Kathleen Vaccaro
Artist Statement: Film Noir

Kathleen Vaccaro’s newest work mixes imagery from American film noir, imagination, and memory. This body of work ties together images from the past and Vaccaro’s present day life experiences. This work also explores the femme fatale, one of the first strong character types for women in films. The works that focus on Hedy Lamarr’s lips are a combination of the strength, beauty and intelligence found in the femme fatale character, in Hedy Lamarr as a brilliant inventor, and in the current women’s movement. The striking, vibrant makeup many women wear today is a modern form of warrior paint, and connects to other powerful female archetypes like the femme fatale. The difference between the femme fatale of the 1940s and 1950s and contemporary powerful female characters is in how we choose to characterize them. The femme fatale is inherently evil and seductive. The femme fatale connects to mythological characters like Medusa, the sirens, and the sphinx. Today, powerful and enthralling female characters do not need to be characterized as evil and do not need to rely on their appearance to succeed.


In this body of work, imagery is taken out of context in order to connect viewers specifically to the romance, and occasional heroism found in American film noir, and to let them reflect on contemporary ideas of romance and heroism. For Vaccaro, this body of work connects to her grandparents’ generation and captures the fading away of this generation. Against the backdrop of WWII, romance and morality became individualistic and complicated. Today, many people can relate to film noir’s dangerous, disillusioned world punctuated by bright moments of selflessness and love. 


Vaccaro is interested in capturing the flickering light and the disintegrating romantic images in old film noir. Inkjet printers and computer software allow her to combine film stills, photographs and materials in a way that is unique to the time in which we live. By including photo transfers in the work, she lets go of some of the control and includes the element of surprise. The process of making her artwork - the searching, experimenting, and synthesizing, is how her ideas and emotions enter the work. To be direct, she views painting and drawing as one. The film imagery is often destroyed, simplified and changed as a piece develops. Vaccaro’s love for paint and ink is evident in her work.