Kelly Vivanco, previously featured here on our blog, counts a wide variety of artistic styles among her influences, ranging from Disney movies to Dutch master painters and artists from the Golden Age of illustration. Her study of classical fine art has contributed to her depiction of cartoony, boldly outlined characters in the rich colors that she chooses.
Primarily working in acrylic and oils out of her Escondido, California based studio, Vivanco seeks to evoke the books of her childhood in her paintings. In an interview with Hi-Fructose, she said, “I enjoyed looking through my richly illustrated books, getting absorbed in the worlds. Sometimes I look through a book I haven’t seen since I was little and I have this sense of recognition – like, “Oh my god! I was there!” Like I had actually been in the picture.”
One such book is Hans Christian Andersen’s classic Thumbelina, the story of a tiny girl and her adventures with appearance- and marriage-minded toads, moles, and cockroaches. Vivanco retells the tale in her current solo show, “Tendrils” at Distinction Gallery in California. It’s a story that has been adapted by countless artists over the years, and Vivanco applies her curious and playful characters to the story’s darker themes of rejection, death, loss, and suffering. In one image, the weather starts turning cold and facing certain death, Thumbelina finds the home of an old field-mouse and begs for food.
About the darkness in her work, Vivanco admits that it’s a mystery even to her. “I would like to think that the subjects of my paintings, human or animal, are able to convey hints and glimpses of some larger story that the viewer can connect to,” she says, “it is never my intention to present a preloaded and limited interpretation of my paintings, but to leave it open and release a thousand furling tendrils of stories and connections.”