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 especially on facial features are a combination of the beauty and intelligence found in the femme fatale character, the brilliance and strength of the actresses both on and off screen, and the current women’s movement. The striking, empowering makeup many women wear today is a modern form of warrior paint. It connects to other powerful female archetypes like the femme fatale. This modern makeup seems to primarily be a source of strength, or a reminder of strength, for the person wearing it, rather than a way to seduce others. The difference between the femme fatale of the 1940s and 1950s and powerful female characters today is in how we choose to characterize them. The femme fatale is powerful because she is inherently evil and seductive. The femme fatale connects to mythological characters like Medusa, the sirens, and the sphinx. Today, enthralling female characters do not need to be evil or to rely on their appearance to be strong and effective.


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.