Friday, March 13, 2009

Kelly Vivanco's "Strange Happenings"

Next Friday, March 20th, the fabulous Kelly Vivanco will be showing with Juri Ueda and Rudy Fig in an exhibit entitled "Strange Happenings" at Rotofugi in Chicago. There will be pensive waifs exploring a surreal twilight forest, resourceful birds and intrepid rodents making their way through an otherworldly storybook swamp, and best of all, there will be inspiration, wonder and mystery. Also be sure to mark your calendars for the solo show Kelly has coming up on June 13th at Thinkspace and an in-depth interview here at Erratic Phenomena, just before that show.


As you might recall, I'm pretty enthusiastic about Kelly's work, and fortunately we've had a chance to discuss it from time to time over the last two years. A couple of months ago, Kelly and I got to talking about this and that, and she said a few amazing things that, with her permission, I thought I'd share with the world.

Kelly Vivanco: I don't offer too much commentary on my work. The things people come up with are totally different than what I would come up with, and faceted to match their personalities and hopes and experiences – like unlocking a billion alternate universes with one image, a fractalized experience. That's kind of how I see it, like dropping ink in a glass of water and all the tendrils blossom out... and if you say, "This is what it means," the tendrils all suck in to the static drop and it stays motionless. Religion does that. So do books that give interpretations of dreams. I guess everything does, even our interpretation of who we are. Maybe that is the feeling we have when we are little, that wonder feeling. The world is enormous and magical. Then we grow up and see mundane explanations for the magical experiences, and everything gets boxed up and shelved.

Erratic Phenomena: Yes, that's kind of why I buy art – when I see a painting that brings back that magical feeling for me, that wonder.

KV: We still have it! I wonder what it is like to be someone who doesn't enjoy fiction or someone who cannot empathize or imagine. I guess some people are more concerned about what or who. I like the hows and whys – not too big on whens.


KV: People tell me my work is priced too low – I guess in comparison to other artists at my 'level' or whatever. I tell them I would rather have it go, sell, move, and keep the flow going than to kill off anyone's intention of starting a collection. I also don't mind keeping my prices lowish because I would rather have people collect it because they love it rather than as a 'stock.' If I couldn't keep up with demand, I would raise them, I suppose. I guess I do as I would like to see, maybe as I would like to be able to collect.

EP: Ordinary people can buy your work, which isn't the case with most artists who are at your level. Ordinary people like me.

KV: You love art. I like that you get excited about art and save up for what you love. It means so much more to have affection for expression than to treat art as a commodity. The only original pieces I have are from people I have traded with, though I did buy a Sandra Equihua and an Andrew Hem.

EP: I don't know why someone would buy a painting that doesn't move them, but lots of people do.

"Grass Whistle"

KV: The first piece I had at Thinkspace was for the "Square Foot" show curated by Blaine Fontana, whom I had met at his show at Distinction earlier in the year. He bought one of my pieces from my studio and asked me to be in the show later on. I'm really thankful that he saw something in my work that he wanted to see more of. He is a really nice guy and his wife Eugenie is very cool, too.

EP: I love it when I hear of artists buying other artists' work... and I always think what they buy sheds light on the artist a bit. Do you know of any other artists who own your work?

KV: It is a bit surreal to have someone you have heard of, know their work and such, owning one of your pieces. Oh, I traded with Jock Sturges, he's a photographer.

EP: Wow, Jock Sturges is great! I was kind of a photography person before I discovered your work at Thinkspace, so I know about him.

KV: He contacted me and said, "'Stumbled' on your site and the more I looked the more I liked. I wonder if you know my work and, if you do, if you might consider a trade and/or collaboration? Jock Sturges." And I was doubletaking.

EP: I love that! How flattering.

KV: Seriously. So I said "Hi Jock, I do know your work, that is, if you are the photographer Jock Sturges, and not an insurance adjuster from Duluth. I would be honored to trade or collaborate. What did you have in mind? ~ Kelly." It went from there. He said some really amazing things about my work. It was great to get his perspective and hear why he connected with it. Let me paste a bit of what he wrote.
"I didn't think to take the time, by the way, to tell you how much I admire your painting. I see a bit of Egon Schiele, a very little bit of John Currin, a bit of Dalí, and then some manga as well. You handle paint beautifully and have an engaging tendency to invoke metaphor in your grounds. Your subjects are often beautiful but not in any facile way, in spite of their large eyes. They are complex and self-possessed. This last sentence probably has everything to do with why I like the work so, as these are attributes I both look for and encourage in the people whom I photograph. There are so many painters devoid of purpose these days. They paint well enough technically, but they have no core of fascination/obsession driving them, and finally their work is only clever. I admire animals that are clever, but rarely artists."
EP: Wow. I just got shivers. He's really articulate.

KV: Yes, I feel like I write at a kindergarten level compared to him. So to hear that from him, I was just thrilled.

EP: I've tried to express that last part of what he's saying a bunch of times, but never that well. I also feel like a bit of a jerk when I say it, because what do I know? But he's right.

It's been great talking with you. Thanks, Kelly!

Kelly Vivanco's "Strange Happenings" will open at Rotofugi in Chicago on Friday, March 20th.