perceptions of beauty. 

In my current body of work, I am focusing on the themes of identity, migration, and displacement in the human narrative by incorporating hand cut patterns and specialty papers with the silhouettes.  Painted in high key color, my paintings are reminiscent of Pop and post-pop Masters such as Lichtenstein, Katz, and Hume, prompting the viewer to question their own beliefs about race and gender.

Alex Youkanna

Growing up as a Queer Middle Eastern male in the 90s meant living life as an outsider. I was constantly struggling to blend in with whatever people deemed “acceptable.” It didn’t help that English was not my first language – instead it served as a reminder that I was an outsider.

Having grown up to immigrant parents, I have been exposed to many languages. I consider speaking through images or objects to be the most significant language for me. Looking back on the past I found the time that I’ve spent in the studio the most important. Here I am able to be me. I can create a story, stimulate a conversation and try to connect with anyone. I have noticed that there are no judgments, just acceptance and understandings of different beings bringing knowledge to any that desire to learn.

I studied at Western Michigan University to obtain my bachelors degree in photography and intermedia. After that I spent years working as a graphic designer/art director. Then from 2016-2018 I studied under Anders Ruhwald and Ian McDonald among other artists to obtain my Masters in Fine Arts in Ceramics from Cranbrook Academy of Art. 

I still reside just outside of Detroit with plans of moving into the city soon. Currently I am working in my studio based in Royal Oak, MI, making new work for a solo show in 2019 as an emerging artist. 

Artist Statement

Communication has always been a struggle for me. As a child, it was because Aramaic was my first language. As an adult, it is because of being a minority for more than just my skin color. Through art, however, I’ve found the clearest and most effective channel for communicating my life experiences.

My practice is an expression of personal experiences, conveyed in my most comfortable way of communicating. 

I am currently interested in sharing my story, thoughts, and feelings through objects that I feel comfortable communicating with. I am interested in the relationship that these objects have with one another and how they make each other stronger.

Raul Gonzalez

Born and raised in inner-city Houston, multi-dimensional artist Raul Gonzalez explores topics such as work, fatherhood, construction, labor, the working class, identity, and abstraction through versatile methods of painting, drawing, printmaking, performance, and dance. Now living in San Antonio with his wife and two daughters, Raul spends his days as a stay-at-home-parent.

Raul’s work is often inspired by being a stay-at-home father, challenging stereotypes, and finding beauty in chaos. Raul’s foundations in drawing, painting, and self-taught dancing have allowed him to create a world of narrative, cultural symbolism, color, and energy.

His work ranges from paintings of construction scenes on concrete to colorful abstract installations made of cardboard and duct tape. He has danced 4 1⁄2 miles across San Antonio as a way to “paint a line in space”. He shares drawings of himself as a stay-at-parent and uses his artwork to express himself and educate. Raul recently launched Werk House SA, a short-term rental space/ art gallery that’s conveniently located in his backyard.

Raul has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting (Magna Cum Laude) from the University of Houston, and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Raul has shown artwork throughout the United States, including solo or group shows at McNay Art Museum, grayDUCK Gallery, Miami University Ohio, Artpace, Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, Lawndale Art Center, MACLA, Mexic-Arte Museum, Centro de Artes, and Forum 6 Contemporary.

Raul was a recipient of a 2016 National Association of Latino Arts & Culture San Antonio Artist Grant and a Surdna Foundation Grant through the Guadalupe Cultural Center in 2017. In 2018, Raul completed an artist studio residency at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams MA.

Raul’s artwork has been featured by, the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, San Antonio Current, The Austin Chronicle, and Whataburger. Raul’s artwork is included in public collections such as the McNay Art Museum (San Antonio, TX), The National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago, IL), Mexic-Arte Museum (Austin, TX), National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum (Albuquerque, NM), the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the City of San Antonio.

Forrest Lawson

Forrest Lawson is a multi-media sculptor who explores complicated issues experienced within the LGBTQ+ community. Lawson has participated in multiple exhibitions throughout Florida, was featured in Artbourne magazine in 2017, and was commissioned to install a public art sculpture on the University of Central Florida campus. Lawson will obtain his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Central Florida in December 2018 and plans to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree upon graduation.

