The Mask of Beauty

In my earliest memory, I was laying heavily sedated on a hospital bed at three years old. In the four hours prior to that memory, my heart had been cut out from chest and my body sustained on a machine which replicated a heart’s function of pumping blood through my arteries. I see my work as a record from that first memory through a series of separate chronic conditions and surgical procedures, which continue to affect my body.

Raeleen Kao, "Untitled"

I see beauty as a mask for the morbidity of deterioration and draw on the vanity associated with a desperation to produce a facade of stability as the body becomes increasingly susceptible to illness. The manner in which I depict hair demonstrates the delicacy of an individual strand, the contrived beauty of a braid, and exposes its easily disheveled nature. Hair exists as a form of pride, infamously with Marie Antoinette to its modern importance with cancer patients. In my work, I explore hair as a precise record of health and as an extension of femininity and sexual power, made most evident in its absence under the invasive treatment of chemotherapy.

"Untitled I" by Raeleen KaoI focus on scars, stitches, and biopsy sites which actively externalize one’s most intimate medical history. My self-portraits explore the body as an object vulnerable to physical and psychological trauma as a result of disease and subsequent treatment. My portrayal of the body confronts the prospect of death and exhibits loss and with exhausted passiveness.

These themes of loss are heavily centered on aspects of the body which anatomically define a woman. Historically, there has always been a stigma placed upon women who are unable to conceive, who give birth to stillborn children, or suffer through miscarriages. The shapes I choose to construct reference nests, umbilical cords, and ovum. These images obsess over a destruction of the female reproductive system and the reoccurring trauma which occurs with the loss of a child.


Education and Training

2013: Cape Fear Press- Carolina Beach, NC-Photogravure individual workshop with Jennifer Page

2011: University of Wisconsin-Madison – Madison, WI. Bachelor of Fine Arts.  Concentration in drawing and printmaking.

Awards and Features

2013: 23rd Parkside National Small Print Exhibition 2nd place cash prize

2013: ArtSlant 1st 2013 showcase winner

2011-2013: Southern Graphics Council International front page feature

2010: Kenneth D. Brown and Robert G Kaentje Scholarship for the School of Education Art Department

2011: Illumination Journal of Humanities:  Feature Spread


Current: White Wings Press—Chicago, IL.

2011: Anchor Graphics—Chicago, IL

2009-2011: Tandem Press –Madison, WI      

2010-2011 University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Department—Madison, WI       

2011: Chazen Museum of Art—Madison, WI

Selected Exhibitions and Portfolios

2014: Group drawing exhibition- Bert Green Fine Art Chicago, IL

2013: Inhospitable: Solo Exhibition by Raeleen Kao- International Museum of Surgical Science Chicago, IL

2013: Mystic Hands- Hoofprint Workshop Chicago, IL

2013: Snap Roll: Exhibition of prints- Hoofprint Workshop Chicago, IL

2013: Portraits: Curated by Fred Stonehouse. Gallery 224 Port Washington, WI

2013: From Plate to Paper:  The Art of Printmaking. Curated by Bruce Waldman, Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Board of Directors, Director of the New York Society of Etchers

2013: National Small Print Exhibition: Juried by John Hitchcock- Monmouth Museum of Art Lincroft, NJ. 23rd Parkside

2013:  Body like a Barrow: Solo Exhibition by Raeleen Kao- UW-Parkside Gallery Parkside, WI

2013: Top Drawer Prints- Bert Green Fine Art Chicago, IL

2012: Prints and Drawings Exhibition- Peltz Gallery Milwaukee, WI

2012: Inspired By…- Bert Green Fine Art Chicago, IL

2012-2015: Southern Graphics Council International Traveling exhibition- Woman Made Gallery Chicago, IL. Featured on front page of

2011: Your Days Are Numbered Portfolio Exchange: Organized by Todd Christensen, Thomas C. Donnelly Library Print Collection- New Mexico Highlands University Las Vegas, NM

2011: Can You Make this Last Forever? A Fine Art Exhibition by Raeleen Kao and Amanda Cheung- Common Wealth Gallery Madison, WI

2010: Drive by Press- Happy Dog Gallery Chicago, IL

Publications and Press

2013: Sixty Inches from Center “At the Satellites:  From Fountain to Edition”

2013: Art in Print:  Volume 3, number 3 New Editions

2013: Art in Print:  Volume 2, number 6 New Editions

2013: Visual Art Source   “Body Like a Barrow” recommendation by Robin Dluzen

2013: ChiCritics “Body Like a Barrow” weekly picks by Steve Ragalie 


2012: Vermont Studio Center—Johnson, VE

⋅      Artist’s Grant

⋅      Work Exchange Award

⋅      Founder’s Office Assistant

Guest Artist Lectures

2013: Professor of Silkscreen and Relief John Hitchcock: University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI

2013: Adjunct Professor of Etching Briony Morrow-Cribbs: University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI

2013: DePaul University Chicago, IL

2012: Lecturer of Drawing Jack Damer: University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI

2011: Professor of Lithography Gabriel Mejia – University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI

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