Kelly Eden has lived a life worthy of the kind of art that she seeks to make: dramatic, layered, vibrant, and unexpectedly meaningful. She fell in love with oil paints at the age of 17, when she enrolled in the Denver School of the Arts. She was there only briefly before graduating and heading to the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. There, she honed her skills both as a painter and, in a way, as a painting: she modeled for her fellow artists and designed a very effective social-media presence for herself. That online presence, in fact, was so compelling that it soon went viral, drawing an enormous amount of attention to Kelly and her work. As an alternative model, she graced magazine covers and generated a lot of interest in the “tattoo pastel” aesthetic that she represented at the time. Multiple magazine spreads featured an interesting double feature: Kelly’s paintings, alongside photographs of Kelly herself. She was able to parlay her artistic fame into an “influencer” role and a successful YouTube channel. After nearly ten years of that life, though… the constant stress, self-doubt, and online abuse coming Kelly’s way absolutely forced her to leave it behind. Eventually, with a new appreciation for therapy, she began to rediscover her partially neglected first love: painting. Now, she uses paint to give form to the ideas—both good and bad—that have filled her life with self-compelling significance.
As a person who absolutely rejects bland, titanium white, Kelly Eden has found some of her artistic purpose by reveling in the specifics of the color wheel and in color theory. Life, as she sees it, simply has no room for the fluorescent washout of “pure” white—or for the rough, impermanent “tradition” of canvas as a medium. Instead, she paints on aluminum composite panels over a base of N5 gray, with an eye for bringing out the complex relationships among, and the interesting purities within, the many colors she uses. She paints in a realistic, labor-intensive style that puts emphasis on lighting and context. Thematically, she has begun to focus on evocative portraits of imagined women who represent the “saints” and the “spirits” that have shaped her very interesting life. Kelly had felt disconnected from religious thought and feeling for most of her life… and so, when she found a calling within herself to paint figures called “Mother Lithium” or “Primordial Debt,” the process slowly has revealed to her a deep and unnamed link between her path in life and something beyond. These figures’ mixtures of the positive and the negative, the modern and the ancient, have allowed Kelly’s artistic vision—which is both very specific in its imagery and very open in its metaphors—to bring her strengths together into a mature solidity. -Chris Montgomery
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