Are my attractions to imagistic depictions of pop culture, advertisements, objects in and out of the home, etc based on my own interests and personhood, or are they merely conditioned by capitalism and gender roles?

Is the rejection of image and pursuit of abstraction and mark-making my attempt to break away from a conditioned personhood?

Can I maintain tension between subject and object through abstraction? Can the implied object be seen as the subject? In other words, are there enough pictorial pieces of information about an object to imply the subject. Can the drawn outline of a cardboard milk or juice carton be made of many parts of the painting as a whole? Is putting them together on one surface my attempt to maintain composition tensions though, or maybe in spite of, an overfilled surface?

I want my paintings to be places of tension and humor, and I think about the checks and balances of a composition needed to maintain a certain level of tension. These places of tension are built of many earlier layers. The tension can be two solid colors touching, or opacity changes in brush strokes, or transparent materials covering many parts to form a whole or a shape, or pattern and shape used to create a recognizable object.

When an object or interest hits me, it hits me. I become preoccupied with recreating it as many times as possible using any method: spray, drawing, drawing with paint, thickness, shaping, or texture.

The paintings are a catch-all of junk and excess, mimicking the overlap and chaos of objects inside junk drawers in homes. I use photographs and drawings of everyday objects and spaces: kitchens, tables scattered with the remains of a meal, and grocery carts loaded with cans and bags and boxes of food, pigeons, cars, notebooks, art supplies. I try not to define the range of content too much. ​Surroundings are important to the content that I’m seeing and pushing back into the making. They form ​a matrix of connections from the addition of layers that create visible traces of displaced content, marks, and material explorations.

Generations of layers live both in the painted surfaces and within sketchbooks. The sketchbooks are actively worked in and act as guides or ingredients to the process. They are made up of paper, paintings, articles, mail, receipts, and studio refuse. The excess of the studio’s material waste, mostly from swiping and scraping squeegees and brushes, becomes the pages. Content from these pages are regurgitated back into future paintings and drawings, creating more and more waste which creates more pages for sketchbooks, and so on, continuing the cycle.



Placed against the bright white backdrop of the gallery walls, five vibrant canvases greet the viewer with a sense of organized chaos. Given hints of recognizable figures amongst a larger image that suggests uncertainty, the viewer is invited to question the blurry line between the artist’s true personal interests and the potential conditioning of those interests by societal expectations.

Using acrylic paint, spray paint, and markers, Kristen Phipps demonstrates her humorous personality through images that are visibly playful, yet also purposefully convey a sense of tension. This tension is expressed not only through the multiple layers of paint that are built upon the canvases, but also in the layering of perspectives she uses to render the seemingly limitless assortment of items we come into contact with during our everyday routines. From household items that pile up in so-called “junk drawers” to those non-essential items that fill up our shopping carts at the grocery store, Phipps’s paintings probe the myriad possible associations among these various objects. As viewers admiring each of these works, we might be compelled to ask the question: What connections exist between a pigeon and a slice of cheese?

Strategically situated to keep viewers from seeing them at the same time as her paintings, Phipps also exhibits the layered pages of her sketchbooks from which those compositions emerged. The intentional separation between the canvases and the sketchbooks highlights what didn’t make it into the paintings on display but may eventually become part of future works. The distinction between these finished and unfinished works represents what Phipps describes as “mistakes” for which, in the paintings, a solution has been found. Formed themselves from recycled materials, the sketchbooks act as a kind of renewable resource out of which Phipps’s cycle of work continues to be generated.

—Olivia Huffstetter