Gilmore ghouls: Slope artist imagines awkward teens as literal monsters

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In touch: Other work Nelson will display explores our increasingly integrated relationship with technology.

Talk about awkward teens!

A Park Slope artist who paints adolescents as werewolves, demons, and extra-terrestrials is putting her “crypto teens” on display at a show called “Coming of Age” at Williamsburg gallery Cotton Candy Machine on Sept. 11. In depicting the graceless pubescents as monsters, the artist is not piling on to their pimply plight — she is trying to put a face on humanity’s most cumbersome life stage, she said.

“Most of the paintings depict a tween or teenager in this moment where they are questioning who they are and feeling kind of monstrous, but not for the reasons you might think,” said artist Lori Nelson. “They feel monstrous because they have an overbite — something that would be common to a normal kid. They’re monsters but they’re also really sweet at the same time.”

Using a monstrous outward appearance to belie inner struggle has been a long-running theme for Nelson, a native of Utah who was raised a Mormon, but struggled with her lack of faith as a kid.

“I felt like an outsider or a monster or a creep, because I honestly didn’t have that religious feeling,” she said. “I thought there was something almost alien about me, because I wasn’t feeling the way everyone else was.”

But Nelson is interested in more than teenage angst, she said. Her other work argues that the current digital age of mass communication and worldwide connectivity represents an adolescent period for the world at large. Peering across the globe in real-time makes societies more aware of things happening outside their boundaries — just like a child becomes increasingly aware of other peoples’ needs as they age, she said.

“Now the veil is lifted, and we can see what is happening everywhere, and this new other-awareness is descending upon us in the same way as when you grow up,” she said.

Many of the monstrous children are based on Nelson’s family or friends’ children, but she also draws inspiration living among Park Slope’s stroller-laden streets, she said.

“I’m always finding references on the sidewalks of Brooklyn,” Nelson said.

“Coming of Age” at Cotton Candy Machine (235 S. First St. between Roebling and Havemeyer streets in Williamsburg, (718) 387-3844, Show opens Sept. 11 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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