We are so thrilled to introduce Kelly Ording, a Bay Area painter and muralist who we collaborated with for our fall collection. Influenced from a life-long love of Asian art and a deep connection to water, Kelly's work is a perfect blend of precise control and organic ease. We love Kelly's ability to play with perfection and the unknown—bold, graphic lines layered on hand, coffee-dyed canvases. Her work is colorful and impactful, but meditative in her use of repetitive linear motifs and negative space. We first fell in love with Kelly's work many years back, and it has been such an honor to have worked with her this season. Thank you, Kelly!
ET: You live in Oakland now, but where are you from originally? How does place influence your work?
KO: I am originally from Los Gatos, California. The entire Bay Area influences my work, particularly the water that surrounds it. As kids, we spent a lot of time at the beach and near the Bay. We would often visit San Francisco and Marin County, and I was always excited to see the fog, the sailboats, Alcatraz Island...it was such an exciting place to grow up. Water is a constant theme in my work and it is absolutely a result of growing up surrounded by it.
ET: There are a lot of reoccurring motifs in your work - linear fans, diamonds, arcs - can you talk about the significance of these or why you're drawn to them?
KO: My first introduction to artwork were the Chinese prints that my grandmother had hanging around her home. So, Asian art was my point of entry when I began painting. Asian art still highly influences my work, from the dyeing of the paper to the various forms and ideas. The fans look very Asian and remind me of that influence, as well as of my grandmother. I love the fans because they are organic and have circular and straight lines, and I love that mix - it's so versatile. I use a lot of geometry and repetitious line-work because it is a form of meditation for me. I'm drawn to things that, at first glance, look simple or minimal, but actually take a lot of craftsmanship and patience. I feel like these motifs have been around for centuries and people have been using these shapes from the beginning. I'm interested in seeing if I can reinvent these and create something new and exciting with this shared imagery.
ET: Who are your artistic influences and heroes?
KO: I have too many heroes to list! One of my heroes is my husband, Jet Martinez, who recently completed a 100' x 60' mural in downtown Oakland. A mural this size is plain frightening and he approached it with such calm and grace! He is so committed to his work and inspires me every day to work harder and harder. I also think about Ruth Asawa a lot. She had six children! I greatly admire a woman who can be so committed to her studio practice and be entirely committed to her family as well.
I look at a lot of modern and contemporary art and am highly influenced by Frank Stella, Robert Motherwell, Agnes Martin, and Sol LeWitt.
ET: Your work has such a wide range of scale, from massive public murals to small drawings and paintings. Does the creative process for a mural look similar to the process of small-scale work?
KO: Although it all comes from the same creative place, they are actually pretty different. A lot of times there are certain requirements for public work, and I have to approach those projects with different concepts. Also, since murals are on walls as opposed to paper or canvas, they are just different types of pieces. There is a lot I can do with paper and canvas that I just cannot do on a large wall. I can approach a piece without knowing its outcome and can make changes throughout the process of creating it. When creating a public mural, I design the whole thing ahead of time and then paint it. Because of the size, scale, and time-line, there really aren't a lot of changes made on-site while doing a mural.
ET: For you, what is the most fulfilling element of public art? Private art?
KO: The most fulfilling element of public art is the idea that kids may see it and enjoy it. I recently completed a mural at the Emeryville Center for Community Life, and when I went to visit, I saw that they were having a children's music class where the mural is located. I was so happy to think of those kids being surrounded by that piece, something beautiful and strange as opposed to a white wall. I strongly believe art should be outside and a part of people's daily lives, so I am honored when I receive an opportunity to create public work.
Making work for private collections is really just for me. Studio work is my own conversation with my work; sometimes bickering and sometimes complimenting one another. When making public work, you have to think about the audience and how it will affect them. Studio work doesn't have those restrictions and limitations, and so it's very free in that sense. So I would say the most fulfilling element of my studio work are the times when I have pushed myself further in my practice and have been excited with the results.
ET: You mentioned that your husband is also a painter. Do you two ever collaborate? What does a typical day look like for two working artists sharing a space?
KO: We used to collaborate on murals, but we haven't had that opportunity recently. However, we will be collaborating on a public, interactive piece this fall in association with Kala Art Institute in Berkeley.
Our typical day is dragging ourselves out of bed, getting the kids dressed, making lunches, breakfast, and bringing the kids to school. We then do our own thing- sometimes one of us will be working on a mural on-site, sometimes we will have "office work," but the best days are when we're both working the studio. We pretty much work until it's time to pick up the kids from school and we hang out and eat dinner. The kids go to bed and Jet and I go back to work!
ET: What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming months, both within and outside of your practice?
KO: I've been working on a large pavement project located at Unity Plaza in San Francisco with the SF Arts Commission and SFDPW, and it is finally finished. I've never done a project like this, and I am beyond pleased with the results. I've designed the pavement for the entire plaza and we've had concrete specialists install the work. It turned out so beautifully! It's the craziest feeling to walk on your own work.
Jet and I are doing a residency in Mexico for a month in the fall. I am really looking forward to bringing the kids with us and having them experience a different culture for a brief window of time, and practicing a different language. We've dreamt of traveling with the kids and being able to work in different parts of the world, and this is our first time trying!