By Carina Hume 6/15/09
Humor is a big part of artist Kelli Snivelys life: Spill a glass of red wine on a new bride? Recreate it in a painting called Two Mad Brides. (She stepped on the other ones dress.) Have a lovable Welsh corgi with big ears? Make him your muse for numerous paintings.
Well-known for her folksy and caricatured pieces over the last 25 years, the Levering resident brings her fun and sass to downtown Petoskeys Mitchell Street, Thursday-Saturday each week.
With a bubblegum pink doorway leading to her upstairs studio, art-lovers should have no trouble finding their way.
Born in Petoskey and raised in Good Hart, this Harbor Springs High School grad first studied photography.
Ive been an artist since I started out as a photographer (at 16). My dad built me a darkroom in the basement with no ventilation, Snively says with a laugh. I didnt know what I was doing. But then I went to Western (Michigan University) and I majored in photography; I would just photograph and then paint on it. They werent your typical, nice landscapes, but still kind of my style.
Creativity runs in her family.
My dad was very creative; he was always making things, remembers Snively.
Brother Kirby is a well-known musician and furniture maker.
For years, I didnt think I could draw, because [Kirby] can draw anything; hes very talented that way and very talented musically, so I was afraid of it for quite a while. I had to take a painting class in college and I fought it, but once I got there it was like, Oh, I can do this; it was kind of fun.
FOLKSY, FUN AND RECYCLED
I can draw the model, but Im not interested in that perfect stuff. I like the crazy, the different, admits Snively. I like to work with funny stuff; humor is a big thing. She enjoys painting with oil on wood and creating whimsical pieces with rich color and texture.
Recycled cookie tins found at yard sales and antiques shops are the basis for her newest and most durable works. I have a lot of tin in my studio up north, she says. I cut it up, measure it out, and make pounded and recycled pieces. I love doing it, but Ill be working on that at home I cant do noisy things in here.
While living in the Virgin Islands, Snively noticed flattened bottle caps, rusted due to the areas saltwater, discarded on the ground. I started collecting those; they were like coins. Then, when I went to Europe, I started saving all the cool, different caps, like the cow on the milk jug. Arranging manipulated bottle caps on wood became one of Snivelys trademarks.
Im still doing the bottle caps, she says. I used to have the Pub save them and now people bring them and drop them off on the doorstep.
AN ARTISTS INSPIRATION
Inspiration for new work comes to Snively in a variety of ways: You see funny things or just somebody reacts, she says. I used to paint from dreams, but I havent done that in awhile. I have crazy dreams!
Years ago, living in New York City and traveling to the Virgin Islands and Europe provided inspiration. She painted agave plants in the Caribbean, and churches and architecture on recycled tin to pay the rent in Spain.
I have a book that I write titles down in, then once in awhile if Im stuck I look in there, Snively says.
A change of scenery in Petoskeys downtown district is bound to inspire something new.
I really do like to stay home and paint (in Levering), but I was getting stagnant, she admits.
Welsh corgi Wilbur, and Snivelys cats even make appearances in some of her works.
I read a lot of bios on artists that keeps me going, says Snively, whos inspired by surrealist contemporary painter Francesco Clemente. He was very prolific one time he had three gallery shows at once in New York. And I like Mark Ryden from California. He makes creepy look good; I love his work.
Reading and web-surfing helps her stay current. I keep in touch with what other artists are doing, just so you feel like youre in the same life.
A dedicated artist, Snively will always have art in her life. I think its just, needing to, she says. If I get away from it for a while I start getting anxious; its something I kind of have to do.
Visit Kelli Snively at her upstairs studio in downtown Petoskey at 436 E. Mitchell St. (just up from Mitchell St. Pub) on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Her work is also available at the Michigan Artists Gallery in Suttons Bay, Gallery on Main in Bay Harbor and the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey. For more information go to www.kellisnively.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org