LACMA “Art, Fame & Fashion” Presentation

photo by Aleji Tenutta

Art Bistro- Review
by Emily Waldorf

The Stylist Project Asks, “Is Fashion Art?”

On Wednesday, April 21, LACMA’s Costume Council featured a brilliant presentation by artist Kimberly Brooks, “Art, Fame, and Fashion.” Brooks recently completed the Los Angeles component of the The Stylist Project, a series of oil paintings that will eventually be turned into a book. The Stylist Project hones in on today’s fashion influences and explores the delicate question of whether fashion is art and whether stylists are artists.

Brooks is represented by Taylor de Cordoba Gallery and her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Art Ltd., The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, Elle, C Magazine, as well as at juried shows at the Whitney and MoMA. For The Stylist Project, Brooks researched who today’s top trendsetters are, and asked them to sit for her in her studio in their own clothes. Her creative process includes taking hundreds of images of her subjects and then creating a maquette to work from. She lists the work of Henri Matisse and David Hockney as inspiration, which is clear through the sun-drenched colors and formal composition of her gorgeous paintings.

Brooks’ subjects include bold-faced L.A. fashion luminary names including Elizabeth Stewart, Liz Goldywn, Katherine Ross, Jeremy Scott, Jeanne Yang, Andrea Lieberman, and Rachel Zoe, among others. Part 2 of The Stylist Project is focused on New York’s haute fashionistas and will debut in Spring 2011. During her presentation, Brooks challenged the hierarchy of fine art versus applied arts and asked why hanging something on your wall is different than hanging something in your closet. She concluded that paintings can last hundreds of years but fashion is ephemeral by nature, so stylists are “artists of the everyday.”

Brooks’ presentation concluded with a roundtable discussion with two fashion stylistswho posed for her for The Stylist Project, Jeanne Yang and Elizabeth Stewart.

Vanity Fair: Kimberly Brooks Shows Her Oil Paintings at Taylor De Cordoba Gallery in L.A.

….Brooks’ latest oeuvre abandons the Hockney-like light-saturated planes of color and the Matisse-like flat decorative patterning that she deployed so skillfully in my portrait. Driven and prolific, the artist within a year has moved on to a darker, more deconstructed mood, to a Bacon-like paring down to ripened, abstracted essences. The new oil paintings—you can almost smell the fresh pigment, even in reproduction—are on exhibit from September 10 to October 22 at the Taylor De Cordoba gallery in Los Angeles. The show’s title, “Thread,” explains Kimberly (who loves fashion as much as paint), alludes “to the thread we use to weave, to adorn us in our clothing and what also connects us together, regardless of time period or culture.”

Read whole article >

MOCA Contemporaries Art Panel, May 3rd 2011

I’ll be speaking on MOCA Contemporary’s Art Panel as the resident artist discussing “The Stylist Project” and much more with Curator Rose Apodaca, Stylists Arianne Phillips and Michael Schmidt. I hope you can join me.

6:30 Refreshments | 7:00 – 9:00 pm Panel | Ray Kurtzman Theater | Creative Artists Agency | 2000 Avenue of the Stars
Tickets $40 at | For more information call 213.633.5348

Allison Gibson: The Stylist Project

KIMBERLY BROOKS: The Stylist Project

The history of portraiture is in many ways a history of influence. Most portrait subjects held a certain degree of influence over the church, the state, and the cultural climates of their times—fashion trends of course among the latter. From monarchs to wealthy arts patrons to courtesans lying languidly on chaise lounges, the figures rendered by painters throughout the history of art have served as veritable cover models. To view their portraits hanging on the walls of the Academy was not only to behold the work of the masters but also to check out the latest style trends.

Maybe it’s a stretch to think of the Academy as a proto-Vogue, but the art world has certainly maintained an open flirtation with the fashion industry since long before even Andy Warhol trotted his wacky wigs around Studio 54 with the likes of Diane von Fürstenberg. And while these days there is more collaboration between the two fields than ever before, the most compelling form for illustrating this interplay remains portraiture.


With The Stylist Project, Los Angeles-based artist Kimberly Brooks gives us the contemporary answer to this portrayal by painting the those whose newly minted power holds great influence on today’s fashion culture: the stylists.

In her series of oil painted portraits, Brooks shines a spotlight not on fashion’s cover girls but on the industry’s most iconic tastemakers. These are women and men who, while famous by name, rarely find themselves in the limelight: after all, theirs too is the work of the artist rather than the sitter, styling models and celebrities for editorial spreads in high fashion glossies and prepping them for flashbulbs that fire at red carpets. At the end of the day, they influence the trends because they control the fashion world’s visual message.

