Skip Navigation
Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Annie Kevans

Stoke Newington,
United Kingdom

Kevans was born in 1972 in France to British parents. She lives and works in London. Since graduating from Central St. Martins School of Art & Design in 2004, Kevans has had solo exhibitions in New York, London and Vienna. Her work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions in the UK, Germany, Austria, Italy and the US. She has been a finalist in the Women of the Future awards and a finalist in the Jerwood Drawing Prize. Her work can be found in major collections including the Pallant House Gallery, the David Roberts Collection, 21c Museum, the Saatchi Collection and the collections of Lord Rothermere, Stephen Fry, Marc Quinn, Adam Sender, Beth Rudin de Woody and John McEnroe. Kevans has been featured across the media including BBC (television and radio), The International Art Newspaper, The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Der Spiegel. Kevans’ paintings reflect her interests in power, manipulation and the role of the individual in inherited belief systems. It is important for the artist to examine the duality of truth and falsehood throughout her work, which she does by creating ‘portraits’ which may or may not be based on real documentation. She believes that a person’s identity is not preset but is a shifting temporary construction and her work questions our verdicts on history and perceptions of intellectual solidity. The artist uses people’s familiarity with portraiture to imbue her works with truth and to explore difficult ideas. Having an affinity for the marginalized, Kevans paints figures overlooked, exploited, or objectified within the context of history or contemporary culture, imbuing her subjects with a tangible humanity and sensuality.

Feminist Artist Statement

Kevans’ paintings, particularly those from the series ‘Girls’, ‘Vamps & Innocents’ and ‘Wampas Baby Stars’, often explore the role of women in society. The artist uses our familiarity with public figures to draw attention to “the elephant in the room.” The works in ‘Girls’, which look at the sexualization of childhood, see child stars such as Brooke Shields, Britney Spears and the Olsen Twins take on an almost eerie appearance, their wide-eyed naivety counteracted by sensuously plump red lips and semi-nudity. With her depiction of presidential mistresses (‘All the Presidents’ Girls’), Kevans highlights the manipulation of truth in the recording of history and in the creation of status and authority in ordinary men. Following from this, Kevans painted the illegitimate slave children of US Presidents such as Thomas Jefferson and John Tyler, alluding to the injustice and hypocrisy perpetrated by some of the most revered figures in history. The works look at issues surrounding racial conflict in the US and the ongoing denial of the horrors of slavery, at a time when the US elected its first black president. ‘Vamps & Innocents’, a series which depicts film starlets from the silent film era in Hollywood, looks at how female actors tended to be put into one of two categories: Vamps or Innocents (the virgin/whore syndrome).

<p>Brooke Shields 2</p>

Brooke Shields 2

Brooke Shields is widely considered to have been one of the world’s most sexualized children. As a child star, she posed for photographs which, as an adult, she would try desperately to suppress. This painting forms part of the series ‘Girls’. In her first series of paintings, ‘Boys’, Annie Kevans recreated tyrants and dictators as wide-eyed toddlers. Her second series, ‘Girls’, questions our collusion in the deification and commodification of girls such as Britney Spears and Shirley Temple and looks at the continuing media-led sexualization of childhood. The despots’ pasts are lost to us, the girls’ futures just as much lost to themselves, transfixed as they are in youth and beauty, leaving truth far behind. Whereas the boys had to (often literally) make a name for themselves as Pol Pot or Hitler, the girls were found, sought out; their image given to them with help from Mum, Dad and the talent scout. While the dictators’ childhoods were imagined, those of the child-stars are even now before us not just in films and videos but in the consistent tenacity with which their youth is maintained. The process of (self) invention, innocence and culpability touches both series differently. While the tyrants themselves were guilty, in the child-stars it is more diffuse. Often startlingly sexualized, they stare out of their world into ours. Innocents accusing us: for in forming part of their eager audience how far are we from being blameless?

