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Leading Lady Sunday Painter


I use the fact that I'm a figurative painter to flirt with people. 


I've also liked painting and drawing people since I was young. Art has always been my ‘ favorite subject’. I loved Disney movies and my younger sister was obsessed with the ‘Barbie Movie’ franchise; Barbie as Swan Lake, Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper, but Barbie as Rapunzel was our favorite. We liked it especially because she wore pink, which was my second favorite color to purple and my sisters first.  I loved her purple dragon, Penelope. She was purple with long eyelashes. Our protagonist was blonde, like us, but best of all she had a magic paintbrush which brought her paintings to life. What a dream. She could create dresses, castles and she even made Penelope it was amazing!


We also liked Grease but would argue over who got to be ‘Bad Sandy’. She usually won and I had to be Good Sandy because I had straight hair and she had curly.


‘Girls nights in’ with my mam and sister were always a lot of fun. We’d get a takeaway in and watch romantic comedies and musicals. Our favorites included Music and Lyrics, The Notebook, High School Musical(s) and Monster in Law to name a few of the classics. My sister used to watch Hannah Montana and Ioved Kim Possible. Both had the wild concept in which girls could be two equally authentic, untarnished archetypes simultaneously. ‘Popstar’ and ‘Nerd’, ‘Cheerleader’ and ‘Secret Agent’, ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Sandy. All ‘leading ladies’, all white and mainly blonde or fair-haired. 


I, like many, am interested in how childhood experiences have played a part in constructing me today. Did my adoration for Rapunzel and her ‘magic paintbrush’ magically inspire me to love drawing and painting as a child thus inevitably leading to me wanting to be an artist? A natural progression from a favorite school subject and pastime? Growing up art lessons have always been majority girls right up to my current year at BFA.


The ‘I've always loved art’ mantra seems as ridiculous and frivolous as ‘I've always loved purple’ or ‘I’ve always loved cats’. It has, however, been playing in the back of my mind. Why did I engage with art and creative activities from a young age, having not come from a family of ‘creative professionals’ who visited galleries? I did watch pantomimes, and films thus conclude that this early interest in painting and drawing must be influenced, even if slightly, such archetypes as Rapunzel.


I felt vulnerable. The source of my practice and engagement with art felt like some dirty secret waiting to be revealed the moment I unknowingly paint a girly purple dragon. These speculated foundations threatened to reduce my work to a devalued extension of fetishized virginal femininity. 



Let's begin by reflecting on the cover image of this essay. Rapunzel is sat prettily poised, not a spec of paint on her body. Why does she even need an apron? She entertains her animal friends with her magic, non-messy painting and absently smiles at the butterfly she brought to life. This is an image of surreal contentedness. She is disengaged with the painting and barely engaged with the butterfly. Painting is an extension of her femininity which alludes to the expectation for her to create life in the future. ‘Barbie as Rapunzel’  is a  ‘Leading Lady Sunday Painter’; the archetype  I will be analyzing in this investigation. By archetype, I mean a product of the collective unconscious or mental archive in which the LLSP is assimilated into. The Leading Lady Sunday Painter is overtly caring, compassionate and sees the good in everything: a bubbly ray of childlike innocent sunshine. This innocence is there to be sexualized at varying levels of subtlety. This icky sexualization of naivety can be seen in similarly constructed pop culture figures such as Ariana Grande; the bad potential of Good Sandy.  


I chose the term ‘Leading Lady’ because the semantics of this dated phrase has an aura of romance derived from its old-fashioned, fashionable associations. The Leading Lady takes us back all dewy-eyed to a time where men were ‘gentlemen’ and ladies were just lovely. LLSP masquerades as the lead but is not a guaranteed leader. She can still be the star of the show or the emblematic poster though. I feel ‘Leady Lady’ reflects this deceitful status of her position in a supposedly empowering self-led narrative.