Through sculpture and assemblage, my work explores the array of complexities experienced by individuals within the gay community. I create work to reveal internal and external resentments with a variety of mediums and symbolism. As a tribute and a memoir, my practice touches on feelings that resonate personally and universally. I hope for viewers to engage with the work emotionally, and to question their own similar or dissimilar experiences. My work is merely a glimpse into the often unknown or unrecognized struggles of being gay.

DEADRINGER exhibition by Michael Reeder

Hashimoto Contemporary is pleased to present DEADRINGER, a solo exhibition by Michael Reeder. DEADRINGER will be Reeder’s inaugural solo exhibition at Hashimoto Contemporary, in which he will be exhibiting new works that explore themes of self-identity and ego.

Through the use of bold saturated color and graphic geometric patterns blended with figurative elements, Reeder’s work delves into the concept of self, and the innate human desire to be an authentic entity. Skulls and hands are prevalent in the artists work, calling attention to both internal and external physical elements that connect us all as humans. As we strive for uniqueness, we are bound together through our humanity, highlighting the fact that we are ultimately the same.

About the exhibition, Reeder states, “I wanted to focus on how similar we as humans are regardless of our external differences and how desperately we attempt to stand apart in society. We are all composed of distinct experiences, backgrounds, cultures, fashion styles, careers, etc., yet it is all individually mashed up into a dead ringer, almost carbon copied vessel - the human body. This concept is the underlying premise of DEADRINGER.”

Please join us Saturday, December 1 from 6pm - 8pm for the opening reception of DEADRINGER. The artist will be in attendance. As an added bonus, the first 100 attendees of the exhibition will receive a free print.

This exhibition will be on view through Saturday, December 22. For more information, additional images, or exclusive content, please email us at

Michael Reeder was born in Dallas, Texas in 1982, where he grew up influenced by the local skate and street culture. Drawing and painting in traditional mediums from a young age, Reeder found himself drawn to the underground, unseen, yet very public form of painting graffiti. He later moved to New York City where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the School of Visual Arts. Post-college, Michael took a job with Eyecon Studios in Dallas, Texas and learned to paint large-scale, traditional murals. These experiences fused with his early graffiti influence formed and grew into his portraiture work today. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, along with numerous printed publications such as New American Paintings, Le Petit Voyeur and HiFructose Magazine. Reeder currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

Adriane Nieves

A'Driane "addyeB" Nieves is a USAF veteran, artist, activist, and speaker with a heart for serving others and social good. She's also a mental health advocate living with bipolar disorder, running an online mental health support group for women of color called Tessera Collective. She is also the co-founder of Addie Addye Studios in Philadelphia, PA, an art space for Philly area women artists of color. She empowers women to transform brokenness in their lives into power and beauty, and amplifies the voices and experiences of those marked as Other in society through her written and visual work. Most recently she was featured alongside Bono as a ONE Campaign activist and volunteer for Glamour Magazine’s “Woman of the Year” issue, where Bono was awarded their first ever “Man of the Year’ award for his work on gender equity and extreme poverty. She believes creating and viewing visual art that addresses themes such as racism, mental health, and recovering from trauma can serve as a catalyst for personal growth and social change. Her work has been featured on BlogHer, Everyday Feminism, Upworthy, Buzzfeed, Mashable, The Fourth Trimester Bodies Project, Sheryl Sandberg's "Option B" platform, and MISC Magazine. Her artwork has been exhibited at Wild Goose Festival, Johnson State College, WORKS San Jose, Rare Device in San Francisco, and most recently at The Other Art Fair Brooklyn. She lives in New Jersey with her robotics-loving husband and three boys. 


As a survivor of abuse, painting is an excavation of everything I hid in my mind and body for survival during childhood. It is also an act of reclaiming my voice, as well as my way of establishing agency over my own body and the messages told about it and its worth. I examine trauma and pain and celebrate the resiliency, joy, and transformation that can occur in spite of it. Because my work is rooted in and influenced by both abstract and figurative expression, I’m intrigued by our internal processes as we experience life as an Other, both individually and collectively. By focusing on the impact of trauma-inherited, personal and historical, my work exposes how trauma itself shapes, alters, and redefines identity over the course of our lives. I rely on abstract, figurative forms and composition to communicate what the biological and emotional processes of adaptation, recovery, and transformation look like internally. 

