I was delighted that one of my works was chosen for the Greenville Museum of Art Biennial Juried Exhibition. I hadn’t been there before so I didn’t know what to expect but I shipped my painting on ahead to be included in the show. The opening reception was on a Friday, of course, so I braved the tedious Friday afternoon traffic and headed over to Greenville in my little blue car.
The opening reception was great, classy, with free wine and musicians providing a jazzy backdrop for the visual art being enjoyed by the many viewers. I was proud that my work was included. And sock monkey was beaming from his place on the wall!
The Greenville Museum of Art is a great museum, located in a gorgeous classic revival home, which houses a fascinating permanent collection and interesting exhibitions. The building is as interesting to explore as the art. And I really like the curator, a fellow Guilford College alum, who does a fantastic job!
My painting also made it on the front cover of their spring newsletter!
After the reception I had a yummy dinner with friends at a great little Thai restaurant down the street and the next morning journeyed over to the Dickson Avenue Antique Market. Two stories of antique and vintage goodies kept us entertained for a while. I found some cool things which made their way into the installation of my solo show the month after (which I’ll write about next.)
And…I just discovered this video shot at the museum. Sock monkey got himself in…
I was highly influenced by the work of abstract expressionists such as Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler, Arshile Gorky, de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and particularly Hans Hofmann. Hofmann’s no-nonsense lifestyle (He was very focused and devoted to his work and his teaching, dedicated to his wife, and not clutched in the grips of addiction and alcoholism–He was one of the lucky ones.) proves that you don’t have to be a tortured and troubled soul in order to create excellent work.
Although my work did not look directly like Hofmann’s, I was greatly influenced in the way that I allowed the energy to flow through my paintings and worked to guide it with compelling composition, my work was much darker than Hofmann’s–literally and metaphorically.
I collected books about Hofmann and spent hours admiring his work, mesmerized in front of his paintings in museums, and studying his philosophies on the making of a picture. I imagined how wonderful it would have been learning from Hofmann, studying in his Provincetown studio, being one of the attentive students watching him demonstrate technique in one of the black and white photos that immortalize him.
Very shortly after I met Jeff (my late fiancé and utter soul mate) he wanted to introduce me to one of his most cherished friends. This woman was an accomplished abstract painter and Jeff thought we’d have a lot in common. And, of course, we did. We were kindred spirits with similar painting styles and ways of existing in this world. As it turns out, she studied under a woman who studied directly under Hans Hofmann! Fate, kizmet, the universe showing you that you’re doing exactly what you were made to be doing, all that jazz…I discovered a direct line from my most admired inspiration, or it discovered me. It felt magical!
Previously I painted strictly abstract works directed by emotion and energy, my desire to touch a magical place, or to intentionally bring light into my world. Now I have a profound affinity for things–preserving them, allowing them to tell us their stories; they find their way into dramatic still life pictures. I incorporate abstract elements into my still life works at times and still paint purely abstract works at other times.
“Before returning to college, Kelly had a self taught career as an abstract painter and worked and exhibited her paintings in several downtown Greensboro settings. These paintings are powerful and energetic and about light and darkness. One of her challenges as a painter is to incorporate the energy of her abstract paintings into her still life paintings. Since her graduation with a BFA in Painting from Guilford, she has continued to paint in a similar vein to her thesis but with more humor and invention.”
–Adele Wayman, H. Curt and Patricia S. Hege Professor of Art, Emeritus
Conversations with Lilly
Lilly is a painting of my favorite sculpture who lives in my living room. From the time I met her she has provided comfort; that’s why I had to paint her–it’s a portrait of a friend.
Let’s see where she’s been…
Who is Lilly? What’s her history? Maybe that’s another blog post…Anybody interested?
This is my Saturday morning.
Another painting started. Another finished and on the wall.
This is what I do.
Roll me over – oil on canvas
Recently I presented my work as part of the Greenhill Open NC Art Review program here in Greensboro. It was fun to participate and see other North Carolina artists’ work and offer feedback. It was good to present again, to keep myself from getting rusty after presenting so frequently in school. Here’s a recording of a presentation of my work, what it means, what I mean to capture, what I want to show to entice the viewer’s reactions and memories…
Kewpie Culture, charcoal and oil pastels on paper.
To interpret my individual culture, this was a bit of a challenge. This was the final assignment for a drawing class last year. Although my family heritage was mentioned to me as a child, it was not a major influence. My upbringing did not include much tradition from a specific culture. The biggest thing that molded me was the chaotic feminine energy I was surrounded by–my mother and grandmother and this dysfunctional triangular relationship. So instead of making my final drawing about that, I chose to draw something that makes me happy, something I want to look at, something other people might enjoy as well.
Kewpie dolls really turn me on. I discovered this sweet little doll in a consignment shop last year and immediately fell in love with her but the price was astounding, really…150 bucks! And her entire painted surface is completely chipping off. I visit her sometimes. Even though her price has been reduced, she still sits there, in a glass case, hidden behind some piece of hideous consignment furniture, hiding and waiting for me to come up with the cash–bail to spring her from the bondages of retail.
This drawing is of a kewpie doll on a fluffy, happy cloud floating over a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood with various objects encircling her head. The drawing represents me transcending the mass-marketed, consumerist society that I previously thought I needed to conform to. I now intentionally influence myself with cultural items that I choose–art/painting, drawing, literature, Buddhism, the heart, music, and nature. I surround myself with a combination of cultural elements that bring me joy.
