Friday, June 1, 2012

Keltie Ferris

I was thrilled to be able to stop by a favorite painter of mine's studio for a drawing session recently. Taking the Q59 bus down Grand Ave., I arrived in front of Keltie Ferris' studio building in Williamsburg. She has several new and intoxicating paintings in the works. Keltie has a solo exhibition opening at Mitchell-Innes and Nash this coming December. The energy in her space is brimming over, reminiscent of the juiced and electrifying feeling I so often get from looking at her work. She showed me a new spray tool she was excited to start using as we sat down to talk about her studio and its set up. Keltie explained to me how she comes to picking a space. She told me some of her "must have" criterias. For her there needs to be a substantial amount of natural light and an accessible way to escape the fumes put off by some of her art making techniques. A sky light ablaze with the mid-afternoon sun sits just above her largest painting area and a sizable window with a fire escape perfect for climbing out onto juts off the back of the studio. Keltie was delighted to have a guest visit her through the escape once a day for several months, a big orange alley cat that would show up to keep her company, perusing the paintings before heading back out the window and onto the roof.



I settled down in front of one of her paintings in order to make an attempt at drawing its portrait. With Keltie's mystifying fields of color and pattern, with her explosive yet minute repetitions of mark and her uncanny ability to make paint vibrate like the addictive bass riffs of our favorite songs, I was weary of being able to draw the image before me. With each initial glance up at the canvas I became increasingly aware of how intensely these multi-layered planes are worked on and how intricate each square inch of the surface becomes, creating a vastly charged almost three dimensional phenomenon. Visually breaking down these layers to be able to draw them, I couldn't see through to the canvas below, only to whole other worlds of painted surface, suggesting a new meaning of "paintings within paintings." Bubbles of soft edged sprays lead to painted out sections of pure color with geometrically jagged edges that lead to stripes of quivering prismatic lines that dart from one section of the painting to the next. This varied collection of painted marks that Keltie accumulates seems to make her work move rhythmically to and fro. In doing so the paintings become forces of their own, to say the least.


Keltie mixes and then sprays paint onto her canvases. I saw that in the back of her large studio she had built a translucent, sealed off, make-shift construction. I was taken by this corner's almost lab-like feel, knowing that this is where a solid amount of the magic happens. It is a brilliant resolution that still allows the space to feel open while keeping some of the toxicity of her spraying out of harm's way. The paint captured on the back wall of this alternate working zone collects historical traces of the vibrant colors she has used in her pieces. Keltie moves the paintings in and out of this area several times a day. What a dedicated step in her process. She has got the subtleties of singlehandedly moving these massive canvases down to a science. My offering to help was quite futile. We both laughed at the things that artists do to enable their practice.

Keltie and I talked about the myriad of jobs we have had in the past to keep our art making afloat. She proudly showed me a section at the front of the space she had recently built out to hold smaller works, books, and so on. Some of her early NYC jobs must have helped her build the skill set it takes to do this kind of work. We also talked about what kind of dedication to time spent in the studio you need to make things happen. She is ├╝ber dedicated. After getting this tasty preview, I am super excited to see her paintings completed and up this coming winter. It will definitely be a must see show. To see more of her work go to

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