For large-scale watercolor painter Keri Oldham, a years-long devotion to discovering and uplifting the work of local emerging artists in New York City led to a new discovery altogether: the evolution of her own work.
“In 2011, I co-founded Field Projects gallery, a small project space in Chelsea that focuses on showing emerging artists’ work,” Keri shares. “NYC can be incredibly overwhelming in terms of building a community for yourself as an artist. For me, Field Projects was a way of stepping into those waters and showing some of the amazing artists’ work I was seeing in the city. I left the gallery about three years ago to focus on my own painting. In many ways it was a difficult decision shifting from curating other people’s work to investing in myself and my own artistic journey. But it has been a revelation, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole!”
No stranger to her current South Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, Keri has found herself rooted in the area in one way or another for the past eight years. A little over a year ago she found her current studio, a 275-square-foot space with two small luxuries — a window and a sink. Workspace amenities aside, Keri particularly enjoys strolling through Prospect Park when she walks from studio to home, and vice versa. These commutes on foot are replete with inspiration; her observations often inform her paintings. “My work centers on female heroism and rites of passage for women. Inspired by mythology, medieval art and fantasy, I’m interested in utilizing storytelling to show the triumphs and trials of the female identity.”
Nestled in a large building full of artists, writers and filmmakers, Keri uses her small, simple studio to produce vibrant and empowering works in a medium that isn’t often taken to such a sizable scale. “Many of my paintings are actually enormous for watercolor — measuring 60 x 50 inches, so often I can only be continuously working on three at time at that scale,” Keri says. “On the other hand, I love the feeling of when the studio is packed to the gills with paintings hanging all around me. It starts to feel very magical in the space, as though all of the paintings are communicating and an important story is unfolding. The smallness of the space also creates a very potent world that allows me to immerse myself deeply in the work.”
As if it all fell perfectly into place, Keri’s small but mighty studio became the ideal landing spot to nurture her newfound investment in her own work. “I started painting heroic women at first as a kind of pep-talk for myself, but slowly the project expanded to become about so much more.” —Kelli
Photography by Cinema Petit
Image above: Keri’s small studio is a tidy, minimalist space where her bold ideas come to life through vivid watercolor depictions. “Refocusing on my own work was exactly what I needed, my work has expanded dramatically both in scale and subject matter.”