Emily Kaelin is a young artist who deals with the theme of repulsion versus beauty, in installations, mixed-media art, and paintings, mimicking human organic materials that are generally thought to be disgusting, such as flesh, hair, blood, and bone, and creating pieces that are conflicting, visceral, and boundary-pushing. She describes her own art in these words: “push and pull of appealing and repellent, comforting and upsetting, lovely and ugly; inability to look at or render self objectively; impulse and intuition and instinct; emotionality; flesh; hairiness.”
Her artwork constantly intersects the descriptors of ugly, strangely beautiful, alluring, repulsive, bizarre, off-putting, intriguing, fleshy, raw, delicate, and otherworldly. It expresses agony incarnate in the body, in its materials of ink and parchment (blood and skin).
“I want to explore how our thoughts, feelings, experiences, and pains are housed in our bodies… Studies in the figure and portraiture have led me to a particular fascination with the self-portrait, mainly because I find it nearly impossible to view myself objectively enough so as to render myself in a realistically accurate way. Often I depict emotional pain using imagery that suggests physical bodily harm. Dripping paint, flesh-colored wax, gauze-like cheesecloth, raw meat, matted and tangled hair, and needles are all materials I have used to achieve this effect. These seemingly grotesque items are almost always combined with delicate mark-making, inviting colors, elements of adornment such as seed pearls, glitter, and lace, intricate decorative details, or other reassuring elements that create work that seeks to be both compelling and repellent.”