These portrait paintings, by Serena Cole, are an exception to the rule. My rule. I’m very rarely taken with portraits, fashion or watercolours. And Cole does exactly that; watercolour portraits that use fashion images as a starting point. Not my thing. Usually. However, after reading about her and where the work emanates from I had to show you her paintings. Her background is interesting, her need to create compelling, her artwork accomplished.
Her work directly appropriates the fashion imagery of advertising campaigns, subverts it in an attempt to examine what is revealed about our collective psychology, the culture of consumption, escapism and the complexity of fantasy. Of how we, as a society, spend our time chasing the perfect, the unattainable, consuming in the desperate hope that one day we will reach perfection. What the situationists railed against in 1968.
So here’s the background in her own words:
Serena Cole was born to Californian suburban parents who lost their love for each other as soon as the pool was built on the honeymoon home. Afterward, her mother married a man because he looked like Tom Selleck, who lived on the top of mountain. Forced to leave the roller-skatable sidewalks of San Jose, at age nine she found herself living off-the-grid in the Sierra Nevadas and spent the rest of her childhood looking for the mall.
This extreme isolation from culture and civilization created a fetishized association with anything perceived of as high art, fashion, or wealth. She can still recall every page of the only Vogue she was ever given as a child. This incurable affliction followed her into adulthood and her art career, where she studied painting at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.
She works from an irrational, unyielding desire to enter the unattainable through her highly detailed paintings and drawings. Positioned as both hopeless outsider and wary researcher, she creates work from her examinations of fashion advertising as a cultural anthropologist and self-reflective consumer of highly seductive imagery.
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