Raleigh-based artist Kiki Farish is one of our favorite regional artists. We were so happy that she received a NC Arts Council Fellowship Award, and loved the opportunity to see her work in a current exhibition celebrating the recipients at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, NC.
HappeningsCLT: Describe yourself in three words
Kiki Farish: Marked as Eve’s.
HCLT: Who or what inspires you artistically?
KF: Wow! So I just went to Italy and saw these fragmented frescoes in the Bargello of Florence, dating back to the 1200’s. There were missing parts of the images, lost through time; vibrancies and meanings spoke through muted colors. The broken images actually opened up the possibilities for interpretation. I was thrilled with the moments of clarity balanced with ambiguity.
Travel to Italy was a new experience for me, but everyday ordinary spaces are opportunities for unique responses. Driving home in NC at twilight offers up color palettes and textures that are as fabulous as those frescoes.
HCLT: When did you realize you were an artist?
KF: In my late thirties, I took a composition course at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, taught by Paul Hartley. Paul taught how to engage the viewer, not with a single focal point, but by moving and directing their eyes within the drawing or painting. With this experience came the desire to express more than replication, but also how I’m feeling about the world around me.
HCLT: Tell us about your current body of work.
KF: I am recording a sense of place – a woman’s place. My record keeping is born out of awareness that allowing women to choose the course of their own lives goes deeply against a very old grain and women are constrained in a special way through control of their sexuality. The evidence is subtle in Western Society. For example, during a 2011 presidential debate, Mitt Romney explained in reference to his female Chief of Staff: “women in the work force…sometimes you need to be more flexible.” Personally, I didn’t catch this demonstration of gender bias until the talking heads pointed it out to me. This is not a sudden epiphany but my work wrestles and nestles with resolution through process. So, my recorded marks have moments of clarity, but there are many gray areas, lost edges, and ambiguities. True to my southern upbringing, this record asserts influence in veiled ways. Using symbolic meanings and visual attributes of flowers, placement of text and emotional marks are elements that are meant to be read as fragments. My work is narrative but open ended for today’s audience – much like what I recognized in the Italian frescoes.
HCLT: Where can we see your work?
KF: I have a public studio at Artspace on East Davie in Raleigh, NC that I share with Becky Joye, so it’s open most business hours. Also, my work is currently on view in Point & Counterpoint at SECCA in Winton-Salem, NC until mid-January 2016. Additionally, I’ll have work at Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington, NC in January 2016; and Bank of the Arts, New Bern, NC in August 2016. Then in 2017, I will have an exhibition at The Block Gallery in Raleigh, NC from April 5 until May 19, 2017. You can also always find my work on my website.
HCLT: What do you think is the most valuable art experience in the Carolinas?
KF: The North Carolina Arts Council is supportive on so many levels. I experienced the support of artists and organizations in Eastern NC, and now in the Triangle area. The Council views the arts as an industry that fuels the state’s economy. This perspective matters and inspires artists to act from this point of view. And then there’s Penland, where I am headed for a Winter Residency in January.
HCLT: What book is on your nightstand right now?
KF: Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces by Miles J. Unger. It is so packed with information about Michelangelo that I am taking my time pouring over it.
HCLT: What is your number one art piece/place/event in NC?
KF: We live within walking distance from the North Carolina Museum of Art. Popping over there to grab a visual treat is heavenly. I often visit Tom Shields’ Forest for the Chairs in the Park but also Per Kirkeby’s Fissure in the West building.
HCLT: What’s up next?
KF: Working in graphite achromatic tones is my comfort zone. Bumping up against hues through oil paint in chromatic grays might break me out.