“Abit of danger” — that’s what the name of the art collective Femme Fatales is meant to convey. So say Rebecca Klementovich and Kristen Pobatschnig, two North Country abstract artists who have exhibited their paintings far from the safety of white-walled galleries.
“We did an outdoor show at the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation in a blizzard where it was 7 degrees out,” says Klementovich. “We used sleds to bring the paintings to different parts of the trails. We also did a photo shoot on the top of Mount Washington in 30 mph winds, holding 4-foot paintings, in heels.”
Yes, in heels. Just as the backward-dancing-in-heels Ginger Rogers drew attention to the powers of women, so are the Femme Fatales.
“Today, there is still a gender disparity in the arts in terms of sales and gallery representation,” says Pobatschnig. “At this point, the public is aware of the disparity; now it appears more like a habit of how and why we, as a society, buy more art by men.” Their hope is that their attention-grabbing outdoor exhibits and other efforts will change that dynamic.
They also hope to inject some contemporary pizzazz into the art scene in the North Country. Pobatschnig says, “New Hampshire is ready to move into more modern versions of this amazing and expansive landscape. We have enjoyed a state that excels in representational work. What could we do as an art collective in representing a fresher way of seeing our mountains?”
Both artists use bright, bold colors to create that freshness. Pobatschnig aims to “uplift the viewer” with color to counter the “wintry palette” that the state lives with for much of the year. Klementovich uses color that’s very different from what is actually there to bring “a new language to represent the local landscape.”
Together, they look forward to seeing results from their now-four-year-long effort to, Klementovich says, “open up more space for other women to go beyond where we are going.”
It was 40 years ago that a tiny country bar in a seedy part of Manhattan compromised its principles, started booking rock acts and altered the course of music history. What is less known is the gallery that was next to it, 313 CBGB’s. This was a space, a bit rancid, but it has white walls.
I showed there with my best friend, Shaza in the 1900’s. I had paintings, she had yarn wall hanging. The colors of our work was the only unifying force. The show was called, Punk Rock Knitting in Geometry class because Shaza had a Punk rock knittingness about her. I had a large abstract painting series called, Teenagers falling in love in Geometry class with Tangents.
There were two things that were memorable of the art opening. One, Shaza and I had to walk my five foot paintings from my apartment to the gallery, which was past a line of heroin junkies who were parked outside near the gallery for a meth clinic. The other was that my brother, Joe Klementovich, New York Times photographer, showed up from New Hampshire, as a surprise (8 hour drive).
The Surprise was the openness of allowing us to show at the gallery. We had an absolutely crazy abstract concept full of color. CBGB is a place that has been forever implanted for innovation and support for new ideas. It will always be remember as this.
A few years back, in midtown Manhattan, I was taking tango lessons from Musa. What I learned from dancing was- it is a lot like painting. When you push the floor with your feet, it is the same movement of the pushing of the brush against the canvas. They both use friction to make the movement.
Kline was painter. He understood movement. You can see by the energy in his work, he took huge chances with his brush strokes. His massive strokes of paint must have been done with a forty five dollar large brush that would later take an hour to clean.
Here in this tango video, Musa and I must have danced a good 400 hours to get to the quality of these dance steps. The small circles of movement by the toes, the tango wraps, the kicks and the WALK are all brush strokes in my world. Pushing, sweeping, gliding, and listening are the elements for not a good brush stroke but a fantastic brush stroke. The same for the dance step, you can take a halfhearted step or you can take a large, broad step. It is in the detail of quality of the movement.
The joys and mystery of developing a unique presence is all about the photo shoot.
A big influence on our style was in part from the fashion industry. Rebecca worked on the Joan Vass fashion line in 2005-2009, in New York City, which gave her the background on how to run a fashion photoshoot. ” I would help style the photo shoots. My office mate was the designer, Michael Cunningham. We would discuss some of the direction and which outfit the company would use for a photo session,” Klementovich said.
“What I loved about Joan Vass was her original way of thinking,” Klementovich explains. “Vass designed a Mohair bikini, that type of designing stands alone for originality,” Rebecca said. In the New York Times article about Vass “She broke every rule of the business.”
The big lesson while working on the Joan Vass line was how to visually make an icon. The icon is where the direction of the presence begins. Fashion uses icons to direct who wears their clothes, and who is buying the product.Besides the image of the Icon, Rebecca saw the importance of the “front color” meaning the outfits were in the front of the photo, and how they worked with the “back color” the background. “For example when Kristen and I do a photoshoot, we think of the what are the colors of where we are going to photograph. If it is bright green summer forest, we will wear pinks and oranges which are the contrast colors.Using the opposite colors pushes the intensity of the photo. We also bring a trunk load of clothes because you never know when just a hint of a certain color in a dress, scarf, or accessory will move the photo to the next level,” Rebecca said.
