We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelsey Grina and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelsey, how do you think about risk?
I’ve packed up my life and moved thousands of miles back and forth across the globe and truly feel that riding a bicycle is a bigger risk. The term ‘risk’ is difficult to define because it really depends on perspective. In society’s eyes, a lot of my life decisions have been ‘risky,’ but I feel the opposite. My idea of risk is a bit skewed having grown up in an environment as volatile as Kuwait; the fact that we had to evacuate multiple times due to conflict in Iraq is somewhat desensitizing when it comes to the concept of risk. It has given me a unique perspective and I believe it has allowed me to be more optimistic about risk-taking. I am eager to meet new people, experience new environments, and this feeds me by giving me more to process and interpret. My favorite risk was moving to and living in Rome for a year to paint and immerse myself in the culture. My plans went sideways and the pandemic kept it from lasting longer but I’m grateful for the experience. I believe risk is a necessary part of the balance of life and is a force that pushes us forward.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My works are unapologetically and imperfectly feminine, capturing the flawed spirit of the rebellious female with vibrant color palettes. I paint women because I was raised in a country molded by sexual censorship and conservative gender roles. I spent the first sixteen years of my life in Kuwait, and then lived there briefly as an adult to pursue a career in teaching art. Living overseas for the majority of my life has made me feel more comfortable in foreign countries than in the US, and has allowed me to choose a home rather than have roots in one specific place. I gravitated to Rome specifically because of the profound historical and contemporary admiration for the female figure, romanticism, and sensuality that directly contrasted Middle Eastern mentality. The cultural dualities that I have experienced are what influence my larger-than-life oil portraits; I often highlight superficial imperfections and challenge the status-quo idea of beauty. This appears with aversions to traditional beauty standards, subtle cross-eyed gazes, and women in unapologetic poses, instead of delicate portrayals of mainstream perfection. I am also fascinated by color psychology, and enjoy playing with the polarizing emotions behind each color; I believe these dualities tap into a complex and alluring aura. I communicate my introversion through extroverted color palettes and rough, gestural strokes to form my femme figures and portraits.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite thing to do and share with friends is a little flower market/Little Tokyo/Arts District excursion. My typical flower day consists of going to the flower market and then hitting the Little Tokyo market on the way home for a spam musubi. If I’m bringing friends, I take them to my favorite vendors, give a little tour of the flower market, and hunt for the new and weird things blooming. Walking through there is a form of detox and super refreshing; I’m in love with the sensory overload of bright colors, exotic textures, and wonderful fragrances. We’re usually starving by the end of it, so heading for a quick snack from the Tokyo Market a few blocks away is next. Then we head back to the warehouse to process the flowers and build some fun bouquets. If there’s time/things are open, hopping over to the breweries right down the street are always ideal! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to my fairy godmother, Alicia. She has been a wonderful beakon of light for me during the pandemic. She’s supported my creative endeavors by inspiring me and by helping me evolve. She lives in a creative loft warehouse in the Arts District as well and I’ve worked with her to start hosting classes and workshops there. I’ve gotten back into teaching because of her (I’m doing drawing classes with live models there) and am so glad to have this rewarding experience back in my life.
Other: Foundation: https://foundation.app/kelseygrina Rarible: https://app.rarible.com/kelseygrina/collectibles Artwork Archive: https://www.artworkarchive.com/profile/kelseygrina
Danielle Simone, Elizabeth Engle