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Contemporary Figurative Artist

Inside The Mind of

Contemporary Figurative Artist Marisa Rheem


My name is Marisa Rheem and I am a contemporary pop and figurative artist based in Oakland, though I was born in Washington, D.C. In 2014 I graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in Santa Fe, NM.


The Bay Area is a cosmopolitan metropolis of forward-thinking creatives, inventors and trend setters. In such a dynamic and diverse region, there is an abundance of creativity to be absorbed. I capture fashion worn by everyday people- strangers I’ve met on the BART, international tourists shopping in Union Square, and most often from fashion bloggers on Instagram.  About half of my figurative paintings capture candid subjects, while the rest are based on poses. 


Working in art galleries in the San Francisco’s Financial District for the past 6 years I’ve had the joy of observing everyday people rock the most creative ensembles. I am fascinated by the clothing that people wear in their everyday lives. On some level, I believe that every person puts their thoughts and personalities into what they put onto their bodies. 


It is in those active choices that a person reveals a little bit about themselves, giving us a morsel to gnaw on. As stated by Lucian Freud, “The simplest human gestures tell stories.” Whether it be a strategic visual representation of their personality or just something they mindlessly threw together, somehow I’m always excited to look at bodies garbed in street fashion. 


That is what I aim to show in my contemporary figurative paintings - I tease out the clues of who the subject may be, revealing their underlying and permeating essence. Through the calculated use of composition and carefully mixed colors, along with the thousands of hours I have poured into my work, I do more than simply render a person in their clothes. I transform their impermanent assemblages of cloth into archival paintings intended for contemporary galleries and notable museums. If you want a glimpse into the sights I’ve seen, check out work by me- contemporary figurative artist Marisa Rheem.

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