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Front Window Spotlight: Kerstin McKee

Kerstin McKee is our front window artist for May! Both Kerstin’s ceramics and paintings exhibit botanical influences, and in her paintings she combines those influences with sensual forms. We carry full bodies of both styles of her work in our gallery, and her candle holders may be just the gift you’re looking for this month.

You are a painter and a ceramicist. Which came first and what lead you to explore the second medium?

Painting came first and my second choice for a double major at Cornish College of the Arts was printmaking. It was in printmaking that I developed a fondness for the process of carving which is necessary in block printing. I took a class in ceramics at Kirkland Arts Center about 17 years ago and was instantly smitten with the medium. In terms of surface decoration of the clay, ceramics allowed me to incorporate many of the same techniques I had refined in my 2-dimensional work. Above all, it seems I love to carve!

In your Artist Statement, you say you “love working with the sensual-provocative imagery of nature.” Have you always been drawn to natural world from that perspective?

Yes, I have always been inspired by the organic, voluptuous forms and colors found in nature. As a kid I loved to paint and draw flowers. During my formal art education I was initially focused on drawing and painting the human figure. The Cornish curriculum drew heavily upon the classical approach to figure drawing. This was a time when we, as students, were encouraged to dig deep in order to find our individual purpose/meaning for our work. I decided to focus on the concept of ‘light on form’ in order to create strong visual drama for my subjects. These techniques of light and shadow enabled me to convey any feeling or mood even in the simplest of forms. Today, I enjoy taking great liberties in creating imagery that sometimes appears to be a blend of the botanical and the human. I believe that a vegetable, or a root, can appear as brooding and as sensual as the human body.

Your work as an artist is part of your spiritual practice. Is there a daily aspect to that practice?

I practice yoga and I love to meditate. For many years, I have been a student of various modalities of Energy Work. These teachings are accompanied by personal development. As an artist and energy practitioner I have discovered the value of looking inward. Having a spiritual practice better enables me to work intuitively. Being grounded and balanced creates a receptive state of mind. In this way, I can trust my creative process and know that ideas will flow to me.

As an artist who splits her time between the West Coast of the United States and the West Coast of Sweden, how does sense of place influence your approach to art?

My husband and I have been living in both countries, equally, for 30 years. I come from a large family. I have 5 siblings so having a home in each place is a blessing and I am extremely grateful.  At this point in my practice, there is no difference between the art I create here and the art I create in Sweden. However, people here in the States tell me they feel there is a Scandinavian influence in my art, and the people in Sweden claim to see an American influence in those same pieces! I think much of the inspiration and sensibility must have its roots in Swedish storybooks and folklore. As an adult I’m still visually drawn to the qualities of magic and fantasy in all its seductive glory.

What is the best creative advice you’ve ever received?

I’m still in touch with my art teacher from high school in Sweden. Her name is Gerd. She gave me some advice at a significant time in my development as an artist and we are still friends today. She told me, “Never let another’s opinion compromise your work.”

What is a piece of advice you would give to emerging artists about developing their voice and finding their creative identity?

I would give the same advice to a young artist. I would caution against rushing yourself. Allow yourself lots of time to develop. Don’t let even the well-meaning people restrict or define how you should work. That creative part of you can be fragile and once censured, it may not feel safe enough to communicate with you again for a while. Also, let yourself play with many different mediums and see if one grabs you more than the rest! Oh, and have fun!!

Story by Andrea Lewicki.


Permanent link to this article: http://arteast.org/2017/05/front-window-kerstin-mckee/