Artist Statement/Bio

"Kaelin exploits the endless potential for attraction and revulsion inherent in the human form and its products. Delighting in the visual pleasure and tactile satisfaction to be found in decay, she acknowledges markers of conventional female beauty only to twist and distress them. Aware of the complexities of difference, she echoes chosen dualities in her paintings: is that mouth a wound? Does blood glitter? Can beauty menace? Might the abject bring joy?"

-Simon Anderson; Associate Professor, Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago


I paint because I must, because there is too much within my mind and my heart to be contained within my own self; I paint because I must express, I must expunge, this filthy excess of feeling and fear and wonderment and beauty. I paint because I am overwhelmed, I am at the mercy of chaos, and I must develop an order to this chaos, to channel it, to make sense of it, to find the most strange beauty in it. I paint so that I don’t lose touch with myself and my being. I paint to create meaning where there may not be meaning. I paint to create beauty out of the most abject matter; I paint to find and reveal and revel in the beauty of the abject. I paint because life, its chaos and misery and fear and shear beauty and abundance and fecundity, are more than I can bear. I paint because I want to show the beauty in the darkness, and the darkness in the beauty. I paint because the dualities of life and nature are unfathomably awesome and infinitely complex and I must distill my baffled adoration of these by pushing colored mud around on a surface or else I will disconnect and dissociate entirely from myself and the rest of existence. I paint to both keep the void at bay, and to honor the immensely incomprehensible nature of the void.


Using watercolors, acrylics, spray paint, glitter, and other mediums, Emily Kaelin creates haunting, surreal images of the monstrous feminine. Her work has often been described by others as “beautiful, but frightening”. This dichotomy of beauty and the abject, loveliness and fear, the sacred and the profane, are the conceptual core of the work. Her images are created largely through a very intuitive, impulsive, and spontaneous process, wherein little is planned out prior to beginning a work. Kaelin prefers to “feel” her way through a painting, working with the images in a more intuitive fashion, allowing the process of painting to continually shift and alter the images during their creation. Paintings are typically produced relatively quickly, in an effort to avoid belaboring the process and therefore creating a final image that appears too dense or overworked. Maintaining spontaneity in the process yields fresher results that feel more accurate to the emotional environments Kaelin seeks to represent.