The Shadow behind the Light
David Morris wrote an article about me for Creative Pinellas last December. When he reached me by phone about the article, I assumed I would be one of many artists interviewed and perhaps a line or two would make it into the article. He was so interesting to talk to, that I actually kinda forgot our conversation was “on the record”. What occurred was an interview in which I talked about things I do not usually share.
I hadn’t previously put myself under the microscope on how my physical body and mental attitude create my method of working. I am usually thinking about painting, not, why do I paint standing up?
Strange to consider the body as the brush. And the quirky, over focus, INFJ mind that inhabits this body as the method. Odd to realize that a lifetime managing pain is the foundation upon which I make my living.
When I think about the artists who have influenced me, Frida Kahlo, Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, I think about their work but also how their world, their physical circumstances, and their personal challenges created the language that communicated itself through that work. Frida Kahlo wanted to be a doctor, her accident changed the course of her life. Yet in her work, the anatomy illustrations she studied occur over and over. They lend a searing honesty to her images. She sees both intimately as an artist but also with the objective detachment of a physician.
In the studio this morning I got 6 canvases going. All different sizes, 30”x40”, 24”x30”, 20”x24”, 8”x16” and 2 - 8”x8”. I am working from yet another opal (my last three series of paintings have started with impressions from looking at spider web opal). The stone instantly transported me to a place with winged insect people flying among ancient tress in the morning sun, grandmother’s stories of the little people that live in the forest, me laying in the grass on a spring morning off the Blue Ridge parkway.
I see all six paintings finished in my mind, I just have to peel away each layer one by one back to the first color then reconstruct. I anticipate 50 or more layers. I will use gold leaf in several. I am particularly excited about how the light will emerge differently on each canvas as this stone has many secrets to reveal. I have the canvases arranged across the back side of the studio, all six at waist to head level so I can walk back and forth and back and forth. I check the furniture behind me to make sure I can back up without falling over something because I have learned the hard way about that and have nearly tossed myself out my old second story studio several times. I spent an entire day just arranging the paint, and brushes because every new set of paintings I have to clean and completely organize my studio to enable my brain to reach a state of calm and focus with no distractions that break my concentration.
And so it begins again and I am fully present in a place of complete focus, no pain, no time. The world of these six canvases becomes the whole world and the mind and body become one instrument to touch the canvas.
YaeL Kelley lives and works at her studio in the Artist Enclave of historic Kenwood in St. Petersburg, Florida. Petersburg, Florida.