Tropicult on Kelly Breez
Words by Rosa Villa
“The artists’ role in society is to point out nuances of the human condition that most people miss while they’re on their grinds.”
When she’s not on her grind, artist Kelly Breez invites locals to gawk at her animated collection of derriere bookshelves and hanging aphorisms. At her solo exhibition at Primary Projects, aptly titled “Fuck it Will Set you Free”, viewers are greeted by continuous yet unconnected pieces, suspended against a backdrop of white walls.
In keeping with her mantra, Breez avoids taking herself too seriously. While wood acts as her canvas, the human stream of consciousness acts as her primary medium. She blends psychedelic sketching with absurd imagery: “Just think, no matter how bad things get, at least Three Six Mafia won an Oscar.” Breez lines the walls with a road map of her mind, highlighting the chaotic and absurd magnificence of being alive. She tells the viewer that art has an obligation to help us understand ourselves better (and if we can chuckle in the process, then all the better!).
Breez explains: “my art is really graphic, sarcastic, slightly crass, and vulgar. Those are some themes I tend to be drawn towards. Coming from a technical standpoint, I gravitate toward things that are really heavy on brush strokes and look really painterly and hand-drawn.”
Like our minds, Breez’s art works are anxious, unfiltered, and mystifying. Amusingly, Breez reacts to the “how-to” culture that seeks to prescribe its readers a functional manual on living. “How to remain Zen while waiting for a representative to assist you” and “How to bounce the fuck back” are craftily embossed on book–like cut outs, hung in perfect alignment along several first editions.
Her pieces could perhaps best be described as ideal fixtures to hang in a creative office, design studio, or in the bedroom. Her art is multi-faceted: it can simultaneously fit in both public and private spaces, while offering subversive visuals that tell us it’s okay to chuck the rule book.
She grooves to her own tune unapologetically. In the words of Charles Bukowski, “there’s no lie in her fire”.
Here’s what else Breez has to say:
What themes do you pursue?
I like to think my work is the visual manifestation of corner-store-culture, with humorous and political undertones.
Where did you study art? And do you think that to be an artist, one should study it formally?
Not so much. My family is full of artists so I started getting interested in art at a young age. I paid close attention to the children’s books I would read and all of the illustrations in them, which I think was the earliest art education and major source of art inspiration I received.
I got into a lot of different kinds of art on my own in the beginning of college when I started taking it more seriously and became more interested in being more technical with rendering things. That being said- I don’t believe that in order to be an artist you need to study it formally.
Some of my biggest art heroes are “folk” artists like Henry Darger and Grandma Moses, both of which have wild imaginations and were extremely driven to make large quantities of art. They never went to school.
I feel like sometimes taking your passion into a formal setting and taking in so many opinions from teachers and other students can actually squelch a lot of that raw drive that most artists naturally possess. Oh and I went to college at New World School of the Arts here in Miami.
What is your weirdest creative ritual?
There’s a lot that occurs behind closed doors when I’m in the studio, buzzing around to different desks and projects acting like a total psychopath. I can have a pretty short attention span sometimes, so I like to skip around through different music videos before I start drawing. They anchor me to one chair, get me a bit more focused on the goal and are a muse of mine. I really like watching movies and shooting film, so for me they almost seem like extensions of drawings. Plus I like to blast the jams while I’m working. It’s a slick 2-4-1.
What jobs have you worked in other than art?
I worked in production for a while when I was living in San Francisco. I was in the art department and I loved it. I started out interning for a guy that owned a prop house. We’d ride around in his truck going from set to set. He walked me into the industry because I found him, wouldn’t take no for an answer and he appreciated it because someone did the same thing for him. I ended up working on quite a few commercials, a couple of shorts and one very fun indie movie where I was the prop master/set decorator.
In your opinion, what’s central to the work of an artist?
You have to pay attention to EVERYTHING. Being a sponge to your environment always keeps you wanting to make more work. It’s also what gives you your specific visual language. No other artist on earth is going to have a point of view like yours because you’re the only one living it.
What’s your favorite art work?
Old liquor store signage.
Name three artists you would like to work with.
Solange, Monica Canilao, Hype Williams.
What time period inspires you the most?
I am a total junkie for British time period dramas. I love that no one has cell phones or laptops and no one is talking about technology other than the occasional eggbeater. I love that they all really soak up what each other are saying and they’re super present in their interactions. On a visual level though- i’d say the late 70s and early 80s are the absolute best. I am always trying to visually exist in that space, or at least pull references, colors and vibes out of it.
What wouldn’t you do without?
What do you dislike about your work?
That it hasn’t pissed off Donald Trump yet.
What do you like about your work?
It is always teaching me things about myself I didn’t realize.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given (creative or otherwise)?
My Dad told me once if you can’t picture yourself doing something that you’re doing now in five years, that you’re wasting your time and to move on. That’s definitely kept me on a path.
What superpower would you have and why?
Middle school me would say I’d be able to melt into a puddle like Alex Mack (because lets be honest she’s the queen) but now I’d say being able to speak any language would obviously have its benefits and be very rad. Being able to (literally) understand other people is essential to always being able to learn new things and have your bubble of existence expanded by cultures other than your own.