Interview by Amanda Quinn Olivar, West Coast Editor
Kelly Brumﬁeld-Woods is a Los Angeles-based painter known for her work with glitter and other materials, exploring the interaction of light and movement and how it affects the viewer’s experience. Kelly began her art career when, after a Venice Art Walk, she sent cards to the participating artists, offering her services as a studio assistant while she completed transfer courses under the mentorship of James Doolin at Santa Monica College. By the time she was accepted to Otis, she was running a full-time studio assistant business, working closely with artists such as Billy Al Bengston, Mary Corse, Charles Christopher Hill and architectural designer Charles Ward, and she made a decision to continue working for the artists rather than return to academia.
Kelly has been included in group exhibitions throughout Southern California, with a 2017 solo exhibit, Subverted, in Los Angeles curated by Erika Hirugami at TAJ Art, and has been proﬁled in various publications. In addition to gallery exhibits, Kelly was commissioned to create a room installation, Glitter Chamber, for Saatchi Art’s Los Angeles art fair in March. She has an arts non-proﬁt, The Art Carter, with her sister and hopes to ﬁnd the time to get it off the ground in the near future.
What was the aha moment that led you to art... and did Los Angeles play a part in your career decision?
The 'aha' moment was a Venice Art Walk in the mid-'80s that I went on with my mom and our neighbor, Hildi Greenson, and it changed my life. The artists’ addresses were all in the art walk directory and I sent little notecards to the artists whose work I liked, offering my assistant services for $10 an hour, and I ended up working for Charles Christopher Hill, Billy Al Bengston, Frank Lloyd (when he was an artist on W. Washington Blvd. and when he had his gallery at Bergamot), and Mary Corse, who was not in Venice but Topanga. I was swept into the 1980s Los Angeles art world, when Rebecca’s, West Beach Cafe, and 72 Market St. were in full swing. Michele Lamy was throwing French farm-themed opening parties at Café Des Artistes and Angus Chamberlin was running his always-packed restaurant Cocola downtown. It was a wild, decadent era and very different from today’s art scene which seems like it has matured and has started taking itself more seriously since then, but maybe that’s just me.
How has living in LA informed your approach and aesthetic?
I’m from LA so I don’t know anything else; however, I do know the light of LA. You can look through any design magazine and see pictures of the light through house windows and know whether or not it’s LA light. We have a glow that is unmistakable when other places have a more silvery light.
I have always paid attention to how an artwork throws off light, even when there’s nothing there. I always walk around it just to be sure. I use glitter, heavy glitter, on my paintings and yes, it throws off light.
When and how did you first feel embraced by our LA art community?
The LA art community is huge! We have so many art spaces, so many artists and many art communities within the community and there’s a place for everyone. I hope there’s more to come as far as embraces go, but I definitely like the pecks on the cheek I get every now and then.
The exhibition speaks about the vitality of our art community. Which pioneering LA artist influenced you the most? And whose work do you find intriguing right now?
As far as my influence, it’s Mary Corse, hands down, and it’s not as much about her paintings but how she has worked continuously, unwaveringly, with a silent determination for decades, back when her success, if it’s measured by acclaim, was nowhere near what it is now. She goes into the studio, puts her blinders and on and does the work. I always have her voice ringing in my ear, “You do what’s necessary” for the painting, and that’s sort of my mantra in the studio. Billy Al Bengston was interesting to be around because he was doing a lot of projects outside traditional art-making—designing offices, restaurants and doing big public art projects—and he’d breeze though it. Unfamiliar territory and new challenges don’t scare him.
There is so much good work right now! I was really moved by Kerry James Marshall’s show at MOCA. That show was so beautiful. It was kind of everything for me, down to the grommets. I will never think of our “gardens” in the same way, and I drive by one of the “gardens” regularly. I always look for the flowers but I don’t see any. I was permanently touched by that show.
Right now, I’m craving the tactile, textile stuff. I love Diedrick Brackens, Shinique Smith, Pia Camil, Kevin Beasley, Nick Cave. I have a body of work in the studio that went that direction a couple of years ago but so far, the only facet of that that’s been shown was the 'Glitter Chamber' Saatchi Art invited me to create for their Los Angeles art fair in March, and since then I’ve been busy making paintings for shows, so the textile stuff is on hold for now.
What is your favorite art accident?
I don’t have much room for art accidents, but I once ran out of glitter mid-glittering and had to use another color to fill in the empty area. It wasn’t horrible, and maybe one of these days I’ll explore that more, but right now it’s just a big gold splotch of a mistake in a sea of silver that hangs in a non-public room in my house. I do spend hours working out drawings for paintings on graph paper, and that can take me down roads I didn’t expect... which is exactly what I hope happens. But once I’m on the canvas, it’s got to be right, because there’s no fixing glitter.
How They Ran
Over The Influence
August 12 - September 5, 2018