Kirsten Rae Simonsen

Driftless Region, from the Encampments series, acrylic, graphite, and colored pencil on wood panel, 2014, 11" x 14"


For much of my childhood, my parents rented a summer house near the Wisconsin border for the winter. When the city owners came back from Chicago every summer to use the house, we were displaced for three months. Every summer, I travelled with my parents for three months across the United States and sometimes Europe, camping in remote and beautiful locations and seeing new places. By age ten I had been to over 35 states and had visited Europe and the Middle East. The experience was exciting and yet at times disorienting. I always felt at home and not at home simultaneously in various locations. I have been deeply influenced by travel. As an adult, I spent a year studying traditional drawing and painting in Bali, Indonesia. While there, I also studied with a traditional Balinese painter in Sukawati, Batuan. The “Batuan style” of Balinese painting is dense and very line based; it is heavily narrative and verges on fantasy and a Henri Rousseau-like vision. I continue to return to Bali. I also have lived on and off in London and Amsterdam, and am continually drawn back to both. Additionally, I spent much time in various temporary utopian communities in the years leading up to the millennium. My work reflects this nomadic lifestyle and the search for home. I currently live in Honolulu, once again "displaced" and yet at home in a place not quite North America, not quite Asia.

In my work, I am interested in the built environment, utopias and dystopias, architectural displacement, nostalgia, colonial narratives, and the promises of the suburban and pastoral fantasies. The carnivalesque and a deep interest in folk tales and fairy tales also inform my work. I also write fiction and memoir, and so an interest in narrative constantly resurfaces in my visual work.