Kelli Vance paints large-scale oil-on-canvas portraits, exploring themes of assumed identity, voyeurism and veiled eroticism. Her paintings speak the familiar language of cinema in their photorealist rendering and choice of moment, but like the best films each canvas has a story to tell and a secret to keep. Their structural narrative is revealed in titles such as “Just Forget You Ever Saw It. It’s Better That Way.” We may never know what just happened out of frame, but that’s largely just a compositional device. The subject of her work is the carefully staged moment, but the object is in fact herself.
Vance casts herself in the leading role as sexualized, fetishized, object of her own creation. Nodding to Cindy Sherman, she stages her preparatory photographs with herself as leading lady, enlisting friends as tormentors and collaborators. She often cultivates an atmosphere of blankness, becoming a vessel for the role being played out, in order to immerse herself completely in the scenario. Dismissing the rich but misleading feminist interpretation, Ms. Vance insists on a personal agenda; she speaks not for her gender, but for herself.
Her portrayal of objectified eroticism raises deliciously troubling questions, but the autobiographical nature of these fantasies is what gives her work its depth. The moment we encounter feels like we have walked in on a very personal daydream. You can almost hear the artist asking herself “Has this gone far enough? Or is it just getting interesting?”