Lauren Zaknoun

Lauren Zaknoun is a photographer and fine artist from southeastern Massachusetts. A self-described "photo-realist," playing god is the thread that connects all of her images together by creating surreal portraits that bend the constraints of identity and reality. Anxiety, absence, power, and escapism are recurring concepts in her photography.

The purpose behind Lauren's work is to entice and unnerve the viewer, challenging their conception of what is real and what is not. A sense of humor and dark whimsy are trademarks of her work.

Lauren's art has been exhibited in New York, Paris, Milan, and Boston. She has been published nationally and internationally.

Dan Bina

Dan studied painting at the Kansas City Art Institute in 2006. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York with his wife, Katya Mezhibovskaya.

Dan's work addresses themes of identity, media, culture, gender, and commerce. His series of non-sequitur watercolor and ink paintings explore found imagery and text. Objects, plants, and animals are presented with phrases that defy expectations. Dan often uses humor to examine social media avatars, human desire, and the advertising languages we use to market ourselves and products in all corners of the internet from Amazon to OkCupid. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. 

Jeffrey Cheung: “In Unity” at Hashimoto Contemporary

SAN FRANCISCO - Hashimoto Contemporary is pleased to present In Unity, an exhibition featuring new paintings and works on paper by Jeffrey Cheung.

Based in Oakland, CA, Cheung returns to Hashimoto Contemporary for his second solo show with the gallery. Cheung’s bright, joyful works investigate themes of queerness, identity, and intersectionality through bold colors and intertwining figures.

The smiling, androgynous characters at play in Cheung’s brightly colored paintings invite the viewer to discard notions of gender. As many of the figures kiss, hold, and embrace each other, boundaries between bodies become obscured begging the question ‘where do I end and you begin?’ The result is an exuberant, body-positive unification of forms, a celebration of queer joy and non-binary identities.

Cheung’s simplistic rendering of gender nonspecific bodies offers a witty yet loving rejoinder to the heteronormative male gaze frequently observed in erotic artwork, creating a more inclusive and accessible entry point for all.

June 2 - 23, 2018

A Shared Narrative: Interview with Lauren Rinaldi

Lauren Rinaldi's work inhabits the space where objectification, female power and sexual empowerment intersect and blur. She uses oil paintings, mixed media drawings and sketches as her vehicles to explore ideas about intimacy, gaze, body-image, sexuality and self-Identity. She looks to the women in her life for inspiration and works to weave their experiences with her own to create a shared narrative. Through observing the nature of women seeking affirmation under the guise of anonymity online, she also is informed by the influence social media has on female identity and how detachment from the depictions of the reality of the self affects and reveals who women desire to be.

Lauren was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1983. She received her BFA in Painting from Tyler School of Art in 2006. She is represented by Paradigm Gallery + Studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and currently resides in Philadelphia with her husband and son.


Tell us about your background. Were you always interested in painting the female form?

I was born in Brooklyn, NY, spent my teenage years in Lancaster County, PA, moved to Philadelphia to attend college where I earned my BFA in painting from Tyler School of Art and have been a resident ever since. I am a full time artist, full time mother of a ten year old and two cats, wife, part time yoga teacher and what usually feels like a million other things.

I’ve absolutely always been interested in painting the female form. I think it came from me trying to make sense of how my own body has, in a way, defined who I am. Painting is my way of parsing out what it means for me to be a woman and thinking about the roles women play, the expectations, the currency of our bodies and our sex and how to both embrace and navigate the gift of womanhood.

Lauren Rinaldi_Communion.jpeg

Who are the women in your paintings and drawings? What is their story and how do you come up with the reference images.

The women are me. That’s not something I usually come outright and say, for a lot of reasons, but they are. They’re me and they’re not me and when they really aren’t me, they’re still me. My story isn’t unique or special, but in my work I get to direct it. I stand outside of the frame and inside of it, so there’s no hierarchy and I hold the power.

