For those of us who watch The Real Housewives on a regular basis (read: all of us), we already know that the touchstone reality franchise is nothing short of high art. It’s emotional. It’s evocative. It incites strong reactions. Sometimes, it moves you to tears. Other times, you stare at it for five minutes and say, “I’m not really sure what I’m looking at.” Truly, Andy Cohen is a contemporary Robert Rauschenberg who paints with production reels instead of a brush.
And one painter has taken that parallel to the next level. Laura Collins, a Chicago-based artist who has become known for her portraits of pop culture, has a new series debuting this Friday called "Real Housewives Pointing Fingers." The exhibition is exactly what it sounds like — paintings of The Real Housewives (across all cities) pointing their fingers — and it will be on display from October 6 through November 12 at the THNK1994 Museum in Brooklyn, NY.
"Kandi Burruss Pointing at Herself" Image/Laura Collins
"Vicki Gunvalson Pointing Up" Image/Laura Collins
"NeNe Leakes Pointing at Sheree" Image/Laura Collins
The museum’s co-founders and co-curators (and self-proclaimed Housewives superfans!), Matt Harkins and Viviana Rosales Olen, have played an instrumental role in helping to develop the series. They previously collaborated with Collins on a wildly successful exhibition called "Olsen Twins Hiding From the Paparazzi," and they wanted to take a similar concept — women in the public eye and how the media portrays them — and apply it to the Bravosphere.
The Daily Dish chatted with Collins, Harkins, and Olen to learn more about the exhibition, their impressions of Bravo as an artistic movement, and which Real Housewives they feel make the best subjects and muses.
"Luann de Lesseps Pointing at Carole" Image/Laura Collins
"Porsha Williams Pointing Up" Image/Laura Collins
"Lisa Rinna Pointing at Her Eyebrow" Image/Laura Collins
What inspired you to create "Real Housewives Pointing Fingers"?
Matt Harkins and Viviana Rosales Olen: Laura came up with the idea. Laura's first solo show with us was our second exhibit, "Olsen Twins Hiding From the Paparazzi," which was a pop-up in an old doctor's office in Williamsburg, and for her second solo show, we wanted something just as exciting. (In that exhibit, we had a Lisa Vanderpump Confessional Stump where you sat in front of a painting of Lisa Vanderpump and made confessions into our Snapchat. We're bringing it back this round with a Tamra Judge-ment Station.) Laura was drawn to the idea of being pointed at, being under scrutiny. All of our exhibits focus on women in the public eye and how the media portrays them. She wanted to make a lot of paintings and really overwhelm you once you step in. We were excited we could help by re-watching a lot of Housewives and calling it research.
How long does each painting take?
Laura Collins: I really try to limit myself to an hour or two and force myself to stop painting after three hours. Some pieces need to be revisited but honestly my strongest pieces are those that are done swiftly, with great focus and without much hesitation. My favorite paintings are the ones that capture a likeness with only a few strokes. They feel lighter and less complicated while others require many layers before they are finished.
"Kim Zolciak Pointing Her Middle Finger" Image/Laura Collins
"Ramona Singer Pointing Up" Image/Laura Collins
"Jacqueline Laurita Pointing at Teresa" Image/Laura Collins
Why do you think the Housewives and Bravo make for an important artistic movement?
LC: I feel that any cultural phenomenon deserves to be studied through the process and mediation of painting. Although reality television is so often dismissed as trivial, I would argue it is validated by its undeniable popularity, and I see it as a social staple bringing together masses of people for a shared experience. Plus it’s fun!
How did you select the finger-pointing scenes you wound up painting?
LC: I scoured the internet for images for the Housewives pointing at one another, and while there were literally hundreds to choose from, I had to be very selective about which compositions, color palates, and subjects would make for the best paintings. Some scenes were impossible to pass up and whenever the image was too blurred to paint, my curators at THNK1994 would step up to the task of watching the scenes and capturing the perfect screenshot. A tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
"Kim Richards Pointing at Her Sister" Image/Laura Collins
"Alexis Bellino Pointing at Gretchen" Image/Laura Collins
"Bethenny Frankel Pointing at Sonja" Image/Laura Collins
Are you a fans of all Bravo programming, or is it The Real Housewives-specific?
MH and VRO: Honestly, Bravo is the only thing we watch. Bravo is TV. Bravo is a lifestyle. We also love Top Chef, Southern Charm, and, of course, Watch What Happens Live, but our bread and butter is Housewives. (The Real Housewives of Dallas is our new favorite and if you come to the museum, we will not let you leave until you know everything about LeeAnne Locken.)
Who is your favorite Housewife and which is your favorite franchise?
LC: While I have a few favorites, I’d have to say that Kim Richards is the one I’d be most starstruck to meet. She allows herself to be human and vulnerable. Like all of us, she has many faults but she is always working to be the best possible version of herself. It is very difficult to choose a favorite franchise because they are each so uniquely wonderful. Right now, The Real Housewives of New York City is my fave cast.
MH and VRO: LeeAnne Locken! Honest-tea was the greatest hour of television ever made.
"Dorinda Medley Pointing at Heather" Image/Laura Collins
"Dorinda Medley Pointing at Herself" Image/Laura Collins
"Dorinda Medley Pointing At Ramona" Image/Laura Collins
Would you say any particular Housewife is your artistic muse?
LC: Dorinda Medley is definitely one of my favorite Real Housewives, but I was still surprised at how many times I wanted to paint her for this series! I think I felt drawn to her images because she is very candid and animated which always makes for a great painting.
If you could pick one Housewife at whose home you'd love to display your art, who would you pick and why?
LC: Wow, what a tough decision! I’d love to have my work in Bethenny Frankel’s home because I idolize her minimal interior design aesthetic and feel that the work would really pop in such a chic space.
"Kyle Richards Pointing at Kim" Image/Laura Collins
"Sonja Morgan Pointing at Her Head" Image/Laura Collins
"Brandi Glanville Pointing at Kim" Image/Laura Collins
Anything else you'd like to share with the Bravo audience?
"Real Housewives Pointing Fingers" will be on display at THNK1994 Museum (1436 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11216) from October 6 through November 12. While the opening gala is sold out, you’re welcome to visit the gallery during open hours (Wednesdays through Sundays, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.), or register for one of their Housewives-themed events (including a symposium, a Halloween party, an alcohol tasting, and more!), taking place every Friday for the length of the exhibition.