Buddhism, when revealed to me, made perfect sense. The messages have been packaged and repackaged in various ways over many years. My current favorite is Alan Watts. I know, he existed years ago, inspiring a turned-on hippy generation, but his relaxed attitude and simple down-to-earth delivery of ideas calms me, helps me make sense of things. I like to listen to Alan Watts recordings while I paint. On days that music with lyrics only adds to the swirl of ideas in my head, Watts helps me focus.
What began as a hurried trudge through yet another reading assignment for last semester’s art history class turned into an enjoyable experience, an essay that embodies several of the ideas that shape my world. It was Junichiro Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows.
I enjoy Tanizaki’s poetic almost rambling style and the rich images he creates with words (perhaps that’s due in part to Seidensticker’s translation.) Many phrases struck me so significantly that I’m compelled to quote them. His ideas of inhabitation, full descriptions of traditional Japanese architecture, music, paper, pottery, and jade, etc. are worth consideration.
Tanizaki describes Japanese aesthetic preferences, the elegance of age, the glow of grime, the beauty of Japanese lacquerware with its “colors built up on countless layers of darkness” and silverware and metal with dark spoke patina, “the tarnish so patiently waited for,” and the traditional Japanese reverence for shadows and compares them to Western preferences such as the desire to drive out as many shadows as possible.
As a painter who has explored light and shadow for some time, I really appreciate Tanizaki’s explorations in shadows and darkness. His description “how the gold leaf of a sliding door or screen will pick up a distant glimmer from the garden, then suddenly send forth an ethereal glow, a faint golden light cast into the enveloping darkness” captures something I strive to show in my painting. His ideas that “we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates” and we “create a kind of beauty in the shadows we have made in out-of-the-way places” give words to the concepts I’ve been working with.
I identify with Tanizaki’s humble, Buddhist sensibility: “we Orientals tend to seek our satisfactions in whatever surroundings we happen to find ourselves, to content ourselves with things as they are; and so darkness causes us no discontent.” I also battle the “evils of excessive illumination” (how fluorescent light alters the beauty of things) and I lament the loss of trees for the sake of building more highways, retail locations etc. “To snatch away from us even the darkness beneath trees that stand deep in the forest is the most heartless of crimes” exemplifies how I feel about the unnecessary removal of so many trees I see around us.
Give it a read and let me know what you think!
At the beginning of the my independent study in painting this semester I was asking myself: What do I want to paint now? What do I want to say? Do I want to paint a variety of subject matter, maybe a landscape and a self portrait, things I don’t typically paint?
While I stressed about subject matter, my wise professor, Roy Nydorf, told me, “Just be painting; all the other questions will take care of themselves.”
I decided I wanted to illuminate little, overlooked objects, vintage toys, random things. I got lost in the details of the things I was painting and the relationships, or possible interactions between the items.
While I enjoyed the details and the suggested narratives, I also enjoyed just what I could do with paint now. I started painting with the idea that it didn’t matter so much what I was painting as how I was painting it.
As I combined various objects and painted them, stories began to form, memories were evoked. I thought about specific memories and how to reproduce them in paint and what viewers might see, what they would identify with, and how my vague suggested memories might ignite the viewer’s personal memories. I explored the relationship between vision and memory and experience and how these things shape how we see the world, the space or discrepancy between what we see and what we remember, and the pictures in our minds versus the outside world’s images and how they can spark our memories.
So, this body of work turned into combinations of vintage toys in secret little environments, sometimes little pockets in nature, evoking nostalgia and wonder. I found that viewers would look, and smile and/or laugh and say things like: “Wow. That’s weird!” and “I had one of those when I was a kid!” and “You and your creepy dolls!”
I wondered about the role of nostalgia in my work.
What is evoked for you?
I love to paint objects. The still life paintings I create for myself include antique and vintage, sometimes kitsch, sometimes creepy, sometimes random, items. These are the things I love to look at, the things I collect and surround myself with. On canvas, I surround them with abstract elements, exploring personal connotations and meanings of the objects and their history.
My love of things, arranging them, lighting them in a way that highlights the intricacies of the item, creating shadows that interest, that could capture some other mystery, makes me also want to capture other peoples’ objects and immortalize them in oil paint. Do you own a cherished heirloom item or items that you’d like to share with other members of your family? All of you can’t have the same clock on your mantel, or your grandmother’s babydoll on your shelf. I could compose these items in a significant and sentimental commissioned work just for you! So someone in your family can own the cherished object and someone else can display the unique painting of it.
This past summer I painted for my step father. I looked around his house and selected items that said “Moe.” A metronome, an hour glass, his grandfather’s pocket watch, his mala beads, I combined these things with a small clay vase of fresh roses in rich red to add the vibrancy of life. And a bug crawls up the front of the table, just for fun. I call this painting Time for Moe.
No intention. Movement. Make a mark. Meditative but spontaneous, energetic, allowing. Step back and look. Feel. Respond. I let go and let things happen and accept and interpret later.
A flame emerges, then a figure behind it. Light requests to be present on the second canvas. The same colors start to appear in both canvases, a tiny echo of one in the other. Lots of layering and light and dark colors create depth and space. Bold brushstrokes and palette knife marks contrast with subtle detailed areas.
And I get lost in the marks I’ve made – masses of of smooth color and the interaction of the colors.
Two paintings. One darker, almost ominous, visceral. One lighter, earthier, greener.