Rapunzel is the lead in ‘Tangled’ and Sophie, a sweet LLSP with vague dreams of going to art school the lead in ‘Mamma Mia!’,  but this does not guarantee a protagonist steering her narrative. The LLSP is a supportive visual cue to be read in relation to a ‘lover’ or potential lover. This happens regardless of the prominence of the narratives romantic storyline. As a result of her hyper-romantic construction, we find ourselves in a position where all she does is read in relation to her potential as a lover. This derives from a familiarity we feel from having seen her or comparable feminine archetypes before. We know she's the muse, not the creator. We subconsciously already know her destiny and function so all of her interests and actions are read as acts of support.


I discovered the LLSP working as a children's entertainer.  I work for a company which does ‘princess parties’ in which you can hire me out to ‘play’ your child's favorite character. We have wigs and costumes to look as close to the character as possible. Authenticity and realism is the secret to ‘making magical memories that will last a lifetime!’.

We sing as the princesses, speak in their voices and know their interests and drives by heart. Rapunzel is back in Disney’s adaptation; ‘Tangled’ and is a popular choice due to her effervescent personality. Her favorite thing alongside her love interest is painting.  We do an icebreaker exercise in which we gather the children into a circle and ask what their favorite thing is in the whole wide world. I’d say my scripted 


‘I just love painting, it's my favorite thing in the whole wide world, well apart from Eugine, *giggle giggle*’. 


The hilarious irony of this cued me to think about the ridiculous gaps between this highly exaggerated construction and my ‘reality’, specifically in how we make work. As much as I love painting it will come as no shock to find I don’t do it with an animal sidekick amidst a musical number. It's admittedly funny though to imagine the ridiculous impracticality of painting with such long hair in a dance of expressive debilitating joy

Rapunzel contentedly preoccupies her time with an act as decorative and visually appealing as her. While she improves her surroundings we imagine her improving ours on a multisensory level, singing to us while decorating our living room with painted flowers and smiles. The way we imaginatively enter the fictional world of this archetype is something I’d like to briefly look at through ideas raised in Kendal Walton’s essay, Fearing Fictions. Walton analyses the way we use ‘imaginative projection’ in film. He claims we unknowingly participate in a ritualistic game of make-believe in which we activate figures on screen as ‘props’ or ‘dolls’. He claims we project ourselves into the film without much thought or question. Thinking back to earlier when I recounted me wanting to be ‘bad sandy’ I didn’t say ‘when I was younger I  wanted to be the fictional character; ‘Bad Sandy’. This isn't because I got older and realized ‘bad sandy’ is in fact, Olivia Newton-John. It’s because even now, recalling my experience with that film, I’m playing along with this unspoken game of ‘make-believe’. We utilize these archetypes by scrambling for comparables, in reality, ie my little sister fitting the role of bad sandy simply down to her curly hair. Imaginative projection allows us access to infinite worlds of ‘make believe’. 


The LLSP maintains and embellishes her environment thus ours. This embellishment of space through sing-song mural painting is a trope repeated in 50 First Dates. Lucy decorates her father’s garage with a mural of lilies after he asked her to paint something nice for his birthday. She sings and joyously waves her arms around in a spriteliness comparable to Charlotte in Monster in Law who spontaneously decides to decorate her partners flat. She giggles and decorates with little-painted flowers because she ‘woke up and it just felt like home’ after having moved in a few weeks ago. It’s a lovely gift he wakes up to.




















We are treated to a suspension of carefree innocence packaged as a song, dance and naïve, yet pretty painting all reflecting the person painting it. For most people, the act of painting and drawing stops on the whole when you are no longer a child. Unless you’re an artist or art student, the only time you’re likely to make representational or decorative pictures is a pleasurable pastime. In fact, this is very the case for these groups too.  The association we attach to the LLSP is painting in its most fun and most frivolous form. This further augments to painting as an extension of fetishized naïvety. The LLSP’s work is denied can never hold any critical worth even in this fictional world. A career as an artist is not available to her. 


Maude from The Big Lebowski has a successful career as an artist. We’re introduced to her hurtling naked from the darkness towards our beloved ‘dude’ everyman, attacking him with paint. The director utilizes the way she paints to construct her as a sexually exploitative mysterious vamp. She's a career driven villain.


