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Kelli Vance: Intimacy, Eroticism, and Empowerment

Basic Instinct

The sexual nature of women has been stigmatized and relegated for most of the history of humanity. Kelli Vance is an American artist who explores female intimacy in each of her works. Through a hyper-realistic style, Vance portrays intimate moments of women that suggest sexuality, transgression, and fetishism.

"Fugue State" by Kelli Vance, oil on canvas

Vance begins her work with photographs, either self-portraits or photos of her friends. Working in large formats, Vance portrays female body in suggestively erotic positions: faces bathed in sticky fluids, wrists and ankles tied in what seems to be role-playing games, heels, lipstick, short skirts, and a high dose of insinuated actions between dominant and submissive playing with the boundaries between violence and arousal.

"And Even Though He Knows You Mean More, He'll Only Give You Exactly What You Ask For" by Kelli Vance, oil on canvas

As in sex, the organ that plays the most important role in Vance’s paintings is the brain. Vance uses the insinuation so that the viewer can interpret the story in each of her pieces, which is why Kelli does not define her work as controversial but rather seeks to excite the senses. As Kelli says:

“I like igniting an inner dialogue in someone that may push or pull them into places that may be uncomfortable”.

"To Be Aware Of Your Own Momentum" by Kelli Vance, oil on canvas
"She Imagined I Could Help Her" by Kelli Vance, oil on canvas

Sensual Politics

The femininity above the erotic is one of the most important characteristics of Vance’s work. Since her paintings portray exclusively female figures, Kelli’s speech is quite powerful, because it validates female sexuality focusing on games of domination from an empowered and confident point of view. Perhaps, because of this, there is no suggestion of any phallic figure in her work.

"It Never Occurred To Me It Wasn't The Beginning" by Kelli Vance, oil on canvas
"A Moment" by Kelli Vance, oil on canvas

Since her work starts with photography, Vance’s paintings have a rather cinematographic style, both in the sensory aspect and in the use of light, suggesting a slight voyeurism, like in those paintings where the blinding and ephemeral light of a flash would have hit the portrayed figures.

"My Thoughts Came Like Balloons Floating Over The Desert" by Kelli Vance, oil on canvas

Inspiration for Kelli’s art can come from almost anywhere. Since she was a little kid, creativity was always present in her life. She always has been an avid reader, and for that reason, a line in a book or a simple image can be the spark that ignites her creativity.

Aware that we live in an era where the flow of information surpasses us, Kelli Vance insists that the goal of her art is not to create images that generate an immediate shock in the viewer. On the contrary, they can generate an internal, and also external, dialogue with the public and invite them to know the worldview of Kelli Vance and her powerful heroines.

All images copyright of Kelli Vance.

You can view more work by Kelli on her website.

Article written by Anamaria Aguirre Chourio

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