COUNTRY: MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES
Rae Klein is best known for her oil and egg tempera paintings. A principal theme in her work is tense, of situations. Through painting, she explores where the line is when events cross from in, to out of one’s control. Subtle emotions from the realization that one is becoming powerless translate into visual detail. She graduated in 2017 with a BFA in painting from eastern Michigan University. Currently, she continues to paint and live in Michigan. Her work resides in private collections across the United States and abroad.
My paintings describe actions and emotion that come just before catastrophe. I am looking for the boundary where safety and fear lies. I paint control slipping through my subject’s fingers and pooling in offsetting signs around the image. I like them looming there, a series of dots my subject is trying to connect. Sometimes, my subject isn’t in the painting. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s you, the viewer.
Oil and egg tempera are my medium of choice. I love the gummy, film-like quality of tempera, and the buildup of transparency that oil can achieve. Both materials contribute their history to the timeless emotion I am looking for. Using these materials in the way that I paint are time consuming, but the slowness provides me enough time to look around the scene and notice what my subject might have missed during their attempt to keep everything under control.
In your bio., you state that you explore actions and emotions just before catastrophe. What
prompted this idea to paint this type of subject matter in your paintings?
I kind of narrowed it down. At first, I wasn’t sure what my paintings were about. The paintings I
ended up liking the most as I went along were a little tense, but I wasn’t sure what made them
that way. I was painting a lot of people and cars at that time, like old Lincoln Continentals, and
to me the cars were a sort of symbol for being in control of something, and at the same time you
have to trust everyone else that they are in control of their own.The cars have disappeared for
now, which I guess is a little less power and safety for my subjects. Now they’re out here
dealing with things by themselves.
How do you begin each painting? Do you have a story you want to tell? Are your subjects something from experience?
There’s a few different ways. Usually I come up with a title first. My sketchbook is mostly just titles for future paintings. Then I like to “find” things. I type strands of words into Google Images and keep clicking Related Images until something strikes just right that matches a title. That’s a great place for ideas. I also like going to thrift stores and getting the film developed that people leave in their old cameras. That doesn’t come up very often anymore, they’re hard to find now. But it was good for surprises. Taking a walk or going for a drive is a good way to get ideas too. The other day I saw a pom pom lying in the road while i was walking, so now I have to paint something like that. Once the painting is finished I often have to give it a different title because it doesn’t match anymore. If I’ve kept the original, I’m probably extra happy with the painting. The hardest part of the process for me is the background. Approaching it can really throw the whole thing off. I have to give extra thought to backgrounds of paintings.
How do you want people to feel when they look at your work?
I want them to relate to it. You know how there’s a song you enjoy but you haven’t showed it to anyone, because it is so personal to you? That is a feeling that is important to me when I’m thinking about how I want people to view my work.
Was there someone or something that inspired you to become an artist?
My grandmother was my biggest fan and encouragement towards becoming an artist when I was growing up. She was a painter herself. I was lucky to have someone that excited about my drawings when I was younger. Eventually I entered school with ambitions of becoming a psychiatric nurse, because I didn’t think I could be successful as an artist. Despite my resistance, my friends showed me a job listing for an Illustrator for Dining at the university and I got the job around the time I was m