KRISTIN CALABRESE : how things feel


November 2021

Kristin Calabrese, Mom’s Panty 2021 oil on canvas 63 x 63 in

the importance of nothing

by Rosanna Albertini

It’s a steep way going into a painting. It drops down almost vertically, leaving the skull up in the air. My whole body is a filter. Memories and thoughts are the leftovers, like dry leaves and flowers of camomille sitting in the strainer after the water has washed away their juice. Life’s juice is fluid, uncontrollable, bloody, one and many lives so confused with each other they become sombre, and gather under names: feelings for instance, with all their court of terrors and wishes. Daughter and mother and son among the most mysterious, a vaste biological landscape we never cease to explore.

Kristin Calabrese is no exception. But her visions as an artist escape simple stories. They come to light after dipping and sleeping in darkness, belonging to many other Kristins, one below the other, joining hands to reach the strength of being herself completely, one and many, detecting her feelings, undoing cultural artifacts, digging for all the truths she doesn’t know. When the vision comes, she has to paint it. 

What I mean is: underneath the precision, the well defined visual figures of each painting, the process heading there is the opposite of a clear design of ideas. She is immersed in personal experiments, needs that are not defined at all. Like walking in the dark and yet keeping going.

We have grown weary of the woman that thinks.

She thinks and it is not true.  The woman below

Imagines and it is true, as if she thought

By imagining, anti-logician, quick

With a logic of transforming certitudes.

Wallace Stevens, Sombre Figuration.

(“The woman” replaces the original “the man”)

Painted things look like a surface, not different from the skin wrapped around veins and organs of the human tree. HOW THINGS FEEL, she paints. Capital letters overwhelming, visually, the texture of pencil words underneath repeating and repeating one idea: it flows effortlessly, it’s so easy, it just flows, without effort. Beware! she means the opposite. I don’t know any step in her life that was easy. And I follow her in an incognita middle zone where life moves in a fluid, between the way things look and the new presence they develop under her brush strokes, minute after minute, day after day, sometimes for years before they say “i’m done, I am here.” 

Let’s join Kristin Calabrese emerging from the last three years of painting.

Kristin Calabrese, Butt 2020 oil on canvas 98 x 49 in

K C  2021: “My realistic oil paintings tell the truth when I can’t.

I don’t think art should always be forward-facing to the audience. Sometimes it should be seemingly unpresentable.

I work forward rather than start with an overarching idea and then set about to illustrate it. I believe in following the work.

I’m trying to get free. I’m trying to manifest what I see in my mind’s eye. I’m trying to keep from influencing my own work, let come what naturally arrives so it’s the real and natural thing – distrustful of whether our consciousness is actually natural (only half true).” 

Kristin Calabrese, Fountain 2020 oil on canvas 60 x 72 in

Life size on the canvas, Kristin’s mother’s panty is such a punch in my stomach I can only laugh, speechless. Two years on her small chair, two years cleaning every stroke from the burst of motions in her soul. There is a day when she/me/every girl, almost by accident, looks at the real forms of an adult woman, what she wears directly on her skin. Mother is the closest. “Never like her” was the knife in Doris Lessing mind for most of her life; and my obsession for fifty years. We open mother’s drawers  when she is not at home, shivering with fear. How can those things be so big, and mother herself: breasts, big belly by pregnancy. Yet, the worse part of such intrusion into the intimate garments of adult age, the most shocking, is the crack that starts breaking the childhood’s imagined world. Reality becomes solid. Kristin’s mother’s panty is a delicate monument painted over an entire life of conflicting feelings, of struggle for a distant life. An image that reappears: soft, semitransparent, solitary. Light blue as the sky, a leaf of infinite tenderness.

Kristin Calabrese, Savin My Eggs 2019 oil on canvas 39 x 28 1/2 in

Over the years Kristin the artist has acquired the ability to go beyond the rigidity of things as they are. She imagines, and the ecstatic expression of feelings goes through her images. Her paintings don’t want to draw attention because they are spectacular, or unusual subjects. Whatever they are, how they are painted is their appeal. The pictorial quality brings together the objects she sees and the vaporous bubbles of a fantasy world that must remain hidden inside her cells, coming to life only through light and colors, and composition. 

Kristin Calabrese, A Lot Like Life 2019 oil on canvas 28 x 28 in

And these are the stories I listened to from other paintings. My own reaction, not necessarily coincident with Kristin’s experience.

My mood is dropping. I’m the canvas waiting to be ready. She put something wet on me, and I‘m softer, not so tense as when I’m dry. Oh no, dry again. And now? Worse: same spots I had when I was wet, but oil painted. I hate her. Could she paint little flowers? Noooo. Cigarette’s butts! Yes, life has burned the tail, - I under - stand - but the butts look so real they smell… insensitive, I must be. BUTT  2020

So much talking in this painting, it is blue. And vertical streams of red straight down from the glasses. A friend devours my life talking and talking for hours because I’m there but not really whiteness in my eyes and grinding teeth an empty bag I have become looking into the void little by little I empty my glass my blood pours down. FOUNTAIN  2020

No more periods one month like the other no more anticipation fear wondering no more condoms pills diaphragm starvation fluctuating estrogens no eggs anymore no reproduction a part of me was dead tic tac I am a mammal with clock and this is what happens we all go away little by little piece by piece as we keep cutting celery making soup buying eggs washing dishes cleaning the sink.  SAVING MY EGGS  2019  Magnificent painting!

They gather take some distance meet the same color then depart towards the black always avoiding geometry being little spots or drops the little painted things like the cells of our body during their uninterrupted conversation the chemistry of the living things. Here they wear their Sunday dress and happily dance on the flat space. They celebrate the importance of nothing just existing they are not content but bring to the eyes the seconds of time free from the clock the beauty of colors meeting for no reason flowing without effort some of the time. In reality they are the side effect of the painting with dirty dishes and broken eggs in the sink’s corner being the left over paint that becomes something else on a different canvas. A LOT LIKE LIFE  2019 
Kristin Calabrese, Not To Self 2021 oil on canvas 63 x 42 in
Kristin Calabrese, Back To School 2021 oil on canvas 54 x 89