Keely King plans to show 8 to 10 pieces at JJ Harrington Gallery.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRENNA WEEKS
It’s a tale as old as time: Desert beckons artist. Artist heeds its wild call. Wide-open sandscape inspires innovative art. One of the latest emerging talents to push their work onto the local stage has honed the perspective of Utah transplant Keely King in Burns Canyon, near Pioneertown. In her debut gallery show, King will display her abstract figurative paintings at JJ Harrington Gallery in Cathedral City’s Perez Road Art & Design District. The exhibition, Esthetic Forms: The Sensation of Creating an Illusion, runs from Oct. 7 to 21 and also features sculptures by Tyler Sutton.
What drew you to the High Desert?
I moved to L.A. when I was 17 and lived there for about seven years; my time in the city ran its course. I’d been out here a few times and decided to make the move two years ago after the pandemic got a little crazy.
How does the area inspire your work?
I’ve been able to pull back and go back to basics without all the crazy distractions of the city. I’ve been able to strip things down, to look out onto the horizon and see shapes and colors and be inspired by the landscape. I’ve been able to work on negative space. … I definitely feel a big sense of peace and expansiveness living out here.
Your art studio is an old bus. How does that work?
Yeah. It’s had its challenges, but it’s so cool. When I first started using it, mice ate all of my oil paints. Thousands of dollars’ worth of oil paints. It was crazy. They left certain colors — thankfully my favorite colors, like reds and magentas. But they really got into the ochres and the greens and blues and purples. They ate through the tubes. Now there’s all of these little mouse prints in different colors everywhere.
Have you replaced the paints?
I haven’t replaced them. I’ve just kind of gone back to basics in black and white. Some of my earlier stuff is so colorful, using every single color and not really restricting the palette. So, black and white is really nice at the moment.
What will you show in the gallery exhibition?
I’ll have eight to 10 pieces, kind of depends on where I land. They’re all 48-by-60 inches. Black and white, playing with space and leaving some lines out, so the person can sort of imagine where the line would land in their own mind.
When you’re not painting among the mice, where might we find you?
Pioneertown is cool. The Red Dog is a regular hangout for us. The saloon has been there since the ’40s, but they renovated it recently. It’s very original, a cool spot situated in the middle of town, so you can walk through and see all the sights. I order the mezcal margarita — they have a very big mezcal selection.