3

– Spring/Summer 2001

The Good Enough

Barbara Steiner

Karen Kilimnik, Me in Russia, 1916, Outside the Village, Waterbased oil on canvas, 20” x 24”, 1999. © Karen Kilimnik. Courtesy Sprueth Magers Berlin London

Karen Kilimnik, Me in Russia, 1916, Outside the Village, Waterbased oil on canvas, 20” x 24”, 1999. © Karen Kilimnik. Courtesy Sprueth Magers Berlin London

All that is available to us is the possibility of effecting a 'good enough' approximation, and - through it - of shaking a little stardust into the otherwise quotidian expanse of human existence.1

Karen Kilimnik loves the Tsarist Russia, classical ballet and old masters. She admires and likes Twiggy, Kate Moss, Natalya Tatjana Petrovskya, Hugh Grant. She loves flicking through art history books and enthuses over Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Swan Lake. She enjoys watching Hollywood adaptations of classic stories like The Hound of the Baskervilles. She adores the movie The Craft, about teenagers who get into witchcraft, and she listens to ballet music while working. She even attends a ballet class in Philadelphia and is learning Russian. The list of her passions go on. The fact is that Kilimnik works through and around her personal passions, from media trends and stars to her own biography to the classics of art history. Her own images constantly refer to the broadest spectrum of accessible images without distinguishing between high art and pop culture. She simply takes them all and adapts them to her specific interests.

In Kilimnik's paintings, individual existing elements are combined to form new and different (albeit imaginary) pictures that serve as a kind of filter over the original motif. The titles of the works play an important role in generating mental images that impose themselves on the subject of the painting. My Pets - Ralph includes the motif of a falcon adapted from a seventeenth-century Dutch painting, amongst images of Kilimnik's pets. A painting of a lily is transformed into a mysterious and enchanting image by its title, Periwinkle Flower by the

Footnotes
  1. Kaja Silverman, The Threshold of the Visible World, London: Routlege, 1996, p.225

  2. Many of Karen Kilimniks sources originate in Romanticism: From Tchaikovsky and Edgar Allan Poe to E.T.A. Hoffman. See Sigmund Freud, ' The Uncanny' (1919), The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, 24 Vols., London: Hogarth Press,1955. See also Anthony Vidler, The architectural Uncanny, Essays in the Modern Unhomely, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994