Brooke Shields 2

Brooke Shields is widely considered to have been one of the world’s most sexualized children. As a child star, she posed for photographs which, as an adult, she would try desperately to suppress. This painting forms part of the series ‘Girls’. In her first series of paintings, ‘Boys’, Annie Kevans recreated tyrants and dictators as wide-eyed toddlers. Her second series, ‘Girls’, questions our collusion in the deification and commodification of girls such as Britney Spears and Shirley Temple and looks at the continuing media-led sexualization of childhood. The despots’ pasts are lost to us, the girls’ futures just as much lost to themselves, transfixed as they are in youth and beauty, leaving truth far behind. Whereas the boys had to (often literally) make a name for themselves as Pol Pot or Hitler, the girls were found, sought out; their image given to them with help from Mum, Dad and the talent scout. While the dictators’ childhoods were imagined, those of the child-stars are even now before us not just in films and videos but in the consistent tenacity with which their youth is maintained. The process of (self) invention, innocence and culpability touches both series differently. While the tyrants themselves were guilty, in the child-stars it is more diffuse. Often startlingly sexualized, they stare out of their world into ours. Innocents accusing us: for in forming part of their eager audience how far are we from being blameless?

Brooke Shields with Raised Arms

Brooke Shields is widely considered to have been one of the world’s most sexualized children. As a child star, she posed for photographs which, as an adult, she would try desperately to suppress. This painting forms part of the series ‘Girls.’? In her first series of paintings, ‘Boys’, Annie Kevans recreated tyrants and dictators as wide-eyed toddlers. Her second series, ‘Girls’, questions our collusion in the deification and commodification of girls such as Britney Spears and Shirley Temple and looks at the continuing media-led sexualization of childhood. The despots’ pasts are lost to us, the girls’ futures just as much lost to themselves, transfixed as they are in youth and beauty, leaving truth far behind. Whereas the boys had to (often literally) make a name for themselves as Pol Pot or Hitler, the girls were found, sought out; their image given to them with help from Mum, Dad and the talent scout. While the dictators’ childhoods were imagined, those of the child-stars are even now before us not just in films and videos but in the consistent tenacity with which their youth is maintained. The process of (self) invention, innocence and culpability touches both series differently. While the tyrants themselves were guilty, in the child-stars it is more diffuse. Often startlingly sexualized, they stare out of their world into ours. Innocents accusing us: for informing part of their eager audience how far are we from being blameless?

Shakira

In her first series of paintings, ‘Boys’, Annie Kevans recreated tyrants and dictators as wide-eyed toddlers. Her second series, ‘Girls’, questions our collusion in the deification and commodification of girls such as Britney Spears and Shirley Temple and looks at the continuing media-led sexualisation of childhood. The despots’ pasts are lost to us, the girls’ futures just as much lost to themselves, transfixed as they are in youth and beauty, leaving truth far behind. Whereas the boys had to (often literally) make a name for themselves as Pol Pot or Hitler, the girls were found, sought out; their image given to them with help from Mum, Dad and the talent scout. While the dictators’ childhoods were imagined, those of the child-stars are even now before us not just in films and videos but in the consistent tenacity with which their youth is maintained. The process of (self) invention, innocence and culpability touches both series differently. While the tyrants themselves were guilty, in the child-stars it is more diffuse. Often startlingly sexualized, they stare out of their world into ours. Innocents accusing us: for in forming part of their eager audience how far are we from being blameless?

Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple remains one of the world’s most famous children, seventy-five years after performing in her first film at the age of three. Shirley Temple’s image was used to sell anything from Quaker cereal to war bonds, making her one of the world’s first commodified children. This painting forms part of the series ‘Girls’. In her first series of paintings, ‘Boys’, Annie Kevans recreated tyrants and dictators as wide-eyed toddlers. Her second series, ‘Girls’, questions our collusion in the deification and commodification of girls such as Britney Spears and Shirley Temple and looks at the continuing media-led sexualization of childhood. The despots’ pasts are lost to us, the girls’ futures just as much lost to themselves, transfixed as they are in youth and beauty, leaving truth far behind. Whereas the boys had to (often literally) make a name for themselves as Pol Pot or Hitler, the girls were found, sought out, their image given to them with help from Mum, Dad and the talent scout. While the dictators’ childhoods were imagined, those of the child-stars are even now before us not just in films and videos but in the consistent tenacity with which their youth is maintained. The process of (self) invention, innocence and culpability touches both series differently. While the tyrants themselves were guilty, in the child-stars it is more diffuse. Often startlingly sexualized, they stare out of their world into ours. Innocents accusing us: for in forming part of their eager audience how far are we from being blameless?