Her introductary frames reminded me of Jean Verber’s 19th Century ‘Allegorie,sur la machine devoreuse des hommes’(fig 5). Andrea Huysen’s cites the piece in ‘After the Great Divide’ as an emblematic allegory for the fear of destructive unleashed female sexuality. 


‘It suggests that the woman has appropriated the phallic power and activity of the machine that she now turns this power violently against men’[1]










Maude’s archetype is a physicalisation of this Freudian castration fear which remains prominent 200 years on. Maude is a male parody of Carolee Scheenman who has been reappropriated by the Cohen brothers as a villainous vamp comparable to Huysens archetypal findings from Metropolis. She uses her sexuality to manipulate our everyman hero ‘The Dude’ into conceiving a child to raise on her own! Scandalous. This archetype lays bare for us an insight into such fears surrounding Scheenmans and similar artists today. Maude's archetype acts as an informant. We can follow each step of parody involved in her construction and learn something from each one. Maude is a male-constructed parody of Sheenman whos artistic image in its self has been interpreted as a threatening parody of Pollok. 















Maude is not a LLSP. The LLSP is not a sexually manipulative villain artist whos ‘feminist sensibilities lean towards the extreme’[2]. Denying the LLSP an artistic career mitigates any risk of her being interpreted as domineering.


Instead the LLSP is constructed a Jenny of all trades and mistress of none. She enjoys numerous hobbies such as cleaning, reading, ballet, fashion design, singing, music and poetry. She may work part time as a nanny, waitress or art teacher but also volunteers as a little league coach or a dog walker. Lily, How I met your Mother teaches art to children similar to Lucy (50 First Dates) who is ‘the kind of teacher all the kids would have a crush on’[3]. Being an art teacher allows the LLSP to exercise controlled creativity while demonstrating maternal instincts. This job used paradoxically advertise her potential as a natural at the invisible labour required to be a supportive stay at home mam. 


Cleaning may appear unusual at first to  catergorise as a hobby but not when you consider the way Rapunzel joyously cleans in the same litteral song and dance as painting.[4]   This is a trope we’re all familiar with princesses. With a smile and song you too kids can enjoy going with the flow of oppressive juridical labor structures. Little girls love Rapunzel and despite it being released in 1938 little girls still love Snow White enough to recognize ‘whistle while you work’. Little girls still get pink and purple hoovers for Christmas and the Barbie as Rapunzel doll never included her magical paintbrush. 


‘My names Rapunzel and my favorite thing in the whole wide world is painting.. well painting and Eugine.. well painting and Eugine and cleaning! *giggle giggle*’ 


The LLSP approaches painting in the same literal song and dance as cleaning. It’s part of a routine with no intention to specialize or push. She cant specialize as at worst this could be a threat and at best compromise her fetishized state of suspended youth. 


Perhaps, we could argue painting appears secondary to her domestic duties which she must complete first. She cleans the home and then embellishes it with flowers and song. Painting is emblematic of her expected femininity to both create (give birth)and has a positive affective effect on her surroundings. Due to this, we can fancy the LLSP but she will never be a ‘great artist’ or ‘creative genius’. 

Painting for the LLSP is assimilated into this mix of interests of which many seem to emphasise her ability to perform excelent affective labour. Affective labour is ‘work carried out that is intended to produce or modify emotional experiences in people.’[5]. It’s is a strand of invisible labor, with the potential to subvert and create ‘collective subjectivities as suggested by Michael Hardt.This form of labor is relied upon in the service with a smile waitressing and supportive teaching the LLSP enjoys. Western feminism has long recognized such invisible, devalued labor. Here while it remains devalued it is simultaneously fetishized like a sexy maid costume. Decorating and improving her home is an acute demonstration of the success of her affectuous labor. She decorates her already maintained clean home with flowers and smiles and songs.







The LLSP’s mixture of interests alludes to various feminine ideals which aim to construct the perfect wife or lover. Painting is assimilated into a mixture of interests which construct the LLSP as supportive. She’s a show pony who can sing, dance, talk to animals, paint pretty pictures or even paint you!



