Today's featured artist, Kelly Vivanco, with her vast and beautiful array of portraits, brings up questions of innocence that we had long thought answered. Vivanco depicts her characters, with a special wonderment that is often neglected in artwork made for adults, and in so doing, rightfully reintroduces us back into the worlds of wonder that we are often encouraged to leave behind.
In her piece Winter, for example, we see a girl with gorgeous flowing white hair and an off-the-shoulder elegant red dress. The piece is hypnotic partly for its beautiful lines and colors, but also because of the mystery surrounding the age of the depicted character. The hair, the dress, and the title all suggest that this is not a young girl but rather a mature woman. And yet the wrinkle-free skin, the tiny hand and the large eyes are all attributes we most often assign to depictions of children. The piece is too arresting to move on without reaching some sort of digested idea about it, and so one possible reading is that the piece is a spiritual portrait of a mature woman who has not lost her innocence, or who has regained it. And the type of innocence in question is a softness, an open and eager curiosity for life that hasn't been closed or hardened by cruelty. In short, Winter is a great piece because of the flowing strands of hair, the proportion, colors, and patterns that Vivanco has brought to life with her paint, and also because of its staunch statement that physical maturity and innocence of spirit are not mutually exclusive.
Based in Escondido, Vivanco has created hundreds of such portraits, using primarily water-soluble oils and acrylics. She has also done work without her mainstay of human figures, focusing largely on frogs and birds, as well as plant life, but practically all of her pieces touch on her captivating senses of fantasy and self-awareness. Terrarium is a piece that combines her fantastic plant-work juxtaposing it with a sweetly complex human angle. And here again we see features that call the theme of innocence to mind, though this is clearly too rich a piece to be suitable only for children's amusement. A glass round-jar is bursting with glowing life as a young woman watches entranced. The scene can't rightly be described as a quiet scene since it literally pops with life. The piece leaves us longing to know what will happen next, and to see the young woman move and to hear her speak, and to know what she will say, an attribute that speaks to the highest level of dramatic paint-work. One possible reading is that it is a depiction of a young woman's wonder about pregnancy, as the shape of the glass calls to mind a pregnant female belly. The reflection on the other side of the glass could be seen as just that or possibly as the young woman's vision of a future child.
"Rather than try to make a statement with my art, I paint scenes and characters that draw me in and resonate with something deeper inside. Most of my paintings are inspired from something intangible like the complex feelings knocking around inside of me; or simple like the pose of a child in a vintage photograph, or the quizzical tilt of a bird's head. I enjoy portraiture without parameters and a sliding scale of exaggerated features for the subjects of my paintings. It is not an intention of mine to create a tableau of symbolism or encode some secret meaning in my paintings. They take shape spontaneously and develop organically. I like to paint and see where it goes. I often don't have answers to questions posed by my finished works. People ask me what a painting is about, I just ask them what they think it's about. Their answer is as valid as mine, in my opinion. To me, painting is like magic; it's like in a child's world where animals can talk and doorways have personality and anything can happen. Through painting, I hope to engage the innate sense of wonder I believe is in everyone." - Kelly Vivanco
Vivanco speaks out of a dedication and a focus to the essentials of visual art. There is a grasping at depicting beauty, at depicting honestly the visions and fascinations that come from in herself, and a striving to do so with increasing adeptness, all of which have fortunately resulted in great appreciation in San Diego and far beyond. Her pieces stand proudly as works that portray intimate, oft-neglected truths about humanity, young and old. Maybe we should leave it at that.
And yet, the admirers of Vivanco's canvases and panels continue with their many questions in their attempt to satisfy the knocking at the vague connect between our eyes and our souls that her pieces have inspired. Still, Vivanco refuses simple explanations and sends us away to come up with our own explanations and resulting outlooks, as a parent sends her grown children out to experience life for themselves. Maybe the answers of wisdom we're looking for are really inside our own selves, after all.