I usually take my own reference photos or I ask women to send me their own photos and the narrative tends to revolve around reflection, voyeurism and the fluidity of private and public moments. In college I would take my photos with a disposable camera and have them developed at Rite-Aid or CVS (which in and of itself was an… interesting experience), but smart phones have really changed my process. Often times I set my phone up and just record myself doing mundane things like showering or getting dressed and later I go through the videos taking hundreds of screen shots to work from those. Historically, women have been depicted inanimately, so I like to elicit my references from an activated body; it feels more sensual and real to me. So the story isn’t always a specific narrative, but more of a sizing up, looking, assessing and reassessing, peeking, revealing, concealing and evaluating oneself and where and how she fits into a broader context.

L_Rinaldi_Super Gap.jpg

What do you hope to show the viewer about the female identity in today's culture?

The day before the Women’s March this past January, I shared work on social media and I was immediately suspended from Facebook and the image was removed from Instagram. So one of the signs I made to carry the next day read: My nipples violate your community standards. The fact that I, a cis white female, exist unapologetically in my body is controversial and offensive to some in the year 2018. Reactions like that occasionally fuel my work, because I think it’s worth exploring the boundary lines of what is deemed acceptable and what crosses over to vulgar or worthy of censorship. So like most artists, I just want the viewer to feel something, whether that is feeling is discomfort, pleasure, numbness, etc. when they look at the art I make and to question why it makes them respond that way and for them to think about what of themselves they brought to the experience that affects their interaction with the work.

Tell us about a typical day in the studio. How do you prioritize and balance your time?

On a typical day I wake up by 7am and drink about half of a pot of coffee while I answer emails, do bookkeeping things and make lists. Next I’ll either do some sketching to warm up, plan my next piece(s), I’ll prepare some surfaces or I’ll jump right into whatever painting I’m working on. I’ll spend the next few hours working while listening to too many political or murder mystery podcasts and continuing to drink my perpetually cold coffee that I keep reheating and forgetting about. I’m always working on multiple paintings so, depending on what deadlines I have coming up or what needs to dry or how I’m feeling, I’m able to jump around and I never really feel stuck because I have something else to work on. I work until the very last minute and then I run out of the house and pick my son up from school. If there’s time after I take care of general life things, homework, sports practice, dinner, etc. and before I teach yoga in the evenings, I might sneak back into my studio and work some more. As a mom it can be difficult to balance my time and my son and his needs always take top priority, but having to compartmentalize every hour of my day actually helps me to be more efficient in the studio. I know I have a certain time frame in which I absolutely have to be productive.

Cascade Masquerade.jpeg

Name a few contemporary female artists that you look up to.

Ahh, there are so many! Lisa Yuskavage, Inka Essenhigh, Amy Sherald, Carolee Schneeman, Gina Beavers, Rose Freymuth-Frazier, Jenny Saville, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Ghada Amer to name just a few. My local artist friends I know in real life grinding every day and make great art are a huge inspiration, as well.


What do you feel artists need to do more of in order to raise awareness of today's cultural and political issues?

I would just encourage artists to be courageous and not shy away from addressing issues they feel strongly about. To me, art making is about creating an environment of empathy and, it turns out, empathy can be quite contentious and polarizing, which makes art inherently political. I believe art and politics by nature can’t be separated and that it’s our job as artists to process the world in which we live in a deliberate manner, cognizant of the context of our work and its pertinence to whatever current cultural issues we’re facing.

LRinaldi_Trash Venus.jpg

What are you currently working on and what's next for you?

Right now the majority of my studio time is being devoted to working on a new body of mostly oil paintings for my upcoming summer solo show at Paradigm Gallery + Studio here in Philadelphia. I’m excited about the paintings I’ve got in the works and I’m also looking forward to finishing them up and possibly working on an installation and a couple of fun experimental pieces I can’t stop thinking about.

Lauren Pic.jpg
Lucas Stiegman

When I first began to wear makeup and gender affirming clothing, I felt beautiful. When my mother and father saw me, they told me I looked disgusting. In much of my work, I have been reflecting on how society often views me versus how I view myself. Many of my photographic tableaus work to ambiguate a subjective perception with a more objective reality. Within the current political climate, sharing experiences through social media highlights the impact that communication has on altering our perspectives of each other. These photographs represent my perception. 