This made me think of Joan Riviere’s analysis of the ‘modern 20’s woman’ as cited again by Wagner. She puts the success of this model down to her ability to perform multiple fetishized feminine roles. They were ‘excellent wives and mothers, maintain[ing] social life and assist[ing] culture’ (my bold). All are supportive acts with an emphasis on assistance. The modern 20’s woman represented societal ideologies of ‘complete female development’ comparable to the LLSP. They can switch these roles ‘with the frequency of a pantomime trouper’ swiftly swapping the mask of the serene mother to the mask of the bubbly party girl. These different interests function similarly in allowing the LLSP to demonstrate various feminine ideals while never deriving too far from her virginal foundations. Numerous interests allow for us to dress her up while protecting her all-important authenticity. She not only remains authentic but can adapt to support your needs. The LLSP can be dressed up to suit every need and occasion, whether you need her to walk your dogs or entertain guests with her magic tricks.


Everything the LLSP does must be valued first and foremost on its assistive or supportive potential. This, in particular, was a prominent feature which obstructed female abstract expressionists. Artists were praised for tidying up their husbands work. May Stevens ‘was considered an artists wife who paints for a long time’. Their cultural utility as supportive wives was something which precluded and overshadowed the work. They were inescapably valued as ‘assisting culture’ of which their husbands were seen to be creating.


Lee Krasner could not escape the projected supportive archetype of Pollocks wife who ‘is also a painter’. Wagner looks in depth at how, aware of this, LK aims to separate self and work through performing thus subverting the very archetype attached to her. Lk performs as a self-objectified clown, purposefully undermining this fetishized, identity.of supportive housewife. Take figure 6, a portrait of Pollock by Hans Neman of which LK acts an embellishing accessory, framing the composition in the background. LK will have been aware of the importance of the photo shoot so why Wagner speculates, does she choose to wear slippers?  While we may associate slippers with the housewife due to their domesticity, a real 50s model housewife wouldn’t be caught dead in her slippers at the best of times, never mind dangle them in front of a photographer. LKs slippers become two fluffy middle fingers to this oppressive archetype. She's taking the piss from the only space available to her artistic image. Sat behind Pollock where she is a cultural assistant but not his glamorous assistant. She performs a shitty non-smiling LLSP. 


She subverts what should be an image of support into something with the potential to be more complex and critical. 

Knowing what would be attached, LK aimed to ommit a sense of self from her work through refusing or remaining reluctant to sign works. Her controlled application of paint and lack of figures built a defense where the devalued gendering of hysterical emotion and relationships became difficult to project on to the work.








Just imagine if she were to paint portraits of Pollock.  As seen through the LLSP today, painting or sketching a portrait remains the most romantic gesture. The beautiful thing about painting is that it’s transportable thus can also be gifted as canvasses or studies such as Ally’s gift to lover Noahs dad in ‘The Notebook’. Its complete flattery having the LLSP, spend time seeing with her loving positive eyes. Whats more you can hang evidence of her adoration on your wall.  Flash to Sophie’s drawing her potential father mid-song in Mamma Mia. Flash to Lucy frantically painting Henry because despite serious short-term memory problems shes so in love with him she refuses to let him leave her memory. Flash to Jane frantically drawing Tarzan to describe what she's seen but getting humorously distracted and pining over the image shes created.


All are acts of love.





















‘they’re all about love… ultimately all great art is really about love’[6].


Elizabeth Peyton's work is referred to as ‘acts of love’. I cant think of an artist whose image aligns as close to our archetype. Peytons ‘soft spoked ness’, pretty face and gentle nature, combined with her beautifully rendered and accessible portraits, means she is close enough to dress up as a real LLSP. Her image becomes assimilated into the same mental archive as Rapunzel, Sophie, Lilly etc and whats more is there appears to be an urgency to transform Peyton into this archetype, over an urgency to critique her work. 


Peyton speaks of loving her subjects frequently remarking ‘I really love the people I paint.’[7]. When we hear painting and love uttered in the same soft-spoken sentence an icky sense of familiarity creeps to the forefront of our subconscious. The LLSP awakens in a joyous song with her animal friends and magic paintbrush. We feel a sense of comfort as somehow we know her and the work already.


