Born in 1989 in New York City, Kristin Simmons is a painter, printmaker, and silkscreen artist with a BA in Studio Art and Art History from Columbia University. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Orra White Hitchcock and National Endowment of the Arts Award.
Having grown up in New York City, Simmons draws major inspiration from her experience of a culture of excess.
In her previous series, Simmons used the internet, books and pop culture to appropriate source images for her work before blending these images with childhood toys and objects in her studio. For her Senior Thesis at Columbia University, Simmons re-interpreted the canonical children’s board game 'Candy Land'. Adjusting the board through a provocative adult lens, she portrays innocent and often literally saccharine sweet features of the board such as Mr. Mint, Lord Licorice, and the Queen Frostine as explicit and highly sinister characters, like Mr. Menthol, Lord Liquor, and the Blow Queen. She explores the conflation and confusion of two languages: the simplicity of a child’s, and the overwrought complexity that exposure to mass media imposes. Simmons grapples with whether innocence can exist in a hedonist city. Symbols (including the characters she illustrates) are tainted; anything appearing benign is always masking some sort of message related to violence, sexuality and exploitation. Oversized and daringly rendered, ‘Candy Land’ examines the influence of packaging and advertising on the viewer, and explores how to and whether we can reconcile childhood innocence and capitalist corruption.
Bold, graphic, and colorful, Simmons’ most recent work recalls current political affairs, particularly gun rights and Wall Street scandals. She flirts with Warhol’s elevation and Koons’ recreation of the ‘readymade’ by reworking and embellishing mass-produced plastic guns and stock certificates of now defunct companies. In her ‘Second Amendment’ series, Simmons explores the transformation of the gun from an instrument of war to a simultaneously political and commercial object, idolized and idealized. The plastic guns are luridly colored and boldly silhouetted, enticingly packaged yet nevertheless weightily symbolic: do they represent life and freedom or death and destruction? A status symbol above all – one of freedom, one of fear – is nothing more than a commercial product that can be owned in excess.
The '0.01%' series also explores this theme of ownership by portraying the excessive and myopic outlook of Wall Street. Simmons appropriates and parodies the very industry and culture they represent. They ride the wave of the zeitgeist (the title recalls a plethora of events: the Occupy Wall Street movement, the populist policies of Bernie Sanders, the 2008 crash), yet serve as a sort of 'Memento mori': everything must end. They all, nevertheless, recall the enduring themes of money, morality, and gender-biased culture.
Simmons' work is eye-catching, playful, and polemical. The discussion and debate surrounding her chosen themes (drugs, capitalism, guns) are never not politicized and divisive. But, however much her work provokes and polarizes, it never moralizes.
Simmons currently works in New York City.