Kaele Mulberry is one of the current artists in residence at Main Street Arts, working out of one of our second floor studio spaces during the month of April. We asked Kaele some questions about her work and studio practice.
Q: Tell us about your background.
I was born in Sodus, NY, but when I was two my family moved south to Dallas, Georgia. I spent the majority of my childhood there—running barefoot on dry grass, sipping honeysuckle, and drawing in the shade. We relocated back north to Newark, NY in the summer of 2004 and I have lived there since.
I graduated from Alfred University in 2016 with a BFA and a minor in art history. After graduating I made an improvisational studio in the closet of my childhood room. At the moment I juggle working as a barista in the mornings and afternoons, and painting in my little studio in the evenings.
Q: How would you describe your work?
More recently I have been really into the atmospheric qualities of layered watercolor and the buttery texture of gouache. I find that these two mediums work best with my choice of scale. I love the excitement of being overwhelmed by a large canvas, but even more so the meditative, scrawling, clenched fist process of working small. There is a preciousness about holding something small in your hands.
Recently I have been painting a lot of raccoons. During my morning commute it is not uncommon to pass by several unfortunate road-crossers, especially raccoons or opossums. I have begun painting them to, in my own way, pay homage. More recently my work subjects innocent and tender moments exchanged between humans and animals.
Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
I start with a sketch, and then create more sketches based off the first sketch. Most of the time I like my drawing more than a finished painting.
There’s a looseness and a spontaneous quality in my drawings that I am still working to capture in my paintings. I end up scrapping a lot of work because of this. Restarting and being frustrated about it is a short but important process for my work and for me. I usually work on two pieces at once to keep things fresh and to stave off disinterest. I find it best to come back to an image with refreshed eyes.
Q: What are your goals for this residency?
My project is a series called Ugly Planet, a collection of paintings that illustrate a utopian planet where the dichotomy between humans and animals has been dismantled. Ugly Planet describes the conventional human tendency to alienate and disparage the unfamiliar and strange. The content of this series is not meant to be jarring or violent, rather, it is to blur the presumptive roles of humans and animals.
The underbelly of this series is inspired by roadkill. My personal interest in this series is to pay homage to the birds, foxes, raccoons, and opossums I so often encounter on my daily commute. I wish to illustrate a wistful imagining of their lives uninhibited by humanity’s environmental intervention, while also portraying them amidst activities and settings that are recognizably human.
My big mission is to walk away from this residency with many paintings and, hopefully, a book of this series. I am convincing myself to let this series bend and grow however it needs too.
Q: What do you listen to when you work? How does it affect your artwork?
I find that I need to always listen to something to keep myself awake and focused. I only let myself listen to podcasts when I’m working, and because I like to marathon episodes, this usually keeps me working for longer. A few podcasts that I’m always listening to are Lore; My Brother, My Brother, and Me; and The Adventure Zone. I definitely recommend them.
For music, I’m currently into the narrative of Sam Beam and the chaotic and exuberant energy of Dan Deacon.
Q: Who is your favorite artist and why?
I have a handful of favorite artists. Remedios Varo is an artist that I am drawn to because of her immersive and fantastical scenes. Gustav Klimt is another favorite, especially his “Golden Phase” and landscape paintings. I have far too many favorite contemporary artists, but to name a few: Teagan White, and her detailed paintings of flora and fauna succumbing to the gentle and cruel hands of nature; Rebecca Green, whose gouache paintings of curious children and animals reverberate nostalgia; and Estée Preda, with her folk tale inspired watercolors.
Q: What’s next for you?
I expect to print and distribute Ugly Planet during or shortly after my residency. I am hoping to ready an online shop up with prints, originals, books, and zines. I will definitely be found brewing fresh coffee and pouring lattes for friends and familiar faces. I will also be moving to Canandaigua and upgrading from my closet studio to a room studio.