By Lucia Viti
Out of veil of grief emerges fine art showing hope
“Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” Oscar Wilde wrote long ago. But peer into Kelly Paige Standard’s artistic world and one may beg to differ.
Standard, a gifted oil painter from Talmadge, depicts life through her art. Narrative paintings and collectible portraits captivate life, love, grief and hope. Figures tell stories as faces, some hidden to be found “like an Easter egg hunt,” and tug at heartstrings. Portraits capture likenesses: “Spot on,” she said, “so my art imitates, even preserves, pieces of life.”
Inspired by “mood and emotion” and drawn to a full spectrum of ideas “smashed into a visually appealing narrative,” Standard’s paintings are orchestrated by hope — even though they may be rooted in grief.
“My inspiration is driven by emotions too hard to express in any other way,” she said. “People call my paintings lonely but I infuse hope in every piece.”
Oils rich in texture scatter shadows Standard describes as solitary, mysterious, and at times penetrating.
“But always piercing the truth and depicting the best parts of being human,” she added. “My art exists alongside a million different interpretations. People see, experience and learn something new — maybe just about themselves — and live more of what they’ve just discovered.”
Standard never randomly starts painting. The artist uses a photo reference or an image generated from Photoshop.
“I arrange elements to make the portrait believable and paint until I get it right, no matter how long it takes,” she continued. “If I can’t pinpoint a facial expression spot on, I’m not done. Connection is important for my work. With multiples portraits, there are multiple relationships. To paint the face, I trust the shapes I’m looking at. I simply copy what God’s already done.”
She spends hours painting posthumous portraits cognizant that family members will honor its reverent presence.
“I paint portraitures that exceed expectations,” she said, “I don’t mind the endless hours. I’m lucky I love it. For over a decade, I’ve held a difficult pace fueled by enthusiasm and determination.”
Standard prefers mixing her own paint instead of “paint right out of the tube.” Avocado Green is deemed her “favorite color in the whole wide world” and prevalent in most of her work.
“I was a green baby and a sporto kid,” she said. “Never pink. Pink was all things girly and weak. I use lots of pink today because our choices far exceed what used to be only Barbie pink.”
The self-described night owl prefers to paint all night, noting that it grants her a really slow start to her day. “I paint like a surfer rides a wave,” she said. “If my foot starts to hurt, I suck it up and ride the wave. And yes, coffee is involved.”
The 43 year old began painting at age 9, encouraged by parents who “recognized and nurtured my talent” under the tutelage of acclaimed oil painter Lela Harty.
The college volleyball player earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California Santa Barbara and subsequently worked at the Robson Gallery, located in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. Surrounded by the likes of John Asaro, Walt Gonske and William Sharer, Standard’s artistic aspirations blossomed as she learned how to manage a gallery.
Standard’s next foray into the business world included designing and digitally painting video games. Despite an 80-hour workweek, she always found time to paint. The tragic death of her 23-year-old brother Mark, also an artist, caused her to re-evaluate the corporate environment and transition out of that career path.
“I’ve been a full-time artist since 2003,” she said. “What an existence! No doubt, painting is a consuming career, but after losing Mark, life just seemed … My life as an artist deserved more than generating video games.”
Standard openly admits to channeling her grief — compounded by the untimely death of her husband — through her art.
“During my pain — my funk, I hunker down, radio silent, into a quarantine that protects everyone from me,” she said. “I simply disappear from life and disappear into my art. Painting contains my emotions. I no longer carry their weight because they’re painted right on the canvas. I painted my husband’s memorial portrait — ‘David Joseph Beres’ — in four days. I did nothing but paint.”
Standard shares a painful honesty about several narrative pieces. Her “Exit Fairy Tale” show was replete with self-portraits.
“I painted ‘Out of the Promised Land’ because I felt like I was kicked out of my fairy tale after my husband died,” she said. “I’m made in the image of Alice in Wonderland struck out of her garden gate. I’m a young widow wearing the wedding dress that my husband made although I’m swimming in it because I’ve lost so much weight. I included our initials — DJB and KPS — and painted faces in the roses. I even secretly hid his face in the painting as well.”
Another portrait depicts Standard wearing a V-neck vest worn by her husband the night of Standard’s senior prom.
“It took me three years to host a show after my husband died,” she said. “My husband was my partner, my best friend — my everything. We were together platonically on prom night, apart for 10 years, together for 10 and married for eight months. I never even had the chance to celebrate an anniversary.”
“Never” was the name of one painting because “I felt like I was never going to celebrate a birthday again,” she said. But with the passing of time, Standard introduced “Never Better.”
“Although empathy is in all of my work, it’s not always about pain,” she said. “I’ve been through enough to know how to draw a parallel. Every piece shares hope. I don’t want to end up with claws holding razor blades.”
Standard works “a lot” because ideas get “stuck in my head” compelling her to turn them into a narrative. The seasoned veteran is noted by critics for her “gorgeous craftsmanship rich with intense colors and beautiful color schemes with strong pinks — and greens — that define her style.”
Her recent painting — “The Reverence” — harmonizes elements of the art masters.
“The pose in my ‘Reverence’ painting is reminiscent of a John Singer Sargent piece,” she said. “The contrast between the light and dark is a feature that Giorgio de Chirico played with; the background is inspired by Richard Stein greeting cards and his book of fun doodles, but mostly the piece stems from Kahlil Gibran, the author of ‘The Prophet’ who wrote, ‘For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but it cannot fly.’”
Standard added that she wanted the portrait’s subject to look like she was toiling over something while holding the key to the cage and the ability to “let it go.”
“Words can’t describe what painting means to me,” she concluded. “Painting makes me feel powerful. Painting is my funnel for emotion; a funnel for channeling pain and a funnel for channeling something beautiful.”