Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Kelly Peters is a visual artist living and working in Aspen, Colorado. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting/Drawing from Northern Michigan University in 2014. She also attended the Vienna Academy of Visionary Art to study traditional oil painting techniques, taking the course "Visions in the Mischtechnik" in 2013. She currently works out of her art studio and gallery ‘Straight Line Studio’ in Snowmass Base Village, Colorado.
Chains of mountains are the recurring setting of your work. What ideas are you exploring in your work?
Mountains make me open up to freedom. They represent the feeling of flow, the feeling of letting go and they remind me to be humble. I have been painting mountains since I was a child, living in Michigan. It is a very flat place. So, I have always been drawn to hills, mountains and waterfronts. I have carried on finding various ways to depict them in my work. I dove into the mountain series about 4 years ago, which actually happened by accident. When I stopped trying to paint something, the ridgelines begun to emerge.
How do you explain your art practice in 3 words?
Free, Fun and Fulfilling.
You received your Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Northern Michigan University. What kind of experiences have you been through finding yourself in the world of contemporary art?
I received my BFA from NMU. NMU wasn't familiar with the art world, and was located at a distance from metropolis. In retrospect, studying in NMU really wasn’t the top choice for an art school in order to be acknowledged in the contemporary art world. However, being isolated worked in my favour as I wasn’t influenced by other contemporary artists. I was able to develop my own style, hone in on my skills and stay true to my inspiration. I think, if you’re not inspired by a place, a city or a country, then you won’t be able to produce valuable, fulfilling work. Having lived in the woods and near by the great lakes, I have always felt connected to nature which inspired my artistic practice. I don’t know what I would be painting if I was suffering from the anxiety of city life.
Which cities have you lived in? How did they affect your creative process?
Most of my life, I have always lived in small towns. After finishing my studies, I spent a year in Portland, Oregon, where I had a difficult time finding an art community. I think living in Portland was inspiring in terms of witnessing what other artists and galleries were doing, being aware of the art scene which was a highly unfamiliar concept to me throughout my college years. I may be moving to a city in future. I’ve got good practice of the mountains and I don’t want to walk away from it until I am completely done it with.
Can you talk a bit about your life in Aspen?
I am based out of Aspen, Colorado. It’s a very small town, a tourist destination. Despite being a tucked away, little town there is a mix of people coming to visit from different cultures. Aspen has been a really great place to live in. I met people from all over the world since I came here. There are also major galleries and well-known, big events taking place. Who would have thought that a tiny ski-bum town would support artists? I would never reckon it, not in a million years, ending up here and carrying on a sustainable artistic career when I first visited here to ski. Living here is difficult in many aspects. Being an expensive city, the rent is almost on par with the rent prices in San Francisco. The seasonality can also be very difficult. Aspen is a ghost town for 5 months of a year. So, for everyone working in certain industries, leaning into long, hard working days of winter is a must.
Where’s your artist studio located? What’s a typical day in the studio like?
My studio is about 20 minutes away from my apartment. Every day is different from one other depending on a series or commissioned projects that I work on. Currently, I’m working on both of them. I like to have a finger in every pie to avoid stagnancy. Mostly, I use my Ipad to lay out color palettes, work on sketches to feel prepared for some works that I like to plan out. Other times, I just start painting canvases blindly and see where they end up.
Do you have a motto in life?
‘Giving up isn’t a fucking option’:) & ‘Make more’
Do you collect any objects as an artist?
I collect tuna cans and old magazine cut outs of landscapes, aerial views, water and mountains.
Is there any memorable trip that has had an impact on your life?
Heading to New Zealand and photographing Mount Cook was the most incredible trip that I’ve taken so far. I created few paintings inspired by that trip. I still come across emotions reminding me of that trip which also come up in my work.
Who inspires you?
I am inspired by my studio mate; Teal, on a personal level. I think working along with another artist affects your art practice on/at a subconscious level, whether you realize it or not. It’s great to have someone to hold you accountable for working in such an isolated career. I love Ashley Longshore’s work and her tenacity even more. I am also inspired by women artists who start from scratch and never give up. If you want to be an artist, you have to face up the challenges of working hard, so I look up to people like her who have made success at their careers.
Are there any books that changed the way your way of seeing?
I have been reading the book Ninth Street Women for a while which is a long read, but it has truly been one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. I would recommend it to artists who are interested in abstract expressionism.
Lastly, going through self-quarantine days, what are the things that you’ve started to appreciate the most for the last couple of weeks?
Being able to go to my studio and to paint. Painting is really important for my mental health and I recommend it to everyone who has plenty of free time. I want to find a way to extend my knowledge, and want more people to embrace their own creativity. I am highly grateful for my family, and for the basics of life. Health is an outstanding one!