KD Neeley | A Brief Biography
Today is March 22, 2017. I feel the date is relevant because I will change by the next time I write this biography again. I know that there is a proper way to do this but it doesn't work for me. I think the first challenge is that I don't know who I'm talking to. Information is only interesting in context and any information about me could only possibly be interesting in the context of somebody else's experience, even if that experience is between a past and future self. I don't know what to say about making art when I don't know who I'm talking to. Art doesn't even exist without the viewer.
I was born in New Mexico, and that's where I live now. I moved back to New Mexico in October of 2010. Before that I had gone to New Zealand, to Colorado, Paris Island, North Carolina, 29 Palms, Okinawa, Fuji, Thailand, Jacksonville and then Iraq. Fellow Marines probably recognize the trail. I was married when I got out and lived in California for a time, Oceanside and Fallbrook and travelled between Los Angeles and San Diego on the art scene, working at a gallery in Carlsbad. I have four brothers and one sister and my parents are divorced. Half of my family is a mix of heavily spiritual non-Catholic Christians and the other half is a more relaxed but steady goers to Catholic church. I'm an Atheist. I used to be a missionary, but that's another story.
I've made a few paintings since my EAS back in October, 2007. None of them yet express much of what I experienced as a Marine or much of what I really feel now, as an adult. The handful of things I have created have been for school, commissions, and for the ethereal pleasure of the metaphysical aspects of color and emotion. There are also some images I have not shown to anyone, and I don't know if I ever will. I wonder what good it can do.
That last paragraph was true until I painted 'My Lady
'. You may have seen her. She's a Statue of Liberty with the Captain Picard face palm. I've got a few more up my sleeve too. I have no idea what else to tell you. I guess I still have too much to say.
The most useful art teachers I've had in my life have been David Ewart, Gean Kimura, Lance Richlin, and Jennifer Lynn Johnson. I've had other good teachers as well, but these four deserve mentioning especially. I think that every artist is self taught and that's another story too. The relationship between teachers learning from students and students learning from teachers is what makes humanity unique in all the animal kingdom.
I was too young to understand the deeper lessons I learned from David or Mr. Kimura while they taught me. Those lessons teach me still. I learn more from the memory of my lessons than I ever did from the mere moment. I might say this very same thing about Lance and Lynn Johnson one day but I met them later in life and am not yet to the point of retrospect.
Dave taught me how to draw what I see, how to mix color, prepare surfaces, and think in terms of the psychology of visual communication. There were other things he said too, things about life and about the purpose of art, the intentions of work, its role and usefulness...these are the things I still contemplate. I also like to break the rules he taught me whenever I can get away with it. Mr. Kimura would have taught me many of these same things if I hadn't already learned them from Dave.
Mr. Kimura taught me how to think about my work and see it the same way as work made by other artists. He demonstrated a way to treat other people and how the active relationships between people were more real than any painting ever could be. Every day I learn how this is more and more relevant to me, not as an artist, but as a human being. There is no reason to make art without people to share it with and conversations to have. Mr. Kimura was demonstrating a philosophy for how to live a meaningful life. He was the first person to bring me to see the galleries in Santa Fe. He tried his best to support my career but...I didn't know it back then. If I could tell myself what I know now I never would have learned it. He was a wonderful teacher. I should say he is a wonderful teacher since I am still learning from my memories of him.
"Without love, the heart is just a clock ticking." What can I tell you about Lance? It's too soon and I lack the professionalism he deserves. I've never had a more efficient teacher. Ten minutes with Lance will save you ten years of experience. I think we had two classes together and I'd equate it to twenty years. He's the only person I said goodbye to when I left California in terrible circumstances. Not because there weren't other people to say goodbye to, people who also deserved it, but for the knowledge he gave to me in that short time he deserved it the most. He refused to let me pay him for classes because I was a veteran. He was very stubborn about it too, I had to drop money on the floor and wait for him to wonder where the hell it came from and then convince him that it had been laying there and he must have dropped it. He won't know that unless he reads this.
And Lynn? If it weren't for Lynn I wouldn't even be here and that's not even a figure of speech. Her art classes are like bootcamp for artists but that's not even the point. She saw that I was struggling psychologically. I wasn't struggling with the work, I was struggling to breathe and move and keep going on. She didn't just save my life, she's saved what's left of my mind. She takes in strays, animals and artists both. She shows us what home is and gets us to start showering again. She taught me all about the physics of paint and brushes and surfaces and how to properly stretch and seal a canvas and make gesso and miter panels and get the edges perfectly square and scumbling and glazing and how conmplimentary colors really work and how to make a painting with just those two colors! And how to paint like the old masters, by making the paintings they made. And fat over lean, impasto, palette knife painting, dry brush, wet on dry and on and on! I hope one day that I'll be as great a teacher as she is.