Artist Kelcie McQuaid Has a "Desire to Build a Better Scene in Fort Lauderdale"

Kelcie McQuaid's excitement about her third solo show in her first year as a full-time painter was apparent even over the phone.

"I have been an artist for many years, showing and selling work for about five now," the 25-year-old says. "However, this is my first year taking it on as a full-time occupation. My work is art. It's my bread and butter. It is my passion."

Her work reveals a desire to express herself and connect with humanity, combining abstraction and portraiture. "Everyone has problems, but I express them through my art, and it helps a lot," she says with a laugh. "I tend to be a very emotional person. Even speaking to you now, I've already choked up twice thinking about the things that I'm reflecting on and the problems I have in my life. I deal with them in paint." She pauses to let out another laugh before continuing: "It allows me to look into myself and find the solutions that I need to get through."

She says a blank canvas is the most inspiring part of painting. "I like it!" she declares. "The intimidation makes me feel alive. It offers me power in a way to create something new. The intimidation of that, what some would call intimidation, I'd call it inspiration. That white canvas gives me an opportunity to make it whatever I want, to take an idea and make it real."

This show is actually a multimedia collaboration with experimental music and burlesque that doubles as an album release for Adam Matza's electronic experimental album Refractions & Echoes. Her first solo show, "Universe Expanding," took place in February at the Bubble, and she showed at an art walk pop-up in June. For this show, she created 46 new mixed-media pieces.

Below you will find a Q&A with McQuaid where she tells us her origins in art, schools us on her style, and reveals a bit more about her explorative aesthetic.

New Times: What's your art background?

Kelcie McQuaid: I went to school for marketing administration and have worked as a graphic designer and illustrator for several years before deciding to take on art full-time. My passion is in the visual and interactive arts. Thanks to my kindergarten art teacher, Mr. Birmingham, I helped create a mural at the ripe age of 7 that I'm proud to say still stands flawless in Wilton Manors today.

At 16 years old, I volunteered as an assistant teacher for the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art and interned with the Cultural Division of Broward County. By 20, I was selling artwork at various group shows and playing with the idea of making this a professional venture. I never attended art school, but life experience and the mentors I met along the way have taught me more than any institution ever could.

What mediums do you use?

Ink, acrylic, gel medium, and mylar are my favorites at the moment. I tripped over a roll of mylar recently, and something went off in my brain that led to the work I'm doing now. I use pigments and various binding mediums to make my own paint. It's my favorite part of the process.

How did you find your style?

It took many years of experimenting to refine my style to what it is now. Mixed media always interested me. Jackson Pollock was a big influence and trusting the mediums and techniques I've learned over the years helped define my style. Recently, I've been playing with transparency and light, color psychology, and iconic imagery. I'm not sure if I can find the words to explain inspiration or how the ideas come to mind, but it feels like a fluke, and a bit like a first kiss.

The drip work comes from my desire to dance and play when I paint. I paint to music, always. I used to paint realistically, but I found it rather boring, so working in an abstract way offered me the speed and lightness I wanted to feel when creating the work. For me, it's more about emotion than anything else. How I'm feeling in the moment greatly influences the work, and how the audience feels when engaging the piece keeps me inspired.

I aim to make people feel something. The world can be rather numbing at times, and this is my way of connecting to people and letting them know that I feel it too. It reminds me that we're human and life is delicate.

There's a graphic element to your women out of comic books. Where did it come from?

I've never thought of them as women from comic books, although I think that style is really rad. I only have one painting at my home that isn't my great grandmother's, a friend's, or my own, and it's Roy Lichtenstein's "Ohhh...Alright..." (1964). It's actually influenced me quite a bit over the years. Her sad eyes, thick black lines, bright colors... I guess that's got something to do with it. Besides that, I'd say it has more to do with being confronted by female anatomy every day, in magazines, on TV, in art galleries or just when glancing at the mirror.

Do you strictly draw women? If so, why?

I wouldn't say I strictly illustrate women. I love women, and cherish the relationships I have with the strong, brilliant, completely open, and vulnerable women in my life. I find those qualities to be the most beautiful. Sometimes I paint children playing, and boys being boys, or iconic imagery I find in old magazines relating to my interests. History and social issues also come up a lot, but not in such a literal way. I like to do things honestly, so when I present these concepts it's from a feminine perspective, my own. That's the only way I know how.

Then there are these splashes of what appears to be watercolor in your work. What is it about watercolor that you like?

I love watercolor, but I don't use it on canvas. I do however carry water soluble crayons in my purse, and use them regularly to sketch out concepts before painting them in acrylic and Ink.

What do you want people to take away from your art?

I don't necessarily want them to take anything away from it but rather add to it, add something from their imagination. The abstract work allows space for minds to wonder and create.

I want to inspire people, particularly little girls like me. I think little girls need love more than most, and I want them to know they're worthy of it. Self-love is important, and I get most of mine from painting. I hope one day, some little girl is inspired enough to create a masterpiece that gives her a legacy, the ability to live on through the canvas. Anything I endure would be worth it, if I can only inspire one girl or bring her happiness in any way. That's my dream.

How did you get involved in this multi-media event at Two&?

Adam Matza contacted me, in the most humble way, via Facebook, (laughs) ... After seeing the space at Two& and talking over a couple beers, I said yes, as we share in the desire to build a better scene in Fort Lauderdale.

I really believe our town has more to offer than the obvious beaches and babes. There is a movement happening, and experimental one, doused in emotion, colored brilliantly by the people it engages, evoking that playful spirit in all of us. I think you'll find a lot of that at this show.

Kelcie Mcquaid, 9 p.m. Saturday, October 11, at Two&, 1517 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, as part of the Refractions & Echoes Release Party. Music by Adam Matza, Steven Bristol, Kenny Millions, and Rizzletron and burlesque performances by the Wicked Ways Sideshow. The show will be up until October 16. Any paintings sold on the first night will be taken off the walls that night.

Refractions & Echoes is Adam Matza's first musical release as a solo artist after the Weeds. It is a mix of experimental, improvisational excursions into ambient sound and noise. Check out Refractions & Echoes.

Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.

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