Kristine Keheley at Salon X: “A History of Decadence”

keheley-the-lightning-kiss (1)Salon X will host a solo exhibition of Kristine Keheley paintings, “A History of Decadence,” opening on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 6:00pm. The paintings span a 20-year period of the artist’s work in Taos. I had the opportunity to reflect with Kristine about the evolution of her art, the artists who have influenced her, and the stories of her journeys.

Talking with Kristine is a journey itself. Her references to world history, obscure music and film, and her metaphors keep me remembering how beautiful it is to read and experience others’ artful experiments. It feels a bit like traveling from the MET to Red Rocks to the Isle of Skye all while drinking a single Negroni (and in that amount of time too). The conversation winds through sunsets and trees, to airports, makeup and cocktails. She wonders if she makes sense, but simply moves on to another idea anyway. She very generously acknowledges her mentors and other artists for their dedication, inspiration and for being beautiful human beings. To capture our conversation’s flow is probably not achievable in word, but even a glimpse at the essence that makes up Kristine Keheley, and her paintings, is worth the effort.

Kristine has had nine solo painting exhibitions in the last 20 years, and her work has been selected for juried and group shows in New York, Princeton, Taos, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Laguna Beach.

Here’s what she has to say about her upcoming show at Salon X in Taos:

Kelley: Why is your show called “A History of Decadence?”

Kristine: The show includes paintings from 1996-2014. It includes works from some important shows and eras in my history as a painter. When Delta (the owner at Salon X) asked me to do a show at her Salon X ,  it felt interesting to use her vast space to explore these works. This is the first unconventional venue where I’ve hosted a show, and it is the first time I’ve ever shown older work and new work together. It is a beautiful space to experiment and play with my history.

Many pieces are my favorites from a show, or from a series, and I’ve been living with them. I wanted to look at a span of my work to see if there was coherence. It’s a treat for me to be able to see all of my work together and see relationships between time periods and paintings. Not surprisingly, there are some themes. It is interesting to see how my passions run through a 20-year span ofTURBULENCE 30 X 30" Oil on Canvas work, and where I am now.

It is wonderful to do this with Delta at Salon X and with my dealer, Jimmy Murray, from Envision Gallery. Next year Jimmy and I will do a show at Envision and that will be new work. He’s incredibly gracious about helping me do this experiment now.

But to the decadence . . . there is a lot of Baroque in my work. I paint and I glaze in many layers, thin transparent veils of color and I mix color optically in the painting, not on a palette. It is a series of layers and glazes that achieve a final surface of color. I really love the Baroque painters and their crazy and sweet use of pale blue and pinks. Something about that is such a pleasure.  There is a sense of that kind of decadence coming through.

One painting in the show is titled “A Romance of Ghosts.” The inspiration for that painting was Versailles and the Hall of Mirrors. Parties, fireworks, dancing, Marie Antoinette. The ghosts and the stories that those mirrors have witnessed. That painting is my play on the decadence and beauty captured in the ghosts of those mirrors.

Kelley: How has Taos influenced your life and art?

Kristine: I moved to Taos to paint when I was 24. The light reminded me of the light in the Mediterranean, which is bright and white. It has the ability to reveal things in space in a very interesting way. I’ve learned a lot about space during my time in Taos. There is a thing about vastness of space and time. You see geologic time at work here.  The weather moving across the valley, watching the walking rain, and sunsets. Seeing water molecules suspended in air and how those reflect light and life is something very beautiful.

Kelley: Which artists fascinate you?

Kristine: Hieronymus Bosch may be my favorite painter, which is funny because I’m not a figurative painter. But I don’t see him as a figurative painter. What fascinates me in his work is the way he loved paint and how he laid paint down on a panel, and most especially the rhythms of his color. He was a genius with color.  I’ve thought about rhythms of color my entire life and looking at a Bosch is a master class in color.

Cy Twombly is an amazing personality and soul, painter and sculptor.

Locally, I was Kenny Price’s studio assistant for a couple of years when I first came to Taos. He taught me so much about being an artist and a human being. He was my art school. I have also worked for Jim Wagner and Hank Saxe, and they influenced me in many of the same ways that Kenny did – about how to put your work first, and to not get distracted.

Ron Cooper is a guru to me. The breadth of his work is incredibly inspiring to me. The many different media he works in, and they way he approaches his work. Ron Davis too. He and I used to show at the same gallery in the 90s. And I had the honor of helping him hang a show. He is such a beautiful & devoted artist.

Kelley: what is your most inspirational place to travel?

Kristine: Just the act of travel. Just being on the road and even being at an airport. I love airports. My family genius was travel. We lived and traveled all over the world from when I was a baby. Travel is my blood and it is my inspiration. Adventure is everywhere, and travel reveals the present moment in the most beautiful and intense ways.

Kelley: Because you’ve traveled all over the world, is there anywhere on your bucket list?

Kristine: Iceland. Antarctica. I would love to live in Venice for a couple of months in the wintertime. I have been there many times, and it is most incredible in the winter. The sky and the water merge, and the light and space become very mystical and strange. It is a very haunting place in the wintertime.

Kelley: How does your work at Vapour Organic Beauty complement your painting?

Kristine: For the last fifteen years, I’ve been working as a cosmetics formulator for national brands, and for the last five as the co-founder of Vapour Organic Beauty along with Krysia Boinis. I’m the formulator, so I invent the products and my work with color, color is my first language, is translated here too. It is very much about layering color and understanding how cosmetic color works with skin. When I create a shade of lipstick I’m considering the life and blood flowing in the skin and the tonality of many skin types. It is another journey of color and senses. I create scents and perfumes as well – very much akin to the world I want to reveal in paint. Vapour is a name that I came up with and it could also be used to describe my paintings with their themes of weather and water. The way I see it, creativity doesn’t compartmentalize. I’m fortunate to create across many media and applications and I look forward to exploring new creative paths in art and business.


To see Kristine’s paintings visit Salon X. Salon X is a full-service salon and gallery, offering hair styling, nails, waxing, massage and facials. Salon X is also frequented by artists, poets and other cool people for readings, music, art exhibits and other thought-provoking events. For more information contact Delta at 575.758.1584, at or visit her at 226 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Unit B, Taos, NM 87571.