My White Trash Family: The Art of Kim Alsbrooks

7 June 2014

When artist Kim Alsbrooks lived in North Carolina she was struck by class dogma that she would come across, something which one might think had disappeared a number of decades ago.  Yet subjective history, myth and sentimentality are a powerful mix. This triggered in her something of a fascinating idea.



Most people are familiar with the portraits (often miniatures) of the social elites of yesteryear.  They exude an elegance and a sense of license which appears natural and accepted- this is how the world turns, after all.  They are a tour de force of collective self-belief. Yet necessity precludes any notion of whence the wealth or the right to rule (as it were) of the subjects came. These portraits were often painted on ivory and other expensive materials and Alsbrooks wanted to present her subjects somewhat differently while extending and modifying this tradition of portraiture.

She brings the notion of privilege and the associated perceptions of social elites crashing down to earth by effectively framing them in trash.  It must be flattened (so the paintings can be wrinkle free) but her materials have included the likes of beer cans and fast food containers.

This video by Brass Brothers Films gives us a glimpse in to Alsbrooks' thoughts about her art and those of others.  It’s great to see an artist who doesn’t over-intellectualise their work but who does have a genuine fondness for her subjects (such as Rosalba Pearce, below right) despite the fact they have been dead for so many years not to mention the sense of frustration which originally prompted the project.

You can see more of Alsbrooks'  absorbing work at her website. At one point in the video above she says "There is a danger in over-thinking and over verbalizing. I can tell you, I know some artists that I really love their work but when they start talking about it, I'm like, shut up." So, with that in mind I think it’s time to close…



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