Meet Becky Kolsrud


One of Six Young Los Angeles Artists Visit Stockholm as a part of LA Dreams


Decent studio rents, generous space, radiant light, and several separate cultural nodes rather than a single centre are some of the reasons people tend to give for why the Los Angeles art scene is flourishing so. American curator Melanie Lum has followed several artists over the years, and watched them establish themselves, work hard, and achieve success. For this show at CFHILL, which opens April 15, she has invited some of the most exciting and talked-about artists born in the 70s and 80s. Meet one of them.

When her paintings of gates appeared, the buzz around Becky Kolsrud really began to build. The gates she used are the kind you see enclosing commons, industrial properties, or lots of land that were once claimed by somebody or other, but have since been abandoned to their fates. Behind these gates, we catch glimpses of young women’s faces. Like mythic time travelers, Amazons in camouflage, they are almost invisible to contemporary eyes. Becky Kolsrud, who was born and raised in this dry, sun-scorched region, is preoccupied with the expressive potential of painting, and with its shared visual memories, particularly those involving the representation of females. In the works shown at LA Dreams, these steel curtains have given way to something more malleable and liquid.

What is life in LA like?

“During my childhood, LA was known for its traffic, gangs, smog and earthquakes. Well, that and Hollywood. Of course, the Light and Space Movement was here [its most renowned members were Bruce Nauman and James Turrell]. But since then, things have definitely changed. It’s become a good city to be a painter. You can find the most beautiful things here, and the most ugly. I love it. The city sprawls in all directions, and if the rents go up, I’ll simply move further away from the centre.”

Becky Kolsrud was born in 1984 in Los Angeles and lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She has had solo exhibitions at JTT, New York and Tif Sigrids, Los Angeles. In 2013 she was the recipient of the Rema Hort Mann YoYoYo Grant. Public Collections include the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. 

What do the women in your new paintings signify?

“This new landscape, with women and lakes, serves as a more open backdrop. I paint women, but I want to see if they can exist beyond their representation. I want to remove them from space and time. I’m trying to open them up and leave all the reflecting to the viewer.”

How did you first become interested in the depiction of women in art history?

“I’d been spending time in Switzerland, and I’d seen how they were used as symbols in the medieval era and later. They sometimes represented more conceptual ideas - like wars and natural elements. I want to figure out how to make an allegorical bather. Those are the ideas I’m working on at the moment. Changing the scale of the figure makes the landscapes, which is unspecific, more fantastical. It makes it more like a psychological state.”

How did you end up a painter?

“If there’s something I’ve never seen, I want to see it, and follow its thread of logic. It’s a humble vision. I love painting, and its history. But sure, I’m conflicted about the portrayal of women in the history of art. Many portrayals do not represent anything close to my experience, and so I generate my own images. For myself and my peers. My paintings aren’t explicitly about the political aspects of art per se, although I do appreciate them.”

Tell us about the use of blue in your paintings.
“I love primary colours. I’m from the San Fernando Valley, which is the home of shopping malls, and spent a lot of my adolescence hanging out in them. I learned a lot about colour from mass-produced items. This blue is the perfect colour for a dress to be worn over pink skin; it’s the colour of my work overalls, the Democrats’ colour–I’ve even seen your crown princess wearing it! It’s more of a retail colour than a natural colour. Where I live, water is almost a controlled substance.


I’ve always lived a long way from the water, and I grew up in a time of drought. I have a childhood memory of my parents’ argument over water, and how you shouldn’t do the dishes in running water. Everything here is sun-bleached, dry, and dusty, and I wanted to see something more lush in my studio. This is an imaginary world–it’s the stuff I never see in my everyday life. Vibrant colours, moisture, and fecundity.

Have you abandoned the gates?

“I’ve actually returned to them to some extent at the moment, but that’s really only so I can kill them off and be rid of them for good. I feel that there is a connection between the gates and the lakes I have been painting. I want to make the gates more like water. I want them to be absorbent and reflective, to make them twist, wind, and blend together, and rid them of their original properties.” 

So, you’ve transitioned to water by way of gates. But who are the women in your pictures?

“Painting naked women always seemed weird to me. I started painting women early on in my career; I wanted to paint something that I recognized and related to.

Women in different patterns and styles of clothing. Not high fashion, though, more like outfits that people wear for school photographs or glamour portraits. I imagined these women in their favorite outfit. One thing I’ve always wanted to do, is create an index of women’s fashion throughout the ages. I did a project on sorority fashion of 1969, a time in the US when young women began to wear trousers in more formal settings. Each figure belonged to a different sorority or social group, that used fashion cues to distinguish their collective personality. Some of them wore hairbands and pearls, while others were sporty, and others still went for a sleek intellectual look. It’s much harder to distinguish now. Fashion has collapsed visible class distinctions for better or worse.”

LA Dreams opens at CFHILL April 13.