Artist Spotlight: Kelly Darke

Artist Spotlight: Kelly Darke

Kelly Darke is an artist’s artist: She creates through a deep self-reflection. In her imagery she explores her emotions, her memories, and her aesthetic through color and texture. She is not beholden to any one medium–her work ranges from oil paintings, to silver crocheted purses, to fabric paintings, to pen & ink, to anything else she can get her hands on. Her process results in soulful works that do not dictate what emotions the viewer should have, but rather she opens up to share emotions with the viewer. In line with her sharing nature, here are some of her thoughts: How long have you been painting?

Kelly: I have been painting since around 1994-95. I attended WSU for a BFA and initially was pursuing photography, which was a passion of mine since learning black and white analog photography in high school. The photography department at WSU was going through some restructuring at the time so I began painting and metals. Fibers and textile techniques have been a part of my art since then and now have a much larger presence than pure painting. How would you describe the Detroit art scene?

Kelly: I feel that I haven’t been actively involved in the Detroit art scene until recently. I have shown work in gallery exhibitions and been to many shows but always felt a little out of touch. I am trying to be more involved and looking for more opportunities to be involved. What inspires you?

Kelly: everything. Other artists. nature. my family. any and all fiber: yarn, string, knit fabric, woven fabric… texture. lines. layers. Does beauty play a role in your art?

Kelly: I’m not sure – I don’t really think about my work as beautiful or ugly. I do, however, want to convey a feeling. Mostly my current work is about the feeling of comfort – warmth – safety. These are feelings I get while working with fiber and the processes of stitching and knitting. My intentions are more about evoking an emotional response rather than a statement about whether or not the piece is beautiful. How has your career changed over the past 5 years?
Kelly: My style has been evolving – I had been focusing on abstract oil paintings for a long time, while at the same time still working on jewelry and knitting. A few years ago I did a piece that combined my painting and knitting and a good friend of mine said that she liked the direction of my work and that “the knitting, embroidery, and handwork seems to be your niche”. Looking at my work over the years I realized that fiber art and textile techniques had always been an element in my work – it seemed strange that I hadn’t made the connection. Recently I have been focusing my energies on my fiber art and painting combinations and love the direction it’s going. This is Women’s History Month, are you particularly inspired by any women artists?

Kelly: Yes – current fiber artists: Abigail Doan, Joetta Maue (and her blog), Emily Barletta. Do you see any roadblocks for being a professional artist that are particular to women?

Kelly: I have a very supportive spouse and extended family, but the underlying subconscious (or not) attitude of our society is that women take care of the family and men go to work and I can’t help getting pulled into that thought process at times and feel that I need to take on all that responsibility at home – even though that attitude drives me crazy! And the politics in the news today is ridiculous and not making things better for women. If so, how can we break down those road blocks?

Kelly: we can start by teaching our daughters (and sons) that women can do anything and are very capable of being successful in any career they choose. That being beautiful on the outside is not what’s important (Lisa Bloom, Think I know this answer is not all about being a professional artist, but I think it applies.