Xanax Rainbow

Reemtsen, Kelly

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Sculpture

Genre: Sculpture

Annotated by:
Lam, MD, Gretl
  • Date of entry: May-23-2017
  • Last revised: May-23-2017


Five larger-than-life pills are presented in a clean white frame. They are precisely arranged in a vertical column to form a pastel rainbow. Each pill is a different color – white, pink, green, blue, and purple – and the word “Xanax” is prominently printed into each in capital letters. The mirrored background reflects the pills and the frame, just as it reflects the viewer’s face.


Kelly Reemtsen is a Los Angeles-based artist whose work explores the roles of modern day women, particularly well-educated, professional women in America. She is probably best known for her paintings of women in ultra-feminine outfits holding domestic objects such as brooms and dishwashing gloves or traditionally masculine tools such as chainsaws and snow shovels. However, she also creates sculptures of pills that are stereotypically prescribed to women.  

This sculpture, “Xanax Rainbow,” features larger-than-life replicas of the brand-name drug Xanax. Xanax is used to treat anxiety, a psychiatric disorder that is popularly associated with the modern professional woman who is trying to “have it all” – the successful career, the thriving happy family, the charming personality, and the sexy toned body. Anxiety arises from trying to fulfill all these social expectations, and Xanax becomes another tool for the modern woman to get work done, just like the brooms and shovels in Reemtsen’s paintings.

Real Xanax pills are white, but Reemtsen makes her pills in an enticing rainbow. The contrast between their cheerful candy-colors and their oppressive size suggests at suffering hidden behind a pretty, charming veneer. They sit in a mirrored display case that recalls a bathroom medicine cabinet, and they dominate and obscure the viewer’s reflection, just as anxiety can dominate the modern woman’s life when she is held to unrealistic and unequal standards.