Olsen Twins

During their teenage years, the Olsen Twins’ images were considered to be overtly sexual, with many photos making references to lesbianism or ‘girl on girl’ action in pornography. This painting forms part of the series ‘Girls’. In her first series of paintings, ‘Boys’, Annie Kevans recreated tyrants and dictators as wide-eyed toddlers. Her second series, ‘Girls’, questions our collusion in the deification and commodification of girls such as Britney Spears and Shirley Temple and looks at the continuing media-led sexualisation of childhood. The despots’ pasts are lost to us, the girls’ futures just as much lost to themselves, transfixed as they are in youth and beauty, leaving truth far behind. Whereas the boys had to (often literally) make a name for themselves as Pol Pot or Hitler, the girls were found, sought out; their image given to them with help from Mum, Dad and the talent scout. While the dictators’ childhoods were imagined, those of the child-stars are even now before us not just in films and videos but in the consistent tenacity with which their youth is maintained. The process of (self) invention, innocence and culpability touches both series differently. While the tyrants themselves were guilty, in the child-stars it is more diffuse. Often startlingly sexualized, they stare out of their world into ours. Innocents accusing us: for in forming part of their eager audience how far are we from being blameless?

Elinor Fair

Between 1922 and 1934 the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers, elected 13 starlets, or ‘WAMPAS Baby Stars’. As Photoplay Magazine noted in 1925, “the selection was made, not on what the girls have done in the past, but on their prospects for the future. They are all beginners whose latent talent and beauty have attracted the attention of the men who acquaint the outside world with the personalities of filmland’s capital.” The WAMPAS Constitution affirmed that each WAMPAS member should feel an “ever-present consciousness of his responsibility to the profession he publicizes, the industry he represents and to the public whose tendencies, thoughts and impulses he is such a factor in forming and directing”. With this in mind, the girls were given new identities, then presented to the world at the annual ‘WAMPAS Frolic’, where their all American beauty could be celebrated and idealised. Although Joan Crawford, Mary Astor, and Fay Wray became Hollywood hits, most Baby Stars were not destined for stardom. Of the 143 girls, most were unable to pursue careers in the ‘talkies’ and rapidly disappeared from public consciousness. Today, their images remain lost in Hollywood archives.

Carmelita Geraghty

Between 1922 and 1934 the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers, elected 13 starlets, or ‘WAMPAS Baby Stars’. As Photoplay Magazine noted in 1925, “the selection was made, not on what the girls have done in the past, but on their prospects for the future. They are all beginners whose latent talent and beauty have attracted the attention of the men who acquaint the outside world with the personalities of filmland’s capital.”

The WAMPAS Constitution affirmed that each WAMPAS member should feel an “ever-present consciousness of his responsibility to the profession he publicizes, the industry he represents and to the public whose tendencies, thoughts and impulses he is such a factor in forming and directing”. With this in mind, the girls were given new identities, then presented to the world at the annual ‘WAMPAS Frolic’, where their all American beauty could be celebrated and idealised.

Although Joan Crawford, Mary Astor, and Fay Wray became Hollywood hits, most Baby Stars were not destined for stardom. Of the 143 girls, most were unable to pursue careers in the ‘talkies’ and rapidly disappeared from public consciousness. Today, their images remain lost in Hollywood archives.

Websites

Contact

Space Studios, Stoke Newington Library, 184 Church Street
Stoke Newington, N160
United Kingdom

Email

CV

PDF Dowload

Text, images, audio, and/or video in the Feminist Art Base are copyrighted by the contributing artists unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.