Kristin Hough

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My paintings display the idyllic and the grotesque, overlapping cliché imagery and text with bold, bright, globs of paint. Scenes of longing emerge — longing for alternate societies, pastoral landscapes and brazen female narratives. This new body of work takes shape through gestural paintings of nudes and landscapes on black velvet, employing kitsch to question traditional depictions of female bodies and nature.

Looking at and painting scenes of leisure, my work confronts where Americans find means of fulfillment in a society predominantly driven by money and image. By cross-referencing leisure theory with the tenants of happiness presented in self-help and religious books and pamphlets, I am attempting to tap into a collective yearning for purpose at a time when nihilism seems to be the easy way out. Social media pumps out notions of aesthetic perfection and reality television gives the average American a view into the lush and tropical; but what would “paradise” actually look like for most people? Is it possible to create a paradigm shift before we collectively tumble further towards the vapid?

Half of these paintings offer up one version of “paradise.” Through a series of female nudes, they imagine a society where bodies merge with the landscape — women at play, relaxed, in water. An intentional lack of male or defined, taught figures denies classic standards of beauty, and moves the paintings from the voyeuristic to the matter of fact. The black velvet backdrop unites the paintings in a suggested narrative that feels like a novel where risks are taken under the cover of darkness. Here, the viewer is given a peak into one idealized mode of existence, by showing scenes of an alternate reality dreamed up in the female mind.

The next set of paintings uses a standard postcard format, iconic landscape with a diagonal strip of text across it, to question singular views and artificial environments that are often associated with places of cultural capital. Tourists flock to Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon, follow a dictated trail and take photographs at pre-determined vista points, resulting in an abundance of nearly identical new media. Hence, stock images of these picture-perfect locations are used as source material; but, through painting, they become unique, tactile representations. The words branded across the center are pulled from philosophy texts, religious propaganda and self-help books, oscillating in and out of legibility. Language of salvation is presented as both earnest yearnings for the sublime and with a self-sabotaging obfuscation of false messages. The blurring of subject and ground in both sets of paintings allows for a fluid abstraction to surprise.

Together, this work does not mock or disparage, but occupies a grey space between cynicism and hope, cliché and authentic. And while the work is concerned with traditions of representation in landscape and figurative painting, it is also driven by the materiality of the paint itself. The pieces eventually move out of my control in order to give themselves to the soaking in and warping qualities that happen when latex paint is applied to a porous, velvet skin.


2016 MFA, Art Studio, UC Davis, Davis, CA
2011 BA, Studio Art & English, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT


2017 GIFC, 0.0, Los Angeles, CA
2016 Southern California/ Baja Biennial, San Diego Art Institute, San Diego, CA
2016 Altered States of Collage, San Fernando Valley Arts & Cultural Center, Tarzana, CA, Juror: Leslie Shows
2016 Having Happened, UC Davis MFA Thesis Show, Verge Center for the Arts, Sacramento, CA
2016 The Cocktail Party Effect, Embark Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2015 Mental Throes, Third Space, Davis, CA
2015 Subject to Change, Beatnik Studios, Sacramento, CA
2015 White Line Fever, Third Space, Davis, CA
2014 Synesthesia, The Davis Art Salon, The Nelson Gallery, Davis, CA
2014 The Invitation, Silicon Valley Art Fair, San Mateo, CA
2013 Raw Artists Showcase, Kaleidoscope, Ventura, CA
2011 Thesis Art Exhibition, Zilkha Gallery, Middletown, CT
2011 Frontiers/ Paintings, Zilkha Gallery, Middletown, CT

2015-2016 Freemon Gadberry Award in Art, UC Davis
2011 Departmental Honors in Studio Art, Wesleyan University
2010 Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation Award

2017 Vermont Studio Center Residency & Artist Grant
2016 UC Davis Department of Art Studio Graduate Fellowship
2015 Margrit Mondavi Summer Research Fellowship, UC Davis
2014-2015 Provost Fellowship, UC Davis

2014 Composite Arts Magazine # 18, “Youth”
2014 Studio Visit Magazine #23
2013 New American Paintings #103
2010 Ostranenie Magazine #5.2
2007 Ostranenie Magazine #2.1

2015-2016 Visiting Artist Lecture Series Coordinator, Davis, CA
2016 Associate Instructor, Drawing 1, UC Davis, Davis, CA
2016 Teacher’s Assistant, Painting 1, UC Davis, Davis, CA
2015 Associate Instructor, Drawing 1, UC Davis, Davis, CA
2011 Teacher’s Assistant, Drawing 1, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
2009 Davidson Art Center Curatorial Internship, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
2008 Green Street Arts Center Teacher’s Assistant, Mural Painting, Middletown, CT