Laura Collins On “The Real Housewives Pointing Fingers”

"Taylor Armstrong Pointing at Dee Dee" 18in x 24in acrylic on panel painting by Laura Collins
“Taylor Armstrong Pointing at Dee Dee” 18in x 24in acrylic on panel painting by Laura Collins

Chicago artist Laura Collins, known for her work surrounding celebrities and particularly those with a proclivity for popping up on the cover of US Weekly, is becoming a pop-culture phenomenon in her own right. Her first solo show in 2016, “The Olsen Twins Hiding From the Paparazzi,” was a hit, and garnered coverage on PopCrush, ArtNet, and in Rolling Stone. And her newest exhibit, debuting this Friday at Brooklyn’s THNK1994 museum, might just top it.

This year’s subject of choice: “The Real Housewives Pointing Fingers.” The series of 30 paintings features beloved Bravo-lebrities like Teresa Giudice, NeNe Leakes, Kyle Richards, and Porsha Williams pointing at all manner of frenemy. (It’s already gotten Collins a few emails from her subjects themselves).

Here, we’re chatting with the lifelong Chicagoan about her (surprisingly deep) rationale behind the series, the partnership with THNK1994 (named for Tonya Harding Nancy Kerrigan, of course), and where you can get her work in Chicago, below.

olsen twins hiding from the paparazzi
From Collins’s series, “The Olsen Twins Hiding From the Paparazzi”

Tell us a little about your new series, Real Housewives Pointing Fingers? Why this specific subject?
My painting practice generally focuses on patterns of behavior and repeated gestures relating to vulnerability and defensiveness. My most recent series, Real Housewives Pointing Fingers, is no different and observes how often Bravo TV’s housewives resort to aggressively pointing at one another when interacting with one another. Whether to emphasize an opinion, direct attention, or assert dominance, this gesture can feel like a desperate attempt to mask deeper insecurities. As an artist, I am striving to create a space that allows visitors to feel emotions that mirror those of the subject. Surrounded by paintings of housewives pointing in opposing directions, I would like viewers to feel overstimulated, a bit disoriented, and perhaps even mildly under the microscope themselves. That being said, I hope that these tensions are quickly diffused for the viewer when reminded of the frivolity of the entire study.

Most of your work revolves around celebrities, reality and otherwise: what do you find so fascinating about them?
I really like thinking about celebrities as a shared family that we all have in common. My goal as an artist has always been to have a conversation and to connect with as many people as possible. I see celebrity culture as a link that allows me to relate to people that I may otherwise have nothing in common with.

You’ve got a show in New York coming up with the THNK1994 Museum, your second big exhibition with them. What’s that partnership been like?
I met Matt and Viviana after submitting a painting of Tonya Harding’s Mugshot to their museum in 2015. We share an interest in celebrity scandal and high art. Like any long distance relationship, it can be complicated but we make it work. We FaceTime regularly and keep up a constant thread of texts between the three of us. Luckily, whenever we are in touch, I feel that we are always on the same page with our vision. I love working with them and cannot wait to see what the future holds for us.

Your last series and show was dedicated to the Olsen Twins hiding from the paparazzi. What was the reaction to that show /series like?
I felt overwhelmed by everyone’s support and positive feedback on the show. I felt that I was able to meet a lot of people that were compelled by the subject and truly enjoyed experiencing the exhibition. The series sold out and I am so happy to think of those paintings displayed in the homes of people all over the country.

Do you ever hear from the celebrity subjects you paint?
I do! A lot of the celebrities have “liked” my paintings of them on social media and Dorinda Medley even went out of her way to privately message me and thank me for painting her. It honestly meant the world to me. I know she is a busy woman so it was extra special that she took the time to contact me personally and encourage me to keep working.

Is there anywhere we can see your work in Chicago now or coming up?
I currently have paintings on display at Dollop Coffee Company in Streeterville located at 345 East Ohio. Grab a coffee and check them out!