Artist Statement

Tough

Tough
graphite, ballpoint pen, prismacolor pencil on paper

Whether writing about gender and class, working on my memoirs from my life on the streets in 1970s San Francisco, writing movie reviews or poetry, making collages or drawing in my signature “Pen Noise” style, all of my creative work drills into the interiors of the human landscape and exposes the intensity and complexity that lurks below the surface of our exterior identities. Whether using my own body and history, live models, or personas from news headlines or film as subjects, I look deep into my subjects and expose those vulnerable places of intense personal exposure, vulnerability, fear or revelation that lie under the masks we create in our day-to-day lives.

Melding my love of expressionism with my grounding in punk aesthetics, my work is unflinching and unapologetic. I map my subjects with a dense array of line work, colors, and planes as if each body is its own geography. My understanding of class, gender, race and other forms of social stratification are infused into these maps as the body exists within the broader realm of the forces that have conditioned it to be what it is.

I am currently working on a number of projects.

Film Still Pen Noise
: Influenced heavily by the expressionistic aesthetics and desperate human condition shown so beautifully in the 1940s film noir, I have created a whole body of work inspired by these films. These pieces take those moments of the deepest internal conflict, the moment where characters desperately try to carve the possible out of the impossible or are faced with the uncensored reflection of their condition, and I scratch them out in rough black pen, the “noise” of the pen reflecting both the internal noise of the characters and the agitation of the medium of film itself.

Recently I have added extended series on a single film including my Melancholia Series. I am currently working on a series inspired by the films of the Dardenne brothers.

Not Nakeds: This series of portraits is based on Tucson locals. My portraits aren’t necessarily about photorealistic interpretations of my subjects. Rather, I drill into the people I draw and try to find that one nugget of vulnerability or “mark” (e.g. doubt, tenderness, hurt, strength, endurance, perseverance, loneliness, fatigue, resignation, conflict) that separates them from everyone else and makes them shine as unique humans. I feel it is important that we recognize and embrace our flaws as integral parts of what makes us beautiful and human. Interestingly, all of the models I have drawn have been grateful for my vision. It would be wonderful to see them hanging on the walls of your gallery.

Headlines Series: The “Headlines” series draws upon current events in the news headlines, using the subjects of the articles to articulate a more global state of the human condition through events from such broad ranging subjects as political corruption, elections, pop culture suicides, mass murders, and executions. I use the actual newspaper, a dying form of media, to cut out the titles and fix them in time.

Collages: Again, I bring my love of film to the collage medium. I see my collages as micro-universes full of complex narratives and relationships. They are like little windows into worlds of story and symbol. Though many reference my commitment to interrogating the female body and how it occupies culture, others are more about questioning how history is packaged and digested. My National Geographic series works from vintage National Geographic magazines from the 1960s (the era when I grew up), and I intentionally work from the margin material. Rather than focusing on recognizable faces and events, I cull from the margins and create an overall aura of the historical moment that is open for interpretation and experience.

For more information on my art, contact me at knicolini@gmail.com