Five Alive--Kelli Thompson

We are looking forward to diving into what promises to be almost overwhelming amount of art this weekend at Bushwick Open Studios. As a special preview, we're featuring Kelli Thompson, one of our favorite Bushwick (technically Ridgewood) artists for our Five Alive column today. Her studio will be open in the 17-17 Troutman Building, and she will have her work featured in Seeking Space, a group exhibition at The Active Space (566 Johnson).

Courtney, 2013, Oil on Panel, 48x42"

Courtney, 2013, Oil on Panel, 48x42"

Kelli Thompson was born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1982. She received a BA in Fine Art from the University of New Orleans in 2006, and a MFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Tufts University in 2009. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Art Voices magazine in New Orleans, The Northeast Regional New American Paintings, #86, Studio Visit magazine, and was mentioned in The New Yorker in January of 2013 for her work at A.I.R. Gallery’s Biennial Exhibition. She has had two solo exhibitions, both in New Orleans, Louisiana, and many group exhibitions in New York, Massachusetts, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana.

Kelli and cat

Kelli and cat

From Kelli's artist statement:
In my large-scale portraits from photographs, I use a highly synthetic palette to reformulate the look of the skin of my subjects.  I over-describe the surface of the flesh so that every detail remains in focus, removing the image one step further from reality, and experiment with the tension between the attraction and repulsion of viewers when confronted with artificial representations of the human figure. By breaking apart the painted flesh into separate planes of color, I’m able to participate in the classical tradition of exploring the surface and nature of the skin.

I create my source material using a series of photographs, often taken at different times in different sittings, to create a crude Photoshop ‘mock-up’. This aspect of my process plays into the unnatural color interpretations to loosely reference the constructed nature and humor of historical portraiture, specifically 17th century Dutch painting. My interest in the portrait lies in the connection between the subject and the viewer, a genuine moment of empathy. Utilizing the conventions of portraiture, I investigate the connectivity and authenticity of the gaze within a synthetic style of imagery.

What is your favorite art making tool?
Paint. I love paint, specifically oil paint. I love the gooeyness, the richness of color, the mixing, the glazing, the brushes- the brushes, oh my god, don’t get me started on the brushes. I picked up a rather expensive natural hair habit in grad school and it’s only gotten worse. I was using black sable exclusively for a while, but I recently discovered mongoose hair, and they’re far more durable than sable and still are soft enough for me to glaze without leaving brush strokes. I love that there is a small crew of painter friends I can sit around with and totally geek out talking about materials. There’s still so much to learn and so many things to try out in my  practice.

The view from Kelli's studio building roof

The view from Kelli's studio building roof

What music/band/artist are you listening to the most right now?
Truthfully, lately it’s been The Pixies ‘Doolittle’ and ‘Surfer Rosa’ back to back on repeat. I’m trying to lure out the summertime.

Where do you go for peace and quiet?
In my studio building on Troutman Street (in Ridgewood) there’s a big, wonderful deck from which you can look out at the entire Manhattan skyline. It’s maybe my favorite place in the city. Also any large body of water always brings a certain amount of inner peace for me.

Where is your next dream travel destination?
I’d love to spend some time traveling through South America, specifically Brazil. It’s a huge country and so that’s a very general answer, but there you go. I know I’d like to take some time, a weekend trip wouldn’t really do.

Is there a color or palette that you are drawn to?
I’ve always liked my pinks and reds. I am drawn to bright, vibrant colors, and really I love the whole spectrum. That’s maybe why I love paint so much- I feel like I get to own the colors and make them work for me.

Anna and Cat, 2012, oil on panel, 60x48"

Anna and Cat, 2012, oil on panel, 60x48"

B on Blue, 2013, Oil on Panel, 48x42"

B on Blue, 2013, Oil on Panel, 48x42"

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