Allow us to introduce nine artists and designers who use everything from acrylic paint to their own bodies in the service of pushing the boundaries of beauty. Their creations offer resistance, innovation, delirious escape—and in an age of “alternative facts,” we need it all. These are the New Creatives.
Cheeky as they want to be, identical twins and New Jersey natives Allie and Lexi Kaplan forage through society’s obsession with celebrity, social media and sex to make their own brand of shocking, playful and surprisingly relatable art.
We mix paints and plan out our projects together. But when we’re on the canvas together, it can get a little complicated.
Shortly after graduating from New York University, the pair, now 23, garnered attention for their series of oil paintings based on the infamous Kim Kardashian sex tape, PornHub watermark and all. “We’re super into the idea of celebrity culture, how the media can manipulate stories,” they say. (The twins told us they don’t mind being attributed as a singular “they”—a good thing, considering their voices are all but indistinguishable.) “We want to have control over the way we portray these stories, along with our own.”
After working independently for a brief stretch, they realized they were using each other as muses. “We mix paints together, and we plan out our projects together,” says Allie. “But when we’re on the canvas together, it can get a little complicated. She literally sat on me one time.”
A piece titled It’s Britney Bitch, which captures Spears’s moment making out with Madonna at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, followed on the heels of the sex-tape paintings. Censor the Twins, a series of self-portraits depicting only the Kaplans’ bare torsos, is rendered Instagram-friendly by the use of skillfully placed streaks of silver and condom-sheathed bananas. Speaking of the photo-sharing platform, the twins’ Boy Toys project had them collecting kids’ toys, then sleeping naked with them and selling them on Instagram for $333 each. They use the app as a tool to showcase both process and product. “We show everything so people not only see the work, they get to know us,” Allie explains. “Otherwise, it’s like going to see Kanye West perform, but he’s not on stage. What’s the point of that?”
Lexi adds, “I kind of think our entire life is a performance.”
Case in point: a recent video of the women bouncing around their studio, wearing their trademark sports bras and thongs, applying brightly colored paint to each other’s butt cheeks for a series called #SatOnYourFace.
Clearly the Kaplans are nothing if not self-aware. “We play into the concept of the fascination with twins,” they say. “We have fun with it.” They’re also attuned to the inescapable fact that sex sells. And unsurprisingly, they’re inspired by the first true celebrity artist, Andy Warhol. “People recognized his face. The same goes for Basquiat and Haring: They created their own celebrity.”
In-your-face sexuality aside, the twins insist their work is ultimately about connection. “We’re not trying to offend people,” Allie says. “We’re just trying to generate a conversation. A lot of people are intimidated by the art world because it’s a little isolating and unapproachable. Our goal is to create work that people will just get and not overanalyze.”
Now based in Los Angeles, the Kaplans are working on an unorthodox coloring book. “The book in itself is an art object, but you can do what you want with it and make it your own. It’s an opportunity for people to have fun with us.” They’re also exploring the concept of the omnipresent selfie. “You’re looking at yourself while you’re taking the photo, but then everyone can see it, so you’re switching the gaze.” Their newest project explores naked-celebrity selfies. “We just want to change the context. Obviously they’ve been leaked on the internet, but they feel like modern-day Renaissance paintings to us. They’re controversial. They’re scandalous. They’re out there for everyone to see. Everyone can take a selfie, but not everyone makes it into a painting.”
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