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Sometime last year I received a portfolio from a painter in San Francisco who dedicated little room to description. She summarized that she was born in the South, initiated into art academia in Chicago, and realized as a painter on the West Coast. What her presentation lacked in self-aggrandizement it made up for in substance. Deep, murky canvases let just enough life slip through for dream figures to emerge, darkness swirling about as if the viewer were peering out of a glass jar into the fog of the ocean floor. It was that peering out, that notion of something coming into the light, that held my attention.

Intrigued by the images, I Googled Reule’s name and browsed the various gallery listings and art profiles, a few new images uncovered with each click. There were glimpses of Reule’s more recent work, which is dominated by lighter colors than the images obscured in dark tones that have become her calling card, that is different yet obviously within the reaches of her trademark style.

Reule’s paintings have an uncanny ability to both answer questions and ask new ones, and with no obvious answers to some of the most gnawing, it would be up to the painter herself to shed some light on the stories within her canvases. Reule took some time out from her work to discuss the purpose of art, the perspectives of artist and viewer, and the mechanics of process.

LAS: A good place to start would be with where you started as a painter - how did you get into it?

Keli Reule: I have essentially painted all my life or my life that I can remember. I just have generally always made things. But I took art class at school and what not, and have always played music as well. I have a very musical family, and I was always allowed to create. So, yeah, I don’t really think I have ever not made things. But I started to paint with intention in high school and then I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then transferred to the San Francisco Art Institute to study and was a painting major. I continue to sort of be surrounded by people who are great innovators and generally brilliant, and that stirs the pot a lot, so to speak.

Reading up about your work, and what other people have said about it, the idea that it is dark, or somehow haunting, seemed to pop up a bit. The pervasive idea was portrayed as one of blackness, of darkness swallowing people. But I seem to look at it in the opposite, that the images represent a lightness, of faces bleeding through the mist, coming out of the darkness. Would either of those approaches be accurate?

Well, I don’t so much view them in either of those regards, although both seem like interesting ideas to me. I am much more interested in the relationship between the figure(s) and the elements external to it/them, There exists only enough information to provide grounds for some sort of narrative or experience. But what that narrative/experience is, in terms of how it is perceived by the viewer, I am not particularly interested in. I mean in these specific paintings, I am very interested in that as a concept, but not so much here, merely because that’s not what their about. But in terms of them being tonally dark in content or color of course is quite intentional, but intentional in an organic way. I take responsibility for what I put in my own paintings but I am aware that some of that process is still mysterious.

A lot of times it seems like a painter includes ambivalence - or at least a lack of a defined agenda - in the perspective of their work in a way that not only facilitates interpretation, but also implies a vagueness. A lot of paintings seem non-committal to me. How much of your work is an avenue of personal expression, of dictating your ideas, and how much of it is centered around the idea of creating dialogue, or at least posing questions for the viewer?

I have an entirely different paradigm about process than that. So inherently I am probably going to approach those very notions differently, beause I do not think - and I’m talking about paintings at large that I have in my sphere of reference be it historical awareness or just that I have seen - but I don’t think that dictating ones ideas directly, art being solely an avenue of personal expression, and creating dialogue with or posing a question to the viewer aren’t all entirely capable of existing within the same context/painting/blahblahblah. Those ideas are unavoidable if you make things, whether you like it or not. I think work that is compelling and, for lack of a better word, “works” - as in so much as it functions - almost always, whether it is very clear message or rests in a more conceptual complex environment, must have room for the viewer. There has to be some kind of brevity. Whether the work is chaotic, big, small, street, fine art, conceptual, demure, pedantic- whatever… if there is no room for me in it as a viewer, I don’t necessarily dislike it. But I am not going to spend a lot of - Lost At Sea


Q) So, can you tell me a little about yourself? Full name, age, some background info, etc?

A)My name is Keli Elizabeth Reule. I’m 25. I grew up in North Carolina, in the southeast US. I used to live in Chicago and went to school there and then transferred schools and finished in CA, and have lived in San Francisco for a little over 5 years. I have one older brother. I love rock and roll more than most things in life and I love Italian food and beer and live in the tenderloin district of SF.

