August 12, 2016

8/10/2016 – Live the Dream with Shaina Kasztelan

Artist:  Shaina Kasztelan

Location: Brooklyn St. Local


SK – Eggs Benedict, side of fries (upgraded to poutine), something-Heaven’s Lemonaid [sic]

SRS – Coffee (black), Pork belly sandwich (sriracha)

Everything that Shaina Kasztelan does looks just like her. From the deep Kool Aid purple color of the lavender lemonade she chose to accompany her breakfast, to a home/studio environment that is a menagerie of found objects, toys, paint, and curious arrangements, to her collection of tattoos that combine cuteness and horror in equal measures (many for which she had traded work) – Shaina’s world is riotous and busy, and her canvases and sculptures seem to stand as dimensional snapshots snatched from her chaotic and colorful reality.


Chaotic, colorful, and sometimes pretty dark. What struck me about Shaina’s work – which I first encountered in a group show, It’s Like Toys in Here, at Detroit Artists Market, and more recently in a really terrific solo show, Somewhere Over the Rainbow is a Double Rainbow, at Hatch Art – is how perfectly it captures the warring inputs in the consciousness of young women. Shaina is in her mid-20s, and her ability to channel all the garbage that is marketed toward and put upon young women is enviable – she makes innovative and challenging work by hoarding and sorting through the shlocky material culture that is directed at children, and especially females.

The central installation piece from Somewhere Over the Rainbow is a Double Rainbow at Hatch Art

The central installation piece from Somewhere Over the Rainbow is a Double Rainbow at Hatch Art

She loves it, though, clearly. Shaina’s house – which she currently shares with her sister – is a piece of installation art in and of itself. Her collection of variety-store plastic mold masks line the walls; taxidermied animals populate the domestic woodland of her living room; and her bedroom walls are neatly gridded with her own canvases and those of her friends. Shaina doesn’t just make her work – she lives in it.

In a studio that looks exactly as one might imagine, given her tendency to present massive conglomerates of paint and object-collages, a few of her “cake” works from her 2014 stint as a Red Bull House of Art resident catch the eye. Shaina and her sister sometimes collaborate on edible cakes – with Shaina in charge of decorations – and this is clearly a skill set that she has applied to the meticulous flourishes and edging on her paintings. There is something wildly messy about Shaina’s work, on the one hand – towers of trick-or-treat Jack ‘o’ Lanterns barfing dribbles of spray foam – but it is measured by an obsessive attention to detail, on the other. She is clearly an artist with the ability to sink deeply into her work, bringing a kind of Ritalin-laced focus to the execution.


That sense of medicated reality creeps in at the edges of some of her works – or overtly, in pieces that frankly acknowledge taking pills. “As a kid, I had some issues,” she says over breakfast. “I used to want to hide that – being in therapy or being on medication. Now I am much more open about it.” Shaina’s frank acceptance of her circumstances seems to be leading in the right direction – like therapy, art is a form of processing (and in fact a literal form of therapy) – in making work that clearly connects, on some level, to a child’s perception of the world, perhaps Shaina is finding new ways to tackle issues that were previously addressed through medical and psychiatric means.

Either way, she is striking out in a bold direction, having quit her “big kid job” and gone freelance. The summer has been largely devoted to mural painting – with her latest up on Michigan Avenue, heading north out of Corktown – and she has high hopes for her prospects of a more art-focused professional life. She expressed an interest in doing window display design/installation, and I tell you, I would be delighted to see those results; I have no doubt Shaina could construct a very eye-catching display. To be very honest, I think this girl would crush in Los Angeles, but selfishly, I hope we get to keep her. With a sunny disposition that is the soul of youth, balanced with self-assurance beyond her years, Shaina is a total package.

Do it, girl.

Leave a Reply