This is hardcore
Gazing eyes and marked bodies. There’s something in the paintings of Brooklyn-based artist Kelsey Henderson that will subtly fill you with unease. It’s not necessarily the scenario she captured, but the things that must have happened before that very moment, where debauchery and an unhealthy level of overestimating one’s own capabilities lead to awkwardness and massive regret. Over the last few months though, her highly impressive work has undergone a slight change of direction, as she took a break from her photorealistic snapshots in order to juxtapose black and white images from the hardcore and punk subcultures with headlines from vintage porn magazines - stunning paintings that will hopefully lead to an extensive series in the very near future. Time for Lodown to investigate a bit further.
“Yeah, in simultaneity with that new series I’m working on related video work, photography, and works on paper. Ideally leading up to a very exciting multidimensional show and possibly even book! I had grown up drawing primarily, and it wasn't until my sophomore year in college that I started to paint. I had never used oils before then, but knew that was the direction my work needed to go. I was tired of drawing and felt a lack of life in the medium... so it felt natural to move into paint as it felt more flesh-like and rich. I guess I was always most interested in painting figures in basically every medium of work that I've played in. I'm drawn to people... I find it challenging skillwise and enlightening in terms of learning about another person. It feels like an intimate experience getting to study or look at someone for so long.“
What made you decide to move to Brooklyn in the first place... I mean, by now it must be so insanely populated by artists, right?
Ha. True, it is. I was living in Providence, Rhode Island and Attleboro, MA before I moved to New York. I stayed a year after I graduated college, had a part time job working for my dad, lived in a very cheap apt with my boyfriend at the time and had a giant studio. It was very easy living and comfortable, but I didn't want that. I felt I needed to be around people doing the things I wanted to do... I needed to be around artists who were achieving a lot and being very driven. I thought a healthy dose of motivational competition was necessary, so I made the move and I've been struggling and thriving ever since, ha.
I was wondering if the majority of your paintings are actually based on photos you took?
All my older work is from photos I took. Two years ago I started to integrate found images with my own, which really allowed the barriers of limitation to come down... it's been great allowing myself that freedom. Now I get to paint whatever I want, whenever I want.
So what do we have to expect from the “Photos“ section on your website when it’s ready?
I've been taking lots of photos over the last few years that connect to the same kind of energy as my recent paintings. They're mostly all from disposable cameras, split seconds and moments of my life that feed my inspiration.
Especially your later work reminds me a bit of the one of Michael Borremans. Would you agree that there’s a certain sense of morbidity and unease that has infiltrated your images over the last years in particular?
I've always had an interest in wounds, scars or blood... which could be morbid. But my fascination with it comes from the reminder of how fragile and strong our bodies are. One moment we're cut bleeding and the next our blood clots and our body begins to heal itself. It's an interesting duality that ultimately just reminds us that we're alive.
Your most recent paintings capture the subcultural heydays of punk and hardcore... what’s the story behind that?
One of the found images I painted was a cover from an 80s Boston hardcore documentary... it looked like a magazine cover but upon researching I realized it was collaged. I pretty much took the idea and ran with it. All the text in this series comes from old porn magazines. I'm picking ones that don't blatantly say anything sexual and combining vintage subculture imagery to go along with it to create completely different readings... poking fun at consumerism and cultural ideals, messing around with fashions disconnected fascination and fetishization of punk culture, while also genuinely trying to show these subcultures in a context to have them seen as something noteworthy and important.
Is this culture something like a forgotten love that you’ve kinda rediscovered lately?
It's more that it's part of my life. My photos will show that more in a current state. It's just that now I've incorporated my loves and interests into my work. Now there isn't so much of a disconnect and everything I'm doing from paintings, photos, making music videos, making pins, deejaying, whatever.... it's all connected now. It’s great.