Artist Attack! Spotlight: Simone Meltesen and the Alternative Girlhood Narrative

Art Attack Month:

0. 1/28/2012 – Art Attack Call for Submissions, by Riese
1. 2/1/2012 – Art Attack Gallery: 100 Queer Woman Artists In Your Face, by The Team
2. 2/3/2012 – Judy Chicago, by Lindsay
3. 2/7/2012 – Gran Fury, by Rachel
4. 2/7/2012 – Diane Arbus, by MJ
5. 2/8/2012 – Laurel Nakadate, by Lemon
6. 2/9/2012 – 10 Websites For Looking At Pictures All Dayby Riese
7. 2/10/2012 – LTTRby Jessica G.
8. 2/13/2012 – Hide/Seek, by Danielle
9. 2/15/2012 – Spotlight: Simone Meltesen, by Laneia


Simone Meltesen’s work-in-progress series, Girl Paintings, is super relevant to our current feelings re: CAMP, but also we would’ve loved these paintings any day of the year. Simone is a 28 year-old queer woman in Brooklyn with a lot on her CV. Her work has been in group shows at The LGBT Center, The Flux Factory, Sweet Lorraine Gallery, and A.I.R. Gallery, all in New York. She’s currently working as Director of the A.I.R. Fellowship program at A.I.R. Gallery — the first cooperatively run gallery for women artists in the world. Simone has also run the art room at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls for the past six years, which we thought you’d appreciate.

Artist’s Statement

The paintings in my current body of work present an alternative narrative of female adolescence. They depict a mythology and iconography of adolescent girlhood that posits girls as the primary actors in their own lives – a site that girls have rarely occupied in western art. Drawing inspiration from sources such as girls’ sleepaway camps, Girl Scouts, the Riot Grrrl revolution, girl gangs, slumber parties, and family photos, I create elaborately detailed, surreal coastal landscapes that are populated by a utopian society of adolescent feral girls.

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The Sea, Gouache and graphite on paper, 22" x 30", 2011

The Sea, Gouache and graphite on paper, Detail, 2011

Some of the girls congregate in threatening packs, weapons in hand, while others operate independently, hunting hairy whale-like monsters and surveying the polychromatic inter-tidal terrain. While the landscapes are painted in gouache, intricately detailed and specific, the girls themselves are faceless, anonymous and rendered as simple line drawings in graphite pencil. Lacking faces, and therefore emotions, the girls’ identities, as well as motives, are non-specific and fluid. The compositions are framed within rough oval shapes on large rectangular sheets of paper. These portals are a threshold into a hidden world – and suggest that there is more going on beyond the edges of each scene than what we are able to view.

Pack, Gouache and graphite on paper, 22" x 30, 2011

Pack, Gouache and graphite on paper, Detail, 2011

The landscapes of forests, cliffs, and especially tide pools are derived from memories of time spent on the coast in Northern California, where I grew up. The tidal terrain functions as a liminal space, a secret landscape only visible when the tide is out if we know where to look. Similarly, the girls operate in the fraught space between childhood and adulthood, and like most teenagers, their actions are inscrutable and puzzling to outsiders. The images of girls wielding knives and axes, stabbing and killing strange beasts, are a corrective to acceptable mainstream parameters of female “empowerment” messages aimed at girls.

Lookout Point, Gouache and graphite on paper, 22" x 30", 2011

Lookout Point, Gouache and graphite on paper, Detail, 2011

Simone adds that though queerness is not the main subject of her artwork, it is definitely a theme. “It’s important to me to represent queer girls in my artwork. I try to impart this with ‘alternative lifestyle haircuts’ as well as the body language of the girls in my paintings.”

Chop Chop, Gouache and graphite on paper, 22" x 30", 2011

Chop Chop, Gouache and graphite on paper, Detail, 2011

Learn more about Simone Meltesen and A.I.R. Gallery and follow Simone’s personal blog.

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Laneia is the Director of Operations and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here.

Laneia has written 918 articles for us.


  1. Ah these are so awesome. I love the contrast between the colored, fantastical, Willy Wonka-esque landscapes and the simple line-drawn girls. And the subjects remind me of a girls-only Lord of the Flies. So cool!

    Also, just wanted to say that I’m a total fangirl of Art Attack February. For me, it’s so much more accessible and part of my life than poetry and it’s awesome that Autostraddle’s featuring that part of my life too. Way to go!

  2. Simone is fantastic – I love her technique, and as someone who is not usually drawn t’ward landscape imagery this is a pleasant trip down landscape lane. The details are so intricate and she totally translates that sense of freedom. I feel like her style could work with different mediums as well, including stained-glass, fashion prints and a form of crochet?

    If you are ever interested in gaining an Australian audience Simone, I’d recommend you for Frankie Magazine. This is totally what they would celebrate.

    • Hi Kirby – I actually used to make paintings that had embroidery in them, but it turned out that I actually really dislike sewing/doing needlework! (And i could get the effect i wanted with just paint).

      What’s Frankie magazine? Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. These paintings bring me back to my summers at Girl Scout camp. I thrived in an all girls environment and loved spending time in our own bubble. Now I’m indefinitely more excited to return to camp this summer! Thanks Autostraddle!

  4. I am sorry I’m so late to this, but thank you so much to everyone for your wonderful comments! I’ve really been holed up in my studio for the past 8 months or so, and it’s nice to have a wider audience take a look at what I’ve been working on. There is more to come, for sure.

    If you’d like to be on my mailing list, please leave a message on the “contact” page of my website. Don’t worry, I’m not all spammy or anything.

    Anyhoo, thanks so much again! I’m really happy Autostraddle gave me this opportunity. Thank you to Laneia especially!

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