Q)How did you get started making art?

A)I have always made things. So I am not sure how “I started”. It’s just always been there. But I have a very musical family and we always played music and sang a lot growing up. And I took art class and things like that as a child and always made drawings and paintings. My dad’s house is like one big embarrassing art gallery of Keli. But I started painting w/ some intention in high school I suppose and then went I to art school. And dabbled in photo and film in college and eventually went back to painting.

Q)How would you describe your art?

A)Awesome. Kidding. It gets hard to describe to people because i’m so close to it, so I try and whittle it down to something like- large-scale oil paintings. Limited palette. Some figurative elements. Blah blah blah.

Q)Who is your biggest influence, both art and non-art related

A)Influence in and of itself is a wildly complicated thing and difficult to nail down just due to the vast mysteries of our minds, hearts, and souls and their relationships to things like skill, tools, resources, work ethic, ect. But in essence I am really influenced by other art, music, books/writers, my relationships, surroundings, and experience. But really its just life, as it were. Anyhow some of them are:Edward Ruscha, Goya, Francis Bacon, Keifer, Elizabeth Peyton, Richard prince, Lucien Freud, William Kentridge, Kiki Smith, Robert Rauschenberg, Banksy. Ha. Super influenced by photography done before 1950. Film noir, and black and white aesthetics in general. i.e. any photo or film stuff done w/ limited access to contemporary tools.Blonde Redhead, Zeppelin, Radio head, Sonic Youth, Nina Simone, Tom Waits, Miles Davis, Mingus, SabbathFlannery O’Conner, Faulkner, Joan Didion, Pablo Neruda, Chekhov, Saul Bellow. James Joyce. Good friends and artists- Karin Olsson, Henry Lewis, Shawn Barber. Everyone I love. Friends and Enemies.

Q) How do you approach the creation of a new piece… how does everything come together?

A)There is a process but there is no FORMULA here, and the moment it starts to feel mechanical I try and rethink. But- Its starts (usually) with a photograph as an idea. Or w/ an idea for a photograph, which I subsequently shoot. Then I get a sketch going on a small scale and start to hash some things out conceptually. Then It moves to the canvas w/ a sketch and then I start painting. Once there is paint involved it becomes a completely different animal. I try and leave the paintings up to their own devices- if something is not working well, not serving the painting as a whole, then it goes. Even if it took me a considerable amount of time and effort (or luck) to get something to look a certain way technically. If it doesn’t work it doesn’t work. The moment it becomes too precious you’re in danger of letting it control everything, which is to say that the painting would now be about technicality. Or if certain facets seem to be creating a different idea than I had initially intended then I’ll (usually) go with it. Depends on how egomaniacal I’m feeling. Although sometimes I just have to really work work work to get an effect or something of that nature. Sometimes its just blood and sweat.

Q) What’s your favorite medium to work in, and why?

A)o-o-o-oil paintttttttttttttttt. It’s just the way it comes out. And I just love the paint as a thing. I like to work in a lot of other mediums and most certainly love other mediums in regards to my taste and aesthetic as a viewer/consumer. But I work in oil due to the technical ramifications mostly.

Q) What is your favorite art related web site?

A)There are a lot. But here are some of my favorite-

Q) Is your work all hand done? Or do you use any computer tools to help out?

A)Yeah. Its all just pencil, canvas and paint. But I am by no means, ideologically speaking- a purist. Some of my favorite pieces of art are done using a great deal of tools. And I will occasionally use a transfer or something if I need to get something done quickly. But 95 percent of the time, at least up until this point, its “hand done”.

Q) What, in your opinion, are the best and worst places to exhibit artwork?

A)This is a really hard question because that is going to depend entirely on what it is that you are showing. Paintings, specifically, seem to be best suited to a place where they are the focus. But - Foggy Grizzly


Conquistador- EP



Cervantes is a project about stories and is written mostly on the piano, but sometimes mythically and subsequently fleshed out in a multitude of ways. This recording is meant to be listened to as a single unit. For the sake of logistics, it has been cut into "tracks", here. But listen however you like.