For the images that arise from intuition rather than direct intention, my large collection of props is a source of my inspiration for many of my strongest photographic tableaus. When I become the model for these scenes, I often work with an assistant, allowing me to adopt a directorial process. The grotesque as well as the aesthetics and narratives seen in my photographs have been heavily informed by my childhood experiences. The Scooby-Doo cartoons and innovative Nintendo’s games I enjoyed as a child exposed me to colorful dramas, where a protagonist overcame fear or monsters through humor and objective examination. I am privileged to have the opportunity to be attending Illinois State University (ISU) to study Arts Technology and Photography (BFA). My college experience opportunity to make connections and gain insights on social justice issues through direct involvement. My exposure to these various narratives throughout my life shaped the ethics I hold my work to today. As an adult, sadly, I still see the narrow ideologies that once caused me mental tension pervade through normative society today. 

The colorful aesthetics and subject matter within these sociologically charged tableaus combine to enable a sense of comfort within the discomfort. Expressing my thoughts through the lens of a camera is the language I’ve learned to use when my words fail me. My subversive photographs seek to start a conversation on these uncomfortable issues we are never taught to navigate.

Blurring The Lines Between Genders: Synaesthetics Illustration Interview (NSFW)

The power of a tiny change in how we represent men and women through art is fascinating. Something as simple as the placement of large hoop earrings on a masculine lumberjack can seem so out of place. Society places great importance on what is considered inherently male or female; however, life is not so black and white.

Blurring the lines between genders in my artwork allows me to explore and challenge these steadfast notions of male and female. The female figure saturates art and is often used and abused in many art forms. I choose to draw predominately male or androgynous figures, placing them in clothing and situations that society has deemed to be feminine. The female figure seems to be fair game when it comes to art – place a male in the same position and you will get a completely different reaction. I am compelled to draw beautiful images that contrast our ideas of what male/masculinity is with how women are portrayed within art and society as a whole.

Using pencils and musical inspiration, I create concepts that not only encourage people to question their gender beliefs, but entertain them. Erotic and playful, each piece is inspired by the colours and feelings that music can create in us. Certain tones will trigger distinct colours and the general drone of a song will have a weight to it that will either be atmospheric or item/texture specific - high pitched electronic sounds are shiny and sparkly, whereas thumping bass is rubbery and liquid like.

My work is an examination of us as humans, as participants, voyeurs, followers and change-makers.


When did you develop an interest in art? Tell us about your creative journey.

Early – Colouring in books pushed me over the edge. My anal retentive need to colour within the lines coupled with the frustration that the lines never went where I thought they should be or cut through images in sloppy black mess forced my hand (figuratively and literally) to create what I wanted to see and colour on a page. 

Drawing people or humanesque figures was always a favourite thing – I enjoyed the amount of detail and movement I could put in these pictures. They could be anything, relatable and realistic, doing human things or they could be turned into fantastical creatures all butterfly of wing and sea creature of tail.

At about the age of 8 or 9, I distinctly remember my dad taking me to the National Gallery of Victoria and suddenly being struck by the…permission to not have to draw clothing on these humans anymore. I had always considered the idea but somewhere along the line also decided that it would be rude of me, or that people would be embarrassed by me doing so. This now flew in direct contrast to what I was now seeing “real artists” do.

Flash forward to high school, the 14-15 year old me is continuing with this nude is good discovery. However, I can’t say this went down well in a high school setting. Turns out people, particularly teenagers are embarrassed by nudes, even when the possess the same body parts. The teachers weren’t much better – the words “pornographic and disgusting!” were screeched by my art teacher across the staffroom during a drop off of work for a local art competition (which, hilariously – I won). My inability to find the words to defend myself and my work, combined with a school fire that destroyed both my graphic design and art portfolios in my final year of study led me to give up on art.
A 120 Faber-Castell Polychomos pencils set would be my artistic denial undoing. I’d been gifted as a gift for completing high school studies, but I buried them within the depths of a cupboard, and there they lay for 10 years. I was terrified of them. They were a threat to my rationale for not drawing, and a totally unfamiliar medium. When I rediscovered them years later, I couldn’t bring myself to sell them and I couldn’t bring myself to draw so they sat, now within line of sight on a bookshelf for a further 2 years. Daring me to see how atrocious my skills would be after years of neglect. As you can guess, I caved.

