The Kaplan Twins Use a Fine Arts Background to Paint the Coolest Nudes
Allie and Lexi Kaplan are NYU fine art graduates and they just so happen to be best known for painting pictures of celebs and themselves completely naked.
So obviously, Galore had to sit down with the twins to discuss their university backgrounds, their favorite artist, celebrity reactions to their paintings, and what working with a sibling is really like.
What was the first piece of art you created?
Allie: We’ve been painting and drawing since we were babies! I can’t even remember the first piece of art I created because I was probably 3 years old. But I remember taking art lessons after school and I made this painting of a frog sitting on a Lilli pad, I was probably 7 or 8 at the time, I was so proud of it, I thought it was a masterpiece. I still have it laying around somewhere.
Lexi: We’ve been drawing and painting our entire lives. I would say the first piece of art that we created together though, when we decided we wanted to work together and paint together, was our self-portraits. We were dressed in fur coats with the orange and pink wigs.
Who is your favorite artist?
A: Andy Warhol. It’s such a cliché answer, but he was a genius. He did everything. He was an artist, filmmaker, designer, he was a celebrity, he was just so inspirational. I feel like he was his own breed of artist that doesn’t exist anymore today. But I always say I’m inspired by all creative people. Anyone who is creative, whether they sing, act, design clothing, or write scripts for movies, is an ‘artist’ in my opinion.
L: I would also say Andy Warhol. He didn’t just create, but he was wildly recognized in a main stream context not just a fine art context.
What made you start creating images inspired by sex and pornography?
A: I think the shock value. We love to push boundaries and see the reactions we can get from people. Also, we are just fascinated with celebrities and celebrity culture so we wanted to play around with that as well. I think I’m just a super curious, free, DGAF type of person, so I just like to have fun with what I’m doing and stay authentic to myself.
L: Definitely shock value. We don’t find our work that shocking but we know it will get people talking. That’s sort of where we got the idea for the celebrity nudes and sex paintings. There is a large shock value there because we see celebrities all the time, we don’t even think of them as human beings but as objects for entertainment. We never see them stripped down in their most vulnerable moments. Kim Kardashian’s sex tape made her human but also very inhuman at the same time. It’s controversial and in your face.
If you had to create an art piece for any celebrity, what celebrity would it be and why?
A: Down the line we would love to do a series of celebrities laying nude on chaises like Kate Winslet from Titanic. We want to bring back the tradition of the artist and oil painting, but give it a modern context. Manet’s Olympia but with all the it girls, top models, and celebrities we look up to. It would be like a modern-day Annie Leibovitz photo shoot in the form of a nude figure drawing. Anyone can take a photo of what they see, but not everyone can paint what they see. So, this project would be the greatest thing ever.
L: I think Kim Kardashian is the Marilyn Monroe to our Andy Warhol. So, we would love to continue painting her and have her in our studio.
What does your family think of your risqué pieces?
A: One of our paintings called “Chocolate Covered Strawberries” is a painting of me and my sister spreading our butt cheeks with chocolate syrup and strawberries up our butts. My mom took the photo because she was around and we asked her for help. She must have been feeling inspired by the photo because midway through the shoot she said “Wait, stay right where you are! You need strawberries to go with the chocolate syrup” and she went in the fridge and got strawberries!
L: They are very supportive, and we’re lucky for that. We graduated college, and got ourselves a small studio, which was essentially a closet, and they are supportive of us working to achieve our dreams.
What’s the best part about having a twin?
A: Always having someone who is there for you, but that can also be the worst part haha. We always say we’re like a married couple. We probably spend more time together than most couples do actually. We love each other, we fight for sure, but we always have each other’s backs. We’re partners, best friends, and soul mates and I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing without her.
L: The best part about having a twin is having a built-in best friend. You always have someone by your side.
What is it like to work together?
A: It’s interesting. We both have extremely strong take charge personalities. So sometimes, I’ll be in control, and other times I need to sit back and let her take control. It can get frustrating at times, but I think anyone who goes into business with their sibling would say the same thing. I think our bond is just stronger because we’re twins.
L: We both think the other bosses the other around. And we definitely disagree all the time. But we also work really well together and it makes it more fun to have someone there working with you.
You both have Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees from NYU. Do you believe schooling helped you become the artists you are today? If you had to go back and get your degrees all over again, would you?
A: I think getting an art degree from NYU was a great experience and I would do it all over again. I learned so much about myself and what I wanted to do and accomplish versus what I didn’t. I had a ton of internships within the art and fashion world throughout school, and if I didn’t have those opportunities during school I think I would have pursued a career in those fields after school, rather than already knowing a head of time that it wasn’t for me. I can’t imagine myself doing something other than art, and NYU is a huge part of that.
L: I think you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it and work for it. It played a part to shaping our career as artists. We loved NYU and the program there as well as living in NYC for those years. I wish I realized I wanted to be an artist a little bit sooner into school so we would be more ahead of the game at this point. But then again everything happens for a reason and I wouldn’t change anything about my past experiences. So yes, I would do it all over again.
What are you doing when you’re not creating art?
A&L: When we’re not physically creating, we’re planning and thinking of new ideas. I feel like we’re always working because we’re always together, even if we’re not physically putting a brush to a canvas. But we also love working out, we go every morning before we head to the studio, it just makes us feel so good and hyped for the day, and prepares us for standing on our feet for 7+ hours.
Have any of the celebrities you’ve painted responded to your work? If so, who? And what was the response?
A: I have heard from some friends that Emily Ratajkowski has seen the painting we made of her leaked naked selfie. I would absolutely love to get it to her. I think she would love it. I know she’s a fan of the arts and has an art background. She’s also super into women’s rights, the free the nipple movement, powerful women standing up for what they believe in and doing what they want, and challenging all of the haters. I think she’d see the painting as something that stands for that, something powerful. A selfie, especially a painting of a selfie is a new way to reclaim the gaze, like the modern version of a traditional renaissance painting.
L: We showed Ray J the painting of him and Kim a while ago at Snoop Dogg’s birthday party. I think that counts because his penis is in it. He laughed it off and said he liked it, but didn’t want to do business in the setting we were in. We ended up selling the painting to PornHub, but I would love to sell our work to the celebrities featured in our paintings.
What’s the message you hope to covey with your work?
A: I think art can be so much more powerful than just something that looks good above your sofa, which is sadly why a lot of contemporary art is relevant today.
L: We are trying to generate conversation, have some shock value to our work, make beautiful pieces, and do something different. There is not much more than the fact that celebrity constantly surrounds us. In the media, in politics, it’s literally everywhere. It is just very recognizable to everyone and people innately have opinions about celebrities, so by painting them we know that our work will resonate with people.
What are your future goals as artists?
A&L: Our goals are to be household names and become very mainstream. We want people to realize art and artists are cool and not unapproachable or unattainable. We want to be the Andy Warhol’s of our generation. We just want fine artists to merge into the same entertainment channels that musicians, DJs, actors, comedians, fashion designers, innovators, etc. are already a part of and to be more popular and recognized. Fine art lives in its own world in a sense, so we want to change that.
Photo by Ashley Wilhardt