Kirsten Rae Simonsen’s Pleasure Parks reflects an ongoing interest in the spectacle as realized in temporary or permanent “pleasure parks.” Amusement parks, circuses, carnivals, festivals, and roadside attractions often involve temporary structures, and create utopian (or dystopian) “temporary autonomous zones” that create a sense of pageantry for the public. These zones are often self-sufficient and offer recreation and celebration, but are nomadic and perhaps fleeting. Menageries, deer parks, and zoos suggest a similar construct that is somewhat artificial, as they are often created as domesticated “pleasure parks” and become a way for humans to idealize nature. All of these “pleasure parks” inspire Simonsen’s atmospheric drawings and paintings. In the decentralized, rootless zones portrayed in Simonsen’s pleasure parks, one wonders: has the carnival ended, or is it yet to begin? Is this a failed event, a failed community? Have the animals escaped, or are they still in captivity? Sparse, uninhabited, and often futuristic landscapes host itinerant creatures. Are they involved or indifferent? This ambiguity creates a sort of driftless region in the works, an in-between space, in which the unexpected can occur.
Kirsten Rae Simonsen received her MFA from the University of Chicago after studying traditional Balinese painting and drawing in Bali, Indonesia for a year at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) and with a master painter in Sukawati, Batuan (I Made Bukel). She has shown her work nationally and internationally, with work shown at Root Division in San Francisco, Peter Miller Gallery in Chicago, Pterodactyl Philadelphia Gallery in Philadelphia, and The Residence Gallery in London, to name a few. Also, she has created site-specific drawing installations for the Zendai Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai, the Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts, and the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts. “The Jealous Curator” (Danielle Krysa) selected her work for the December 2015 issue of FreshPaint magazine. Simonsen lives in Honolulu with her husband, dog, and bird, and she loves traveling the world for inspiration. You can see more of her work at: kirstenraesimonsen.com and on Instagram: @behomebeforedark.