Rhee Lightner

Art Academy of Cincinnati

I come from rural Maryland where Dolly Parton is Queen and John Waters is King, Glamour, kitsch, and flea market culture play an enormous role in my work. I grew up poor in a society infatuated by glamour. As a child I understood that the nicest objects were relegated to the upper class, but that costume jewelry was accessible to a girl like me, who came from poor circumstances. All my life, I have had to combine whatever I owned in order to create something more or bigger than what it was. My love of collage and combining things grew out of this desire. I grew infatuated with the unreality of media, and I imagined that one day I could be perfect like the models in magazines or the actresses on television. As I aged, I realized that perfection was impossible, and that flaws made what I possessed more attractive because of its authenticity. I make paintings, photographs, and mixed media collage because I am interested in the transformative qualities of images and objects. I manipulate and rearrange elements so that the familiar can become foreign and so that the foreign can seem familiar. My work is loud and bright, its vitality reflects my physical energy. When making, I consider the multiple ways that each idea can be rendered, and often, one idea can be manifested in various permutations. Artistic movements such as Pop Art, Fauvism, and Abstract Expressionism have notably impacted my artistic style. I make objects and images because the process allows me to understand myself and others objectively and it enables me to represent intangible ideas or emotions.

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