An avid student of form, Brooks’s work draws heavily on the historical tradition of fine art portraiture. The regal positions of some of her sitters call to mind Renaissance royals, and the sprawled poses of others, such as Emmy Award winning Mad Men Costume Designer Janie Bryant, can’t help but conjure the seductive early Modernist masterpieces of Manet. In this way, The Stylist Project creates a dialog between the editorial and the art historical, between what Brooks calls “the ephemeral nature of the fashion cycle” and the enduring power of oil paintings.

While glamorous on the surface, Brooks’s work also captures an underlying tension that exists between the luxuriousness of the world where these stylists and creative directors work and the suggestion of at least a few of the figures’ unease at being thrust for the first time into starring roles.

In the case of longtime Vogue Creative Director Grace Coddington—whose face has recently become as familiar to the public as it’s long been to fashion industry insiders thanks to the popular documentary “The September Issue” and her own recently released memoir—the allure of the portraits lies in their intimacy. Here we have Grace Coddington, not of Condé Nast’s frenzied 12th floor, but as a quiet creative. Painted in her own Prada, she appears as unembellished as she does in the raw photographs that Brooks captured during their one-on-one session at Ms. Coddington’s apartment.

In every piece, Brooks handles the paint with generosity and with restraint. There are moments of vivid realism: the texture of the leopard print rug upon which Grace Coddington lays is as richly rendered as any luxury textile, and the colors are as vibrant as any seen on Fashion Week runways. Other details she’s chosen to soften to an almost impressionistic gesture—especially her handling of this subject’s famous and otherwise unruly red hair.

Each subject in the series has styled herself. And each poses not in the artist’s studio but in the comfort of her own home, taking a cue from the Northern Renaissance trend toward depicting a more authentic tableau. In the same way, each object on the sitters’ bookshelves and console tables reflects the iconography of our time, so that the wedding photo behind New York Times fashion editor turned top celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart informs her portrait as much as the ankle wrap sandals she has chosen to wear. The result is an honest look at a fleeting moment in the life of somebody who traffics in the equally as fleeting fashion industry.

Brooks conceived the idea while working on her series Mom’s Friends — an intensely personal project about her mother and her mother’s friends in the 70s.  Pursuing fashion as a language within portraiture, she attended lecture at LACMA about the influence of Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli’s fashions on the paintings of Matisse.  Surrounded by unimaginely dressed women of the costume council, it occurred to Brooks to explore fashion’s influence as a subject in and of itself and the people who influence fashion from the top.

As it has developed, The Stylist Project has become both a celebration of, and a study in, the influences that fashion and art continue to have on one another. The work is a time-stamped look at the fashions and tastemakers of the moment, and it is also an addition to the timeless tradition of portraiture.


Los Angeles Times Magazine: Culture(d)


Pop stars have fascinated contemporary artists for years—think Andy Warhol, Richard Prince and Elizabeth Peyton. Painter Kimberly Brooks now trains her eye on those who labor to make them popular. The Stylist Project includes portraits of L.A. tastemakers, including (clockwise from top left) celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart, Rose Apodaca (co-owner of A+R) and costume designer Janie Bryant (Mad Men). Through April 3. Taylor De Cordoba Gallery, 2660 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., 310-559-9156,

Huffington Post: Kimberly Brooks’ The Stylist Project Debuts in Los Angeles

March 2, 2010 | Ellen Caldwell

In Victor Bockris’ biography on Andy Warhol, Warhol describes his dream of attending one of his famed parties and mingling with all of his paintings’ subjects who have magically come to life around him.

Last night, painter Kimberly Brooks got to live out Warhol’s dream. Brooks’ current solo show “The Stylist Project” opened Saturday at Culver City gallery Taylor De Cordoba and last night, Vanity Fair, Dior, and Taylor de Cordoba came together to throw a one-night-only soiree benefiting P.S. Arts .

Rose Apodaca in front of “Rose Apodoca” Oil on Linen

Kimberly’s endeavor is lofty — she has gathered stylists and fashion icons who function somewhat like the Wizard of Oz, working behind the scenes to shape current trends and styles. One by one, she has asked these trend-shapers to style themselves and sit for her in the comfort of their own homes, closets, apartments, or backyards. The effect is at once compelling and inviting. Brooks turns the camera and canvas onto those who are more accustomed to being behind them, but in doing so, she establishes a level of comfort with the stylists that is not only recognizable in the portraits, but also felt at the crowded event.

