Kelly Bjork Interview - The Hopper Prize

Kelly Bjork

Kelly Bjork on opening a solo exhibition, making art since childhood, & and finding inspiration in life and community.

How did you get into making art?

I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil, and that never stopped. I’m lucky to have been encouraged to continue honing my art skills growing up; although, honestly, I don’t know if there’s really anything else I would be doing.

What are you currently working on?

I recently finished a new body of work for a solo show titled, “Swimming Naked.” It depicts intimate vignettes illustrating moments of queer joy and self-expression/identity. The show opened at Seattle’s J. Rinehart Gallery on October 6th and is up through November 5th!

My life and community are what inspire me.

Kelly Bjork

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

My life and community are what inspire me. After feeeling completely blocked during the pandemic, I decided that what I wanted viewers to see was blatant queer-pleasure and to look at this new work and feel that joy. The catalyst for this body of work came from being asked to paint what Pride meant to me for PublicDisplay.Art (a local arts newspaper), and this gave me the space to continue investigating my own queer identity.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I tend to work in series. Once I get an idea for a piece, more will snowball and I find I work best with all of them communicating together for a period while I work on multiple simultaneously. Often I am approached with specific projects, which can then consume my practice. I was asked to design and paint a 4×6 foot canvas to hang in a vet clinic’s office to greet its furry visitors. I came up with this fun lively bunch of goofy animal friends in hopes to help calm those furry visitors and their parents while in the space. And a project like that took about a month to complete.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

Ha! I wish I could simply answer that, but it is so unpredictable in here! Usually I start with a cup of black tea, a chat with my studio neighbors, and then hope to sit down and draw with house music blasting for hours until a meal break and do it all over again. I probably don’t get into the studio until the afternoon on most days, I’m a late riser and tend to work into the night — leaving my studio between 10pm-2am.

Who are your favorite artists?

David Hockney
Suzanne Valadon
Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita
Kerry James Marshall
Hilma af Klint
Sarah McEneaney
Jonas Wood
just to name a few!

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Galleries, museums, instagram and good ole google!

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