Elena Redmond’s figurative oil paintings in Be A Body depict ferociously bold female protagonists that grapple with personal, biological and environmental pressures. I was lucky enough to interview Redmond and talk to her more about ideas such as voyeurism, celebrity influence and her artistic journey since graduating university.
I’m intrigued by the internal weird and yuck feelings and how intimate personal feelings present themselves publicly
CG: Be a Body showcases paintings that focus on the realities and awkwardness of having or occupying a body. What interests you specifically about this subject matter, and do your opinions about your own body serve this inquiry?
ER: Yes, I’m interested in those awkward aspects and how it feels to put those realities on stage per se. I’m intrigued by the internal weird and yuck feelings and how intimate personal feelings present themselves publicly. Alexandra is really interested in voyeurism, and I wanted to create accompanying work that engages with that idea, questioning who is looking and whether or not the figure of the painting is cognizant of its “body”.
CG: Can you provide a step-by-step process as to how you would have created Sitting, Smoking, Spiralling (2022) as an example? And do photo references or digital manipulation play a part?
ER: Yes totally. This painting was inspired by a niche and infamous photo of Dakota Johnson smoking in Paris on the set of 50 Shades of Gray. The photo can easily be interpreted as a paparazzi snag, but a crew member took it. I kept coming back to this image and the idea of accidental paparazzi or faux voyeurism. I began the work with a sketch of myself that aligned with the reference and eventually came to add the second arm, cigarette, and spiralling leaves. I wanted to substitute the sepia yellows from the photo with a hot, sticky red.
CG: What female artists, painters, sculptors, poets, writers, singers or political icons inspire your practice overall?
ER: My list in all of these categories ends up being dominated by women. I think I’m drawn to that similar-experience-feeling. Right now, some of my favourites are Sara Anstis, Emma Stern, Opal Mae Ong, Anna Weyant, and Kezia Harrell.
I lean towards writers as well and very much enjoy work done by Lisa Taddeo, Eula Biss, and Ottessa Moshfegh. In terms of celebrities in music and politics, I’m often engaged by small moments that become major talking points, like Hillary Clinton tearing up in New Hampshire after the Iowa Caucus in 2008 or the Lady Gaga raw meat dress from the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. I save a lot of screenshots like this for reference.
CG: Can you tell me more about your working relationship with Be A Body’s co exhibitor, Alexandra Smith, and her work?
ER: Alexandra and I met when we were selected for this show, and I got the chance to visit her studio with Danielle Dewar along the way. It has been nice getting to share this experience with a new friend.
CG: Can you tell me more about your working relationship with Be A Body’s curatorial duo, Danielle Dewar and Marlee Katz of Tchotchke Gallery, and how it all began?
ER: Tchotchke reached out to me early in 2021 to participate in an exhibition with their gallery that summer, Summer Camp.
I really enjoyed working with them, and when I moved to New York after graduating, it seemed like the perfect fit. They began representing me in September of 2021, and I am so excited to exhibit my first solo show with them next month. I’m very thankful for them and all of the projects we have worked on together so far.
CG: Has moving to New York after graduating influenced the trajectory of your artwork in any unexpected ways?
ER: Yes completely! Coming from Providence and an educational environment, painting in New York has been freeing and inspiring. I see as many shows as I can and feel so inclined to make it in this enormous community that hustles here.
At school, I studied printmaking; it has also been exciting to focus on one medium, although I hope to get my hands on a press again soon. I never imagined having any of the opportunities I’ve had here so far, maybe “that’s New York for ya!” as they say.
CG: During your artist talk at Launch F18 Gallery, you mentioned how much you enjoyed Elizabeth Glaessner’s paintings that are currently showing at P.P.O.W gallery in TriBeca. Are there any other shows on right now that excite you?
ER: Yes, Elizabeth’s work is just immensely smart. That show is a must-see. Lyles and King have a sweet group show open right now, and I really enjoy Nadia Waheed and Bambou Gili’s included works – both great painters. Danica Lundy has a total knockout solo show at Magenta Plains right now as well, colossal and enormous paint; she’s a rockstar for sure.
CG: What would be something you’d change about your work or the show if you had the opportunity to do so?
ER: I think I would have made Chair Pose (2022) on a bigger canvas because everyone I’ve spoken to about it has been shocked by its 28” stature. I love an imposing figure and hope to daunt with size as soon as possible.
CG: Why do you choose to work with oil paint, and do you use any other mediums?
ER: I’ve used many other mediums and certainly enjoy playing around with new ones. In high school, I had a teacher who suggested I “upgrade” from acrylics to oils.
They are very buttery and allow for slower choices with the drying time. Painting feels like thousands of little decisions, and I like oils’ malleability and mixing capabilities.
CG: What do you feel is the most beautiful part of the human body? Is it an area we see or is it invisible, and more importantly, is it hard to paint?
ER: I’m not sure if there is a most beautiful part! Usually, the spots I like painting the most are the parts I’d least like to share or acknowledge, like cellulite or big thighs. Maybe that is the most beautiful part. Painting the body I have helps me to see it truthfully with less self-loathing.
Clare Gemima studied Fine Arts and graduated from Whitecliffe College of Arts in Design in 2017. She currently spends her time between making work in the studio and writing a weekly arts column in New York-based publication, EVGrieve.