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Women Making History: Kelly Tunstall

Women Making History: Kelly TunstallImage by Howard Cao

With the closing of our M.I.S.S. Paper Dolls show at Upper Playground’s Fifty24LA gallery, we are excited to bring you a closer look at San Francisco based artist Kelly Tunstall, who we were lucky enough to have be a part of the show.

We’ve been following Kelly’s work for a many years now…and when we say following, we mean it literally!

Yep, we followed Kelly and fellow artist—and now husband—Ferris Plock to Scion’s 5th installment of the “Exprescion” art show at Alcatraz in 2007, where they painted along side a group of other SF-based heavyweights.

The first time I saw Kelly’s work, I was captivated by the eyes of her doll-like figures. Even when she’s not using gold-leaf or soft colors, there’s a a glow to her work and viewing it, you feel a natural pull.

Today we honor a woman, not because she was a part of an elite few that can say they painted on “The Rock,” we honor her because she’s just as magical as her art.

Women Making History: Kelly Tunstall

A detailed look at Kelly Tunstall's Hat Party, 2009

More on Kelly Tunstall from her official bio below:

The strength and assurance of femininity, in both a sarcastic and reverent sense, are the driving force behind Kelly Tunstall’s body of work.

Working in acrylic, collage, spraypaint, pencil, pen and ink, gold leaf and some secret sauce, the experimental, yet classically grounded works live somewhat comfortably in a space between graphic expression, stylized representation, surrealism, and sketch. The simplicity of the messages are enhanced by the underlying vitality and complex layering within the work.

In her studied portraits, Tunstall renders stylized, leggy female figures and their pets, prey, powers, dreams and. Their physical forms and accompanying exteriors represent and mirror internal thought processes and turmoil. For instance, frequent themes such as mermaids, twins, or extra limbs concede a desire, a reliance, an adaptation, or more simply, an aspiration to something greater than being a painting.

Women Making History: Kelly Tunstall

My Walrus, 2009

In the ever more frequent collaborations between Tunstall and her husband, Ferris Plock, two worlds collide as Plock’s intensely insinctual monsters threaten, challenge, consume and adore the girls, as they inhabit the constructed enviroments and nests built of painted boards and drawn nails.

Also working in illustration, installation, and multimedia projects, Tunstall plays with the contrast between the formality of defined forms and the revelation of method. The patina of age and calligraphic drawing methods lend further depth to her story-filled worlds.

Common themes reflect the contrasting dualities of Tunstall’s imagined ladies: interior and exterior realms; innocence and mischief; concrete reality and the dreamscapes of the supernatural. The resulting body of work is a comprehensive study of the modern and sometimes not so modern woman.

Women Making History: Kelly Tunstall

Kelly & her adorable baby...

Before we get into the Q&A, let’s jump into some fun with Kelly vs. our M.I.S.S. survey:

Women Making History: Kelly Tunstall

Kelly's writing is as magical as her art...

M.I.S.S.: What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?

Martha Stewart.

M.I.S.S.: How did you get your start?

I had a great high school art education, but I started selling work off streetcorners during Portland’s First Thursday art openings, Chris at Nemo Design bought some work and I went in for an interview the next morning. I’ve been given many opportunities to explore. I’m very lucky to have parents that were supportive of whatever I wanted to do-and still are.

M.I.S.S.: What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve created?

There was a recent collaboration piece that I did with Ferris that I just adore called Sea of Love – Cross Town Traffic [below].

I made it while 8 months pregnant. It’s our biggest piece to date-120 inches wide- it just envelops you.

Sea of Love-Cross Town Traffic by Ferris & Kelly

Cross Town Traffic by Ferris & Kelly for their 2009 exhibit Sea of Love at 111 Minna, SF.

M.I.S.S.: Who do you want to work with in the future?

I hope to do something with Gwen Stefani someday.

Women Making History: Kelly Tunstall

Above: A Tall Ship, 2009 & Below: Sirena, 2009

M.I.S.S.: What part of your work process is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?

I hate revisions. Going back and reworking sucks. Of course it’s a necessary evil.

M.I.S.S.: Any advice for ladies who are just starting out in a career path similar to yours?

I heard a good cheesy saying the other day… Success is spelled persistence… or something like that. It’s true. I’ve been at this for 12 years now, I’ve been able to do things I never dreamed possible.

Learn contract law. Have a contract made. Be careful. Check references for galleries or people that want to represent you- it takes five minutes to send someone a message on facebook to get some background. Invest your time. Yes, this means doing things for free or very little. Just make sure these are things that help you in some way, or fulfill you artistically. Make sure you love your work. Support your community. Be humble. Develop your own style. It’s ok to rip someone off to study how they did something, just move on afterward.

M.I.S.S.: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Ferris and I are collaborating with EightyFour Films—exciting new project in the works!

The Seafarers – Sea of Love from Eighty Four Films on Vimeo.

M.I.S.S.: Thanks so much, Kelly!

Last week, art & culture website did a studio visit with Kelly and although it wasn’t up by the time this feature was published, we’ll update you when it posts via our Art Radar column (Thursdays).

Women Making History: Kelly Tunstall

An instillation view of Circus, a 2008 exhibit with Ferris Plock at 111 Minna, SF.

Upcoming shows:

FTC Tokyo June 15, 2010
Giant Robot September 4, 2010

Studio Visit on Fecal Face


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2 Responses to “Women Making History: Kelly Tunstall”

  1. ANDIBELLE says:

    Go oregon! i love your work, you’re such a talent.

  2. P.walker says:

    Bravo! We love our Kelly and Ferris painting which greets us every morning!


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