Step aside, Britney; another mid-aughts queen is putting her stamp on the artistic canon. Last month, Leelee Kimmel, f.k.a. Leelee Sobieski, star of Joy Ride, 88 Minutes and The Glass House, opened her first solo show at Williamsburg’s The Journal Gallery. Though she may technically belong to that alluring class of unlikely artistic expats, from Sly Stallone to George Bush, there’s no mistaking Kimmel’s practice for a freshly acquired hobby.
Looking at Kimmel’s paintings, it’s not hard to separate the art from the artist. Besides her revised signature (she took the name of her husband, fashion designer Adam Kimmel), Kimmel’s paintings visually reflect her distance from acting. The large-scale, highly abstract series, entitled “Channels,” eschew the realism of film, instead evoking a world of microscopic activity. “My paintings are like a channel into a differently constructed world. There are electromagnetic pulses, satellites, electricity, atomic bombs, pesticides, and souls—particles constantly attracting and repulsing each other,” Kimmel says in a statement.
That said, the exhibit does seek to transport its audience. In the back of the space, Journal Gallery has mounted a virtual reality station surrounding viewers with giant reproductions of Kimmel’s amoebic shapes. And while it’s a far cry from a feature film, Kimmel’s description of the viewer’s experience could describe her own path out of Hollywood. “You have to charge through it all to claim your moment of love or happiness,” says Kimmel. “No matter what it looks like.”
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