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Kelly Berkey’s art invites intimacy through color and light

February 9, 2018 – Kelly Berkey’s art is as broad as it is deep. From florals, whose bright and broken colors cut through femininity to evoke a modern edge, aloof silos that are easier seen by what’s not been painted than what has been, vibrant waterscapes with jewel-like colors, to her portraits, Berkey’s mastery is evident.

Her portraits of women, caught in brief moments of time, who captured Berkey’s own imagination through the curve of a shoulder, the line of the back, a look in the eye, line her easels and walls.

Kelly Berkey

Kelly Berkey

“The female form is incredibly beautiful,” Berkey said. “The figures are harder to capture, but for me, I think the thrill is seeing that strength in a woman. I am drawn to paint women who are not only beautiful, but have some sort of inner strength, a fierceness, and it’s very exciting when that comes through my paintings. It’s that strength I like to paint.”

Kelley Berkey floral

Berkey’s florals have a contemporary edge that is unique.

Whether a stark profile, a downward glance, a woman visible through only a parting in her hair, or a frank, onward frontal, the strength of the women is a connecting factor in Berkey’s art.

Berkey didn’t begin to paint until after her son had grown and moved out. She had other creative outlets, and her husband had always nudged her towards painting, but for years, she resisted. Even after he set her up a studio, with an easel, she still initially refused and turned to scrapbooking instead.

“I hated it,” Berkey laughed. “But then one day I gave in and decided to paint, and I became obsessed.”

Kelly Berkey portrait

Berkey is drawn to both beauty and strength.

She has been classically trained, learning from masters such as Michelle Dunaway, Romel de la Torre, and Stanka Kordic. From them, she learned invaluable lessons, and impeccable technique. But now her art has reached the point where she can leap from her technical mastery and let the art create itself more organically.

Her evolution is apparent, from an earlier, technically perfect rendering of one woman, to a much more recent portrait of a woman whose face is clear and perfect amidst swirls of color as Berkey gives way to her love of color and abstraction. Still, the woman’s face seems all the more realistic, stunning and sharply limned, within the abstraction. This infusion of color and a bathing of light is yet another way her pieces are all connected.

“I’m infusing my love for color and abstraction and shapes into these figurative works,” Berkey explained.

For Berkey, creating a work goes far beyond just the time spent in front of the easel. She’s in a constant state of creating in her mind. When she isn’t actually painting, she’s considering new works, new poses, new gestures, the perfect light, what sort of brush stroke she will use to capture something that inspired her.

“When you’re in front of the easel for that time, when you are actually laying the pigment onto the canvas, there’s this whole process that led up to that, and it’s constant. I am painting in my mind all the time. I even dream paint,” she explained. “It’s constant. It never shuts off. But when I’m painting…everything goes away.”

Kelly Berkey barn

Some of Berkey’s rurual scenes have been licensed, and can be purchased at PierOne and other stores.

“That’s that creative spirit. It’s about remaining open to what comes in. I don’t believe everything I do comes from me. It comes from this collective energy, and these creative spirits, these muses, and it’s a gift when you can be open to that. But I do know, if I don’t get there and paint that right away, it goes away,” Berkey added.

Berkey remains in a constant state of inspiration and creation, but capturing the moment is what drives her to paint.

“There’s something about a figurative piece that invites you to stand and stare. And be intimate with that subject, with no shame. And it’s so incredible for me. There’s that moment…the brushstrokes and the colors and how the artist interprets what they are seeing, and that’s what I want to give. A little snapshot into what I am seeing. Because what I see when I look at something is different than what someone else sees. And as the light changes throughout the day, everything changes, and it’s not the person you are painting, it’s that moment, it’s who that person is in that split second, and to be able to put that on canvas…that’s what drives me.”

By Samantha Kilgore • kimeberely@leaderpress.com

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One Response to Kelly Berkey’s art invites intimacy through color and light

  1. Vickie Phillips Reply

    February 27, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    I am interested in your May 2018 North Carolina retreat. Please call me or email as I cannot find the correct webpage to find out info. I am a friend of George Moon.

    913 342 0032
    Vickie Phillips

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