Gentle Woman, a self proclaimed ‘intelligent’ fashion and beauty magazene referes to Peyton as simply ‘Elizabeth’[8]. We know her intimately by first name and are accompanied with soft pastel portraits to authentically mimik her persona. This ‘extremely sweet spoken’ girl is our friend. She’s kind and she seems to invite us into her desirable bohemen art world.


‘Elizabeth’, like the LLSP is muted, soft and non threatening. We can trust her not to steal your man or your career. We can still fall in love with her despite her success. Painting becomes an extention of her sweet image, an act of supportative love decorated with smiles.


‘like her pictures she doesn’t take up much space’.  ‘She’s extremely sweetly spoken and makes us tea. She looks her interlocutor straight in the eye, and her own crinkle prettily at the corners. She could be at least 10 years younger than she is.’ [9]


Calvin Thomkins in the ‘The Artist of the Portrait’ Painted Peyton as ‘slim, poised and direct[10]’. Im glad he mentioned she was slim and poised before mentoning the fact shes direct. This way we know shes small aswell as lady like so theres a much slimmer chance that she’s bite or hurt us with her directness. I think back to Wagners citing of descriptons of LK as a ‘slight auburn haired’ girl’, an identifyer almost identical to Tomkins description of ‘dark hair [which] is very short, gamine style’[11] .


We’re reminded that Peyton ‘smiles often and looks you right in the eye when you speak’. Her slightness allows for the fetishization of directness as a cute controlled quirk. Reviewers frequently capatalise on Peytons ‘quiet confidence’[12], alluding to the perfect level of sexual confidence for such a romantic archetype. What’s more, a focus on eye contact alludes to the most fetishized aspect of Peyton’s practice; her paintings, which have become emblematic or even physical evidence for how much this archetype truly loves her subjects. To be painted by Peyton is to be loved by Peyton. Both your image and her act of love have been physicalised and immortalised in a representation of her seeing and loving you. How wonderful. This guarantee is even endorsed by Peyton herself through disclaiming she only paints people she loves.


There is a fascination with Peyton’s backstory. How did a girl like that infiltrate the big scary art world? Thomkins tells us a Cinderella, rags to riches tale of  a ‘young girl with big dreams’;who’s ’27 but on her way up’.We’re even treated to a makeover scene as ‘She got a job as a waitress to support her art and dyed and cut her hair.[13]’ She changes her appearance to reflect and accompany change; a doll which again has come including multiple masks and costumes. 


Wagner’s quote springs to mind on the constructin of LK;  ‘win or loose you can do it too just make sure you hve th right clothes’. We’re treated to her backstory as a waitress (not waiter) which alludes to this LLSP image of perfected affective labour. Building a backstory struggle also however sets up Peyton as out of place. Its as if we cant accept her place in the artworld. We need to know how and why.  Thomkins is ‘sceptical to how Peyton infiltrated the art world.’He scrambles to legitimize her infiltration through focusing on ‘the appeal’ of Peytons work. This is a dirty word in terms of artistic credibility. Its reduces her practice to pure entertainment. 


Focus on Peytons work appears to be steered towards valueing work on their affective ability. While building Peyton as a desirable archetype it drops the critical value in her work. To place critical value on Peytons work, so associated with affect, would distript the patriarchal hierarchy of art and labour. Her disneyesque image becomes safter to praise. Her work is read as simplistic, perhaps partially due to its accessibility or its interpretation as an expected extension of femininity. She decorates and improves surroundings with her image, voice and painting, and supports, defends and flatters her subjects. This is something natural to the LLSP and is something done easily out of pleasure. I recall reading Sadie Coles’ paraise of Peyton’s ‘doing something simple in a complicated age’. Regardless of its possitive intensions this made my hands clammy. This again seems a focus on ‘the appeal’ in a way which aims to elevate it however is Peyton’s work simplistic? I feel I want to protect Peyton from the simultaneous process of fetishization and devaluing of her ‘simple’ work. Whats funny here though is that Peyton doesn’t need some random undergrad to protect her or her career. I was paradoxically sucked into a reaction based on her images association with our vulnerable archetype.


