Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thad Kellstadt Interview

Thad Kellstadt

Lady Bird and I sat down with Thad, our featured artist for the month of June. Below is a piece of our conversation.  We were interested in Thad's work in general and also what he is up to for his Solo show here on June 1st (

Growing up near a charming rustic town in Ohio, Thad Kellstadt jokes that his simple
farm upbringing has no impact on himself or his work today (but he digresses.) An
Ohio boy indulging in comics and skate boarding, he later went on to get his BFA in Pittsburgh
at the Art Institute. As of 2007, he now finds himself in Chicago with his wife Jesse
McLean, a video artist in Chicago.  (

TK:  I took a break from painting last June. I was just needed to take a break from
painting. I stopped because it was just getting muddy. Everything I was making
So I stopped. And I thought about it, and honestly while my wife and I were traveling
between Ohio and Pittsburg we had conversations about it. With those rides, it started
to change the way I made work. Those conversations with her were really helpful for looking at my process and changing it, making it more economical and easier. Cause who wants to waste paint
you know?

And that was really helpful. So when Nicole asked me to be in the show, I was ready
to make a new body of work. I agreed so it was inevitable that I needed to start
painting again. With taking a break and coming back I definitely use more of a plan
and thinking about it a lot more. Which sounds silly, because why wouldn’t you? But
in the past I would do a lot of things more....

AB: Off the cuff?

TK: Yeah and more working things out on canvas, which I do sometimes now too.

LB: Does it give you anxiety? If you work without a plan?

TK: I’m realizing it did. It gave me a lot of anxiety. There is that high you get from painting.

I was talking to a friend, and I was jokingly saying, “Well, why fucking paint?”
If painting causes so much anxiety why do it? It’s that high, it’s instantaneous.

LB: What originally formed your inspiration as a young artist?

TK: Comic books.

LB: Still?

TK: Well…yes. Definitely. I think everyone is like that, who works from a young age.
I was into Norman Rockwell, that was my shit.
It was memorizing; he is such a good painter.
I actually went a couple years ago to the museum in Massachusetts, and I was all up in
the paintings; so close. I think it was seeing it as an adult and knowing the processes
and methods.

AB: Did you ever try to mimic his style?

TK: Yeah I would draw a lot as a kid.
But at the same time I did normal boy-type stuff like drawing cars, crazy cars, other
vehicles, and guns. It was pretty normal.

I remember I made a show design for Converse, and I sent it to them. And of course
they were like, “We can’t make this…”.
I still have the official letter head. I think the design had pockets on it, or a gun on the
bottom. A foot gun, that’s what a kid would design.

I also remember making sheets, and this is something I still do, but not the same
subject matter. I made sheets on weapons: watergun, multi-watergun, throwing-star
gun, flamegun, multi-flamegun.

LB: You should make that on a teeshirt!

TK: It’s so violent though.

LB: I do feel like your work is a lot about indexing and cataloging.

TK: That is something I still do.

LB: Do you want to talk about the show?

TK: I am excited about the paintings…they’re awesome.

They’re awesome to me!

AB: The studio shots I saw, I noticed a lot of bright colors…is that typical?

TK: It’s usually bright. There’s no real reason…It’s available. In my mind why
wouldn’t you use them.

TK: It’s also about being bummed out about the future. No one thinks of a new
science fiction, just the one we already have. The dark one. Everything runs out, I
mean these aren’t farfetched ideas…

LB: The future could be Utopia.

TK: Exactly. There was a quote about inventing new science fiction and funny thing is
I couldn’t find it on Google. The thing is, there will be so much loss if everything is digitized. That was the thought process behind making these paintings. I don’t know if you get that from looking at
the paintings, but that was the driving force.

LB: I see in a lot of your work where there is a push between the hand and digital.

KT: In some of my other work I hand draw images, scan them in, and then record
them onto VHS tapes and degrade them bring them back and print them out. And that
just started from A: just doing that to video itself, to give it that look for a project I
was doing. Also, just getting sick of my hand, sick of seeing my hand drawing. I was
just sick of drawing, drawing, drawing, and I looked for something new to do.

Because Jesse was saying why not just do that effect in Photoshop. And I can’t. You
can’t make that effect in Photoshop. A print that looks exactly like a painting is still
not the same as the painting. I like the way the effect looks, and the fact it is a dead
medium, and I like that it has to pass through so many things.

LB: Can you talk about the title of the show?

TK: Yeah the title of the show is from a Breeder’s song. I just like the...maybe I
shouldn’t say that it’s from a song does that make me a cheater?

I don’t know I just like that thought, like the last thing you think of, or the first thing
you thing you think of... it just seems so ridiculous that you memorize breaths. I just

think that sort of goes with what I do: when you really think about or exploit really
banal, ridiculous things. Like painting, you keep doing it.

I just keep a, well this might also make me look like a shmuck, I keep a notebook full
of titles. If I think of something I’ll write it down for either a song title, a painting
title, or whatever.

AB: That’s not shmucky. It’s a good practice.

KT: Thank you. I don’t think about it like, “And this painting will be...”
Of course the painting will have that title, but titling is such a strange thing. What it is,
is what it is.

I mean I like the title, and it seemed like the right title for the show.

Join us at One Strange Bird on June 1st 6-9pm in welcoming Thad Kellstadt’s
newest body of work “Memorized Breaths” which explores an unfamiliar take on a
culture’s view of the future and science fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Wish I could be there to see Mr. Kellstadt's newest creations. I really like his idea of a different kind of science fiction. There's this whole thing that people have stopped creating post WWII, like we're all stuck. It's so refreshing to see unique inventions emerge from a person and not a machine.