Artist and gallerist Kendra Kett grew up in a colorful home. The child of hardworking agricultural workers from England, Kett was surrounded by “brightly colored painted and wallpapered walls” and “colorful linens, dishes, and rugs.” Of her mother’s style, Kett says: “My mother was pretty different as far as that. We’d visit friends and everything would be beige. And my mom had yellow walls, orange walls, green walls, black walls, and fabric and color everywhere. I have no idea where she got that, maybe working on farms and being in nature.” Though they weren’t artists themselves, Kett’s parents were supportive of their creative daughter, who began drawing as soon as she could hold a pencil in her hand.
In addition to her parents, Kett was inspired to explore art by visits from her sister-in-law: “My sister-in-law who was into the arts took me to the Art Institute every year when she visited us with my brother. That’s when my art appreciation started to develop. We always went down on the train and she bought me art books from the gift store. So as a result, starting very young I had a beautiful art book library in my home. I’ve kept up the tradition of going to museums whenever I travel. So that’s sort of my art education, through visiting and experiencing and being really open to it all.”
Even with her early embrace of art appreciation, Kett was pushed to “get ahead” by studying medicine or law in college. Though she tried to take the pre-med track, Kett found this path was not for her, and chose instead to study psychology and education. Earning her bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in education, Kett built a 30-year career overseeing childcare centers affiliated with major employers. Working her way up to division vice president, Kett led a team of regional managers across the Midwest.
Between managing her career and caring for her family, Kett’s life did not include much space for artistic pursuits. It wasn’t until her separation from her husband that Kett’s artistic world began to open up once more: “My son’s father is an artist. But it wasn’t until after our divorce that he started focusing on his art. We had a very good co-parenting relationship and we’re still very good friends so I became his art manager. I really started understanding the local gallery scene, volunteering at a local gallery, and helping him put his art forward. He and I did that for about ten years. During that time, I learned a lot about galleries and gallery management, and I could see that I could easily apply all of my business skills to running a gallery.”
Combining her business expertise with the knowledge of the local gallery scene she gained during her time as an art manager, Kett opened the Blue Moon Gallery in Grayslake, IL. As a gallerist, Kett has supported the work of over 100 artists over the last four and a half years: “We made it through the pandemic, we’ve sold a lot of art, and we’re having fun. It’s really a great experience.” After retiring from her business career and immersing herself in the art world, Kett found her way back to her own artistic practice: “I would go on vacation from my crazy hectic business life, and for a week I would lay by the pool at some resort and sketch and draw on my notepad. Then I would just set it aside until the next time I went on vacation. Well, I saved all of those notepads. Then I retired and surrounded myself with artists I said, ‘What am I going to do with all my free time?’ So I got these sketch pads out and started working with what I had there and now I