A Feminist Painter Explores Conflict with Oils and Spray Paint

A Feminist Painter Explores Conflict with Oils and Spray Paint

Kristen Reichert's paintings embrace conflict and make it their focus—in a stunning way.
April 9, 2017, 12:05pm

Though we can often become fixated on the differences that frustrate us—in art, in our relationships—there's power and pleasure in seeing what happens when opposing forces collide. Artist Kristen Reichert revels in creating work laden with contrast. She explains that merging forces like order and chaos or beauty and destruction fuels her creative output. While she creates aesthetically unified compositions, Reichert strives to preserve tension in her work. One way to do that: play with mediums. Some of her early work uses spray paint and oil paint, two disparate mediums both in their histories and aesthetic qualities.


"I believe that including a variety of techniques and sensory experiences within one work can enhance the visual intrigue of a piece," Reichert tells Creators. "My interest in contrast also represents a sort of questioning and experimentation within a work. The contrasting pairings are an exploration and reinterpretation of traditional uses of certain mediums and techniques."

Artist in studio. All images courtesy Kristen Reichert

Now, Reichert looks to create contrast in various facets of each piece. Her pieces often pair realistic figures with backgrounds or overlays that seem almost digital in nature. "Since the figures I paint are very dimensional and intricate, I wanted to pair them with backgrounds that were quite the opposite," Reichert explains. "So the idea to paint flat, simple gradients using airbrushed acrylic came to me. I think the idea probably stemmed from my background as a graphic designer, where I implemented gradients in most of my work."

Experimenting with oil and airbrushed acrylic was a natural progression in Reichert's curiosity about mixing mediums, so that they "enhance the properties of one another." It's also influenced her process. "When airbrushing, I am never in contact with the canvas," Reichert says. "It's this very physically separated process where I'm standing feet from the canvas using a machine to spray paint onto it. There's a certain lack of intimacy and detachment that exists in the process of airbrushing. In contrast, when I'm oil painting, I'm up-close and personal with the canvas, almost in constant physical contact with the work." That push and pull creates a distinct process and also bleeds into the way Reichert's figures appear: close yet distant, realistic yet manufactured, strange yet familiar.

'The Dawn' in artist's studio, backlit with LED lights

Reichert often culls Instagram for inspiration and to find models and photographers to collaborate with. While painting may seem like a solitary practice, Reichert values "the role that social media plays" in her process. She later shares her pieces online for other artists to discover.

Reichert's work is considered and methodical, but she hopes that viewers experience visceral reactions to her work. "I think that the best works of art are ones that pull us in with our instincts and emotions rather than our rationale and intellect," she says. "While I don't have a specific message or meaning that my pieces are meant to impart upon viewers, I do hope that viewers experience an emotional reaction that brings them to look deeper into the pieces and find their own meaning within them."

'Bloodsport' (in progress detail)

'St. Ides Heaven' (in progress detail)

'From The Dark' 48x48" Oil and Acrylic on Canvas