Lisa Liebman has a similar response in her revew, ‘A Tender Trap’(1998). It appears Liebman aims to reappropriate Peyton’s image as powerful though subversion reminding us that ‘She, however, is the wielder of the brush, the powerful one’. Peytons image becomes a ‘tender trap’, no longer nuanced and virginic but rembrabded as subversive and potentially sexually manipulative. She is painted as in controll with ‘Her acts of love take archers aim’[14]. Out of the limmited archetypes or dualisms available Peytons is safer accepting the role of Maude over Rapunzel.


Peyton is hailed ‘the wielder of the brush, the powerful one’[15] before we can utter devaluing gendered words such as ‘weak’ or ‘feeble’[16] which have beome synopsus with her images archetype. It’s nearly the 00’s and with the hangover of girl power its still safer for Peyton’s image to be a subversive Baby Spice;


‘We think she's sweet and pretty in pink

But you better beware, 'cause I ain't what you think’[17]


Her virginic LLSP image must be subversive thus affect and emotion must be ‘A Tender Trap’. Liebman is aware, even if only subconsciously,  of the vulnerability of Peytons image. She’s familiar with the oppressive fetishization of the naïve virgin. Archetypes like the LLSP act as propaganda to naturalize labour inbalance through fetishizing complacient and supportative women who are happy to decorate, clean and provide service with a smile. This is visable in the focus on quiet confidence, complacency and silence in the construction of Peytons image. 


I wonder, how concerned Peyton is with implications of these projections? Like LK is she able to separate self and archetype, playing a game of infiltration and subversion from within a romantacised archetype? Is Peyton utilizing the LLSP as a trojan horse to disarm and infiltrate? 


Peytons decloration of love for her subjects aligns with romantacisation associated with the LLSP. She even defends the strength of her love when it gets compared to having a crush; 


‘I don’t like that word ‘crush,’ ‘It sounds light—you know, l-i-t-e. I really love the people I paint. I believe in them, I’m happy they’re in the world.[18]’ 


Reducing Peytons highly fetishizable relationships to crushes would be detrimental to the aura of her work. It would push her artists’ image from the top of the feminine archetype hierarchy i.e a girl in love to somewhere to the bottom with all the the crazy ex girlfrriends and spinsters scorned by unrequited love. Love is the idealistic driving force of work prouced by the LLSP. Its marketable. Everyone loves a love story. Everyone loves Elizabeth Peyton.


Everyone doesn’t love Karen Kilimnik. While Peytons portraits remain interpreted as  physicalisations love, Kilmick leaves viewers confused and suspicious her distant crushes and feeble girlish painting.


Kilimnik is frequently compared to Peyton. Both are women who paint contmporary portraits. While that’s pretty much where the likeliness stops this is apparently enough to constitute a wore it better type farce. Dresses are replaced by comparable painting and the authenticity of their artists image. 


‘when we consider a much younger painter, Elizabeth Peyton, whose masterful portraits of celebrities and art world characters have often been compared to the historical or celebrity-derived works of Ms. Kilimnik. In this comparison Ms. Kilimnik invariably loses because she can’t compete with the masterful brightness and ice cream smoothness of Ms. Peyton’s canvases.’[19]


While he is discussing painting techniques he could equally be discussing hair or skin.  He goes on to disclaim that if you dig past the surface then you’ll realise this comparison is ‘non sensical’ as ‘Ms Kilmiks’ paintings must be seen as part of her installations. No shit Sherlock. That’s like saying Mr Stella’s lines may be better painted when compared to MrLewitts at first, but if you dig past the surface you’ll realise this comparison makes no sense as MrLewitts paintings must be viewed as part of the exhibitions surface.It seems ridiculous to compare these two male painters. We just accept both are contributing to a similar lineage in different ways so why the instance on competition for these two?


Kilimnik is more vulnerable to unwanted projections onto her work as she isnt as active a participant in the art-celeb lifestyle as Peyton. She has less opportunities to deflect or interject.Compared to Peyton theres no record of face to face interactions between Kilimnik and her subjects. We’re disapointed as this is our ‘go to’ when interpreting portraits by seemingly young women. While Peyton is declaring love from the sky line of newyork, Kilimnik remains silent from her refuge in Philidelphia, rarely leaving for previews or interviews. 


