Kelley Simons, artist

My paintings and drawings are pieces in a never ending narrative series that explores memory, nostalgia, and trauma with a dark and surreal humor. I am driven by an ongoing need to examine evidence from the past and transform difficult experiences into visual narratives that reveal meaning or provide comfort. I create illustrative images that invite the viewer in with elegantly rendered, highly detailed scenes that skew to reveal a different perspective. 

I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but growing up I found few models for what that could look like in my small, blue collar community. As a girl, I felt constrained by the creative offerings that seemed available to adult women­—sewing, knitting, crocheting, and crafting—and I knew by their association to women and the domestic that they weren’t considered serious areas of exploration.

I return often to these handmade objects for inspiration in my work. Plaids, calicos, and floral fabrics patterned into quilts, meticulously created for use in the home but dismissed as women’s work and relegated to thrift store shelves are a metaphor for the unacknowledged craftsmanship and creativity of women. The obsessive pattern-making and repetition in my work are a creative meditation, and reclamation of women’s traditional techniques. 

Tip #2, Spread from 25 Tips: A Guide to Surviving a Pandemic, 8”x11.5”, watercolor and gouache on paper.
Tip #2, Spread from 25 Tips: A Guide to Surviving a Pandemic, 8”x11.5”, watercolor and gouache on paper.

For the past year, I have been working on a series of drawings to be collected in a printed booklet titled 25 Tips: A Guide for Surviving a Pandemic, inspired by similar pamphlets issued by the government in the 1960’s on how to survive a nuclear attack. These drawings explore my traumatic experience of the pandemic, and reflect the futility of the ways I tried to combat the virus. They reference cold war era civil defense materials that communicate actionable, yet completely pointless guidance for surviving the unsurvivable. My aim is to publish this work as a limited edition artist’s book in 2023.

Follow me on Instagram @kelleysimonsart

Small Works 2022 includes 200 works of art by 200 artists from 32 states and runs through Friday, December 23, 2022.

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