In the Tl:dr version of events: I started using coloured pencils for the first time in 2014 and haven’t looked back.


Gender and sexuality is an important subject given today's political climate. What do you hope the viewer takes away from your work?

I would be lying if I said I start each piece with the intent of an emotional reaction of the viewer, however, that frequently happens and I enjoy it – good and (especially) bad. I’m not looking to make political statements, almost the opposite? In doing so, I inherently am making a statement and that statement to be frank, is that I don’t give a fuck. I don’t think a person’s sexuality or gender identity should be a political issue and there is something decidedly broken in society when it finds itself wielding that as threat or something to be feared.

I don’t care what humans choose to clothe themselves in. The fact that I could draw an image of what might be considered a hyper masculine scene, fit for the cover of an action movie, and add a set of giant hoop earrings or batwing eyeliner to the main character and suddenly people are questioning what’s going on just fascinates me. Why so much power in such a tiny object/look? How can something so arbitrary totally change the story of an image, and in the context of the world, the way we would perceive and interact with another human? From that, I suppose it’s about what I want to take away – I want to know why it’s alright to apply certain clothing or poses or settings to one gender but not another. In the case of my androgynous characters, why it’s important to the viewer to know what genitalia they might poses before they decided how they feel about the image. Which to me says more about the viewer that it does about my work.


Tell us about what inspires you. How do you come up with the images and decide what to draw?

The first instigator of imagery within my mind is always music. It gives me the weights, textures and often the colour scheme of the imagery. To that I add one or more of my characters and then play around with different music to alter the mood. I’ll often set myself a technical challenge within each piece to make it difficult, and to keep it interesting while I work on it.

For example, for my last piece, Do You Feel Loved, I picked up on select words of a song “…scent hanging in the air”, ”…nails under your hide”, “…teeth at your back”, “…tongue…”. These words and phrases all stood out to me as quite animalistic in tone, the droning bass of the song added a rubber/latex texture in my mind. To keep with the animal vibe and give myself a challenge I added in the leopard print. Which then lead my brain to images of house cats preening themselves on window ledges (my brain can be oddly specific sometimes).

Applying this flash of imagery to a character, it begins to become something solid that I can then manipulate and add to/remove from. In this case I chose a pose in which the character was preening themselves as a cat might. I also wanted to juxtapose the idea of predator against prey so I gave him antlers which would of course be something you would see on a male deer however. Despite his stereotypical masculine physique, the character would be viewed as having feminine attributes due to the pose and clothing they have been placed in alluding their sexuality when I’ve not actively said anything at all.


How do you feel your work has evolved over the past few years?

Quite a long way considering I’d never use coloured pencils before 2014, and prior to that, not drawn anything for at least 10 years. I still have a considerable way to go in terms of technique as I’d like to add much more visual depth and layer multiple images over each other, in a manner more akin to the way my mind sees images. But at this stage I feel I need a stronger understanding of what I can do with the medium before attempting these pieces. It has certainly been a short sharp ride thus far.

Share a piece of advice with our readers that helped you make bold decisions in your work.
I make a point of not self-censoring – I’m not sure if that can be considered bold? If your artistic thoughts consist of butterflies and bunny rabbits it’s probably not going to cause too much controversy. Ultimately it’s the viewer who decides how a work is received so if you consider bold to be something of controversy, know your audience and give them the opposite of what they expect or want – don’t expect to make friends in the process.


What other artists or creatives inspire you?

My two biggest influences at the moment are Goldfrapp and Nine Inch Nails. They overlap in their electronic elements but contrast each other greatly in tone. It’s fun to take an image in my head that was inspired by one artist and place it within the sounds of another to see what weird twists it puts on the colours or mood of a piece. I also greatly enjoy the works of Hajime Sorayama – it would be great to reach that height of hyper realism in pencil form.


What are you currently working on?

Currently working on a couple of pieces – one being the largest pencil drawing I’ve under taken so far. It has the added texture challenge of both Glomesh fabric and soap bubbles because apparently, I like to torture myself.

I’m also having some fun with glazed doughnuts in another piece, which may encourage a love of doughnuts or put the viewer off them for life depending on how much you like glaze and where...