We want to go through the same level of imaginative egagement with bith these works, from which we need the LLSP character to confirm the authenticity of the relationships represented. Peytons work can function as  emblematic of a relationship but when we wish to do the same with Kilimnik its more complex.

Paintings for both become visual ques for fetishizable relationships or feelings towards the depicted male leads. We read the affections expressed or in Kilmiks case not expressed and the way in which they have been painted as signposts to character and realtionships. Take these portraits of Leonado Dicaprio. Figures on the left are by Kilimnik figures to the right, Peyton. Dicaprio is a highly elevated subject of which the viewer is aware neither artists could have an explicit connection to. Yet we see these paintings non the less as gestures of affect towards the star regardless of the artists intensions. The way in which this subject has been painted is read as representive of each artists devotion and love for the subject in which Peytonss is a more thoughtout, controlled and tasteful application of paint.



























Kilimniks parodying of a naïve application of paint, alongsideher dealing with the same subject matter as Peyton causes her to be called out as some sort of Disney witch masquerading behind these deceptfully youthful pieces. Whats more this witch has chosen to adopt the most threatening girlish trope; of ‘messy teen bedrooms and hysteria’[20]. Peytons relationships are wholesome whereas Kilimnik stalks from the forests of Philadelphia. She masks as a young LLSP to manipulate the image of a much younger Dicaprio, (far too young for her!) into whatever suits her fancy dressing him up in the paintings or placing  a crest above his head  Peytons suits her projected authentic archetype however despite our attempts Kilimniks image is not as quietly or pleasantly asimilated into this mental archive. Kilimnik is pitted against Peyton as a mutton dressed as a lamb. 


Kilmikss image is not as readily assimilated into a mental archive of arcitypes. Any attempt to project catergorize her image as one or the other leaves us disorientating or disapointed. This disorientated one critic so much that these multiple ‘labile personalities become falsly explained as biproducts of are a result of  mental illness.


‘it is a wonderful testament to her singular dream—or neurosis, depending on how you choose to read it.[21]’  


On the same article I nearly missed a tiny correction at the bottom which read; 


‘May 16, 2012: An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly that Karen Kilimnik suffers from Tourette syndrome.’


This insistance to compare stems from a feeling that these two artists should not coexist. There can only be one Leading Lady. From experience a character comparable to the LLSP can only be there for evil. She enters the narrative to threaten the LLSP. I think of Fiona, the woman in Monster in Law who is comparable in beauty to LLSP Charlotte. She aims to steal her man. The notion of more than one woman both the narrative of Monser in Law, and the art world is highlighted as equally ridiculous. 


Tomkins hails ‘kilimniks work told storys whereas Peytons evoked lives’. He points his finger at the lucky girl he’s selected to fill the role of ‘quirky painting lady who shouldn’t quite be there but is appealing non the less’. Kilimnik is an easy victim as the older less attractive Peyton. In her simply existing, she threatens the authenticity of Peyton’s archetype. We want Peyton to remain authentic so we can actvate this romantic archetype as a real life LLSP to enter the art and celeb world with.


One of the only snippets of Kilimniks voice in the art world which I was able to find was a snippet from an interview with Bourriard;

‘Im such a slob. Everything seems destined to end up on the floor as though I was too lazy to pick up whatever it is’.[22]

She goes on to espose ‘ I never read anything too complicated’ and ‘ Ive always wanted to become a witch’. Kilimnik constructs her self as everything we don’t want someone making portraits to be; feckless. This undermines the grandure of the elevated sexy artist identity in a way comparable to the effect of LK’s slippers.


Her work similarly escapes the fetishization of the uninterupted dedicationn of the portrait artist to subject matter through escaping the canvass. She cant possibly care about her distant, ‘poorly painted’ subjects as we imagine her distracted by ballerinas and witches. This ‘not caring image’ wuld be great if she were a brooding male painter but Kilimnik too closely tied to the LLSP.  Kilimnik taints the pure act of love which portraiture should function as for her archetype. Its funny as paradoxically she remains a threat despite being interested in various things,  a defence strategy as seen used by the LLSP to remain non-threatening.


We don’t know which female painter archetype we can relate Kilmnik to and dress her up as.  Reviewers and viewers alike are left frustrated at not having an authentic persona to utilize to read the work through. Kilmik presents us ‘authentic’ and subverted feminine archetypes. In any one of her exhibitions multiple archetypes overwhelm and occupy both our gallery space and imaginative space. Not a single one of them is authentic.


One of the ways reviewers grasp at authenticity is a focus on childhood and origins stories as already seen with Peyton but also Kilimnik;


‘They are images from an imagination that never reached puberty, and they are not competing with the classic portraiture by the likes of Ms. Peyton, even if, occasionally, their subject matter overlaps’


Out of context that seems like such a weird way to describe images made by a 40 something year old woman. I somehow cant imagine ‘puberty’ being thrown round with a male painter for some reason. Similarly with Peyton there is this undeniable romance around the fact she has ‘always painted people’. Why is this important? For one it constructs the effortless natural illusion of talent and whats more so affect. Painting people is as natural a condition expanding from other creative feminine extensions such as colouring in and dressing up, decorating and gifting drawings. Kilimniks age suspected lack of care for her subjects distrupts the LLSP of which the girlish, virginic and naieve go hand in hand.


The LLSP represents a hieracrhized perverted positioning of the naieve woman in western society. That’s why well we want to fetishize Kilimnik and Peytons ‘affective work’ we simultanoeous devalue it as girly[23]


The Leading Lady Sunday Painter presents to us a physicalisation of ideals which can be deconstructed aswell as constructed. The Leading Lady Sunday Painter is our informant. She shows the prominance hyper feminine gendered construct who permiates as far as the art world. The LLSP works in a simultaneous back and forth effect in the way in which pop culture  acrhetpes can spy  and offer information on the very reality it constructs and conditions.


The Leading Lady Sunday Painter undoubtledy built me and I don’t know how I feel about that.


She seems to be here to stay so I may aswell exercise control and get to grips with the archetype which threatens to devalue my work. I will continue to use figurative painting as a way to flirt with people as knowledge of her existance makes me want to masquerade as her out of pure stuborness.


The Leading Lady Sunday Painter makes me want to sing and paint purple flowers out of a morbid fascination with this me which is not me. It would be idealistic to think I could omit something which undountedly is foundational in my interest so I will monitor, disect and perform. I am her and she, I but you can still piss off if you think I’ll paint you a mural for free.











[1] After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism, Huyssen, Andreas., c1986., The Vamp and the Machine, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, pg. 77

[2] Online ‘Which Big Lebowski Character are you’ result as Maude 

[3] Dialogue from 50 First Dates

[4] When will my life begin


[6] Elizabeth Peyton, quoted in Elizabeth Peyton: Paintings about love, The Telegraph, Louisa Buck, 

[7] Elizabeth Peyton, quoted in Elizabeth Peyton: paintings about love, The Telegraph


[9] Gentlewoman

[10] Tomkins, The Artist of the Portrait, pg 1

[11] Tomkins, The Artist of the Portrait, pg 1

[12] Tomkins, The Artist of the Portrait, pg 1

[13] Tomkins, The Artist of the Portrait, pg 2

[14] Liebman, A Tender Trap, page 86, 

[15] Liebman, A Tender Trap, page 87

[16] Laura Cumming critiques and questions why Kilimnik would be deliberately feeble or flimsy in ‘The Kitch is Back’

[17] One of these Girls, Spice Girls, 2007

[18] Peyton quoted by Tomkins, The Artist of the Portrait, pg 3

[19] Linderman, Karen Kilimnick’s Teenage Dream,

[20] Stern associates this with Kilimnik’s work in, The uses of enchantment

[21] Linderman, Karen Kilimnick’s Teenage Dream,

[22] Interview quoted in An Artist and her Alter Egos by Melisa Feldman

[23] Lindermann in ‘Karen Kilimniks teenage dream confesses he never liked ‘girly’ art

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