Weaving in and out of the gallery’s rooms, attendees could see Brooks’ jewel-toned portraits intermingled with the portrayed stylists themselves, including Janie Bryant, Nancy Steiner, Rose Apodaca, Cameron Silver, Jessica Paster, and Arianne Philips – to name a few. What was extraordinary about the night is that here you had an event with 15 portraits of unique people who aren’t necessarily famous or immediately recognizable, but they were all in the room with you and with their art. Imagine if you went to a museum, and all the people in the paintings were alive and interactive. That’s exactly what happened Monday and it was fascinating — taking the night out of the realm of static art show, and making it a real happening.

Ginnifer Goodwin

Actor Ginnifer Goodwin sat for her portrait two weeks before the show and her portrait was promptly sold with 100% of the proceeds gone to benefit P.S. Arts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving children’s lives by bringing arts education to under-served schools and their communities.

Notable attendees included Michael Govan, Norman Lear, Arianna Huffington, Abbie Cornish, Nia Vardalos, Ginnifer Goodwin, James Van Der Beek, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jordana Brewster, Marisa Tomei, Perrey Reeves and Christina Hendricks.

“The Stylist Project” runs at Taylor De Cordoba 2660 S. La Cienega Blvd., through April 3, 2010.

WWD – Painted Ladies, Artist Kimberly Brooks Chooses Fashion Flock as Her Subject

Stylists like Rachel Zoe, Arianne Phillips and Nancy Steiner are used to earning top dollar to make celebrities look camera-ready. But recently they had the tables turned on them, posing for painter Kimberly Brooks as part of her new series “The Stylist Project.” And much like her aesthetically attuned subjects, Brooks took a highly detailed approach in rendering their likeness.

A month before the exhibit’s opening, Brooks stands in her Venice, Calif., bungalow studio counting the number of cerulean blue feathers she needs to paint on a Valentino coat wrapped around Zoe’s tiny frame; perfecting the aristocratic stance of Katherine Ross, consultant for LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, who evokes John Singer Sargent’s “Madame X” in a black Rodarte gown, and adding final touches to the black beaded necklace and white bracelet in Jessica Paster’s topless pose.

“They are setters of scenes,” says Brooks, acknowledging the challenge of tackling such fashionable muses. “They know what they want. They are very specific.”

“The Stylist Project,” which will be on display at Los Angeles’ Taylor De Cordoba gallery from Feb. 27 through April 3, is an offshoot of Brooks’ first solo show in 2007, “Mom’s Friends,” which portrayed her mother and her girlfriends glammed up in furs and feathered hair in the Seventies. After attending a museum lecture on how designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli influenced the painter Matisse, Brooks decided to document a moment in fashion with the help of stylists. With her easy manner, Brooks had little trouble convincing women such as Elizabeth Stewart and “Mad Men” costume designer Janie Bryant to sit for the hundreds of photos on which she based her painted portraits.

“She’s so down to earth and incredibly kind,” says Jeanne Yang, whose clients include Katie Holmes. “When she takes pictures, she talks to you and makes you feel attractive.”

Brooks studied fine arts at UCLA and Otis College of Art and Design…. Still, she felt a kinship with the stylists. “I see them as artists, too. I use paint. They use Prada,” she adds.

Even with the latest designer looks at their disposal, some subjects still found themselves at a loss when it came to styling themselves. Yang, for one, couldn’t choose a single dress, so she wore three by Marc Jacobs, Leonard of Paris and Sari Gueron (the latter made the final cut for the painting). Andrea Lieberman waited until the last minute to pluck a navy and white striped maxidress from her own fashion line, A.L.C.

Once done with her Los Angeles-based series, Brooks will seek inspiration from New York image makers such as Grace Coddington, Nina Garcia, Brana Wolf, Amy Fine Collins and Lori Goldstein. She hopes to eventually take her project to London, then Paris, and publish a book highlighting the stylish set she’s immortalized on canvas.

“These people are used to styling for a red carpet or an evening out,” Brooks says. “That’s ephemeral while paintings last for hundreds of years.”

“Kimberly Brooks: The Stylist Project” opens Feb. 27 at Los Angeles’ Taylor De Cordoba gallery, 2660 South La Cienega Boulevard.