This photo really proves this point. Here the foggy background softens the backdrop, so we use the red and peach colors of the shirt and scarf to push us to the front. The black shapes of our hair and shirts add to the rhythm of movement in the photo. The drinking of tea in the forest while painting adds to the silliness of the shoot. PHOTO by Orion Kugel. Orion has a wonderful awareness of subtly in capturing color and design.
Femme Fatales would not be who they are without the enormous talent of the photographers.
Their main photographer who has been photographing the femmes since 2014 is the talented, Orion Kugel.”
Orion Kugel’s work has a beautiful softness and dreamy quality, whenever he photographs us,” Klementovich said. Orion is an artist in his own right. He writes poetry and constructs modern collage pieces.
“When the three of us get together to do a photoshoot there is a great connection, there is a creative flow that is rare,” Rebecca adds.
Orion has this organic way of photographing us. We have this creative spirit that takes over, which you can see in his photographs,” Pobatschnig said about Orion.” He is also our CEO, creative manager, and my boyfriend”, Kristen continued.
Orion has shown at Wren and also at the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts, NH.
Joe Klementovich is a New York Times photographer, who lives in North Conway. He is the brother of Rebecca. Joe’s style of work is story like and influenced by National Geographic. The richness he brings to the Fatales is the ability to show expansiveness of the landscapes of New Hampshire. This expansiveness is fast becoming a signature for Joe.
One of his most successful photographs of the Fatales was when he put them right in the middle of a mile of Beach trees by the Saco river, as they painted. “His photographs in that series really show how hard it is to find the right spot to paint, in a place where everything is a great spot,” Rebecca said. “I have known my brother my whole life, he was one of the few people who captured, what it is like to be a female painter in a male dominated field.”
Violet Webster is sixteen, and is the daughter of Rebecca. She took the first pictures of the fatales on one of her school vacations. By the age of nine, Violet had seen the Picasso exhibition twice, she tried to steps on the platform of a Giacometti sculpture at the age of two, and almost touched a painted tie on a Rauschenberg painting.
So it was no surprise when Violet captured an Andy Warhol style by setting up the fatales in a static, graphic poses. These first pics were much like Warhol’s compositions of his screen printing work.
Her work was shown in the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts in 2016.
Anna Demarco is an LA photographer, but is from North Conway. She went to high school with Kristen. Anna did a fantastic job photographing the fatales painting in a canoe. It was hard to maneuver a camera, canoe, and finding the right shot. Orion was paddling the canoe as Anna was able to photograph. It was crazy fun. The concept of the shot was to show another unusual place for the women to paint, a venue that still was a New Hampshire past time. Canoeing while painting was perfect.
Canterbury Hill Studio, Rockport, MA
Carver Gallery Rockland, Maine
Soho Picture framing, 568 Broadway, NYC
Jackson Art Studio and Gallery, NH
Wren, Bethlehem, NH
Harvest Gold, Lovell, Maine
Cove Gallery, Cape Cod, MA
ART BY WOMEN ACCOUNTED FOR LESS THAN 3 PERCENT OF THE TOTAL HAUL AT MAY’S BIG CONTEMPORARY ART SALES IN NEW YORK
BY The Editors of ARTnews POSTED 05/30/15 10:00 AM
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The four major contemporary art evening auctions earlier this month—where the bluest of the blue chip art is sold—pulled in an astounding $1.84 billion. Art by women accounted for just $53.5 million of that, or about 2.9 percent. The above graph tells the story, underscoring the fact that while many museums and galleries are working to exhibit more work by women, work by male artists still dominates the highest echelon of the contemporary art market. (Note that Christie’s “Looking Forward to the Past” sale featured both modern and contemporary work, but has been included here.)
On February 11th in Jackson, NH, two abstract painters displayed their work along the 56 wooded trails at the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. Rebecca Klementovich of Bartlett and Kristen Pobatschnig of Conway call themselves the “Femme Fatals of the North” and are working to bring more attention to female painters in northern New Hampshire.
The day of the show it was 7 degrees with blizzard conditions. The snow was falling down hard. The women had to pull their large canvases on sleds across the trails at the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. It was estimated that 3,000 people would be at the foundation that day, a similar number of viewers as the MOMA. All of the paintings were hung creatively on trees. The paintings are highly colorful. The thick layers of varnish kept the canvases safe from the heavy amounts of snow.