Kimberly Brooks: Exploring Feminine Identity Through Art

By Angelica Martin

Venice, California-based contemporary artist Kimberly Brooks has earned international acclaim for her striking portraits of women, through which she explores the emotions and complexities hidden within female identities.

In her early painting days (she came to the art form only 12 years ago), Brooks’ artistic preference was clear: she created light-saturated, realistic portraits of women, oftentimes with deeply personal and sentimental subject matter. This was the case in her 2007 series, “Mom’s Friends,” in which she depicted the women she looked up to as a child in the late 1970s; the women who helped to form her identity as a female.

Her latest series, “Thread,” could not feel more different from “Mom’s Friends” and the other exhibitions of Brooks’ past. While the striking subject matter and trademark vibrancy makes it clear that it’s a Kimberly Brooks series, the similarities pretty much end there.

“Thread” continues to focus on the exploration of female identity, however this time each subject is heavily deconstructed. Brooks presents a series of faceless women, with distorted bodies and loosely-interpreted clothes. The paintings feature a darker, edgier aesthetic than we’re used to seeing from the artist, and the series as a whole feels richer than anything she’s done in the past. This shift between then and now feels pointedly deliberate and, according to Brooks, that’s exactly how she intended it.

“Figurative painting can be a tricky dance between the thinking mind and the subconscious,” says Brooks. “I can set out to paint a subject in a certain way and then the process quickly holds the subconscious at bay, to accomplish what I’m looking for. [This time] I let the materials and my mood play out. It was very frightening at times, but I had to learn to be brave. It was important for me to break free…all I yearned for was to let go and unclench into the material and something that was beyond my control.”

With her latest shift from controlled to unleashed, Brooks has captivated the art world once again and cemented her position as an artist to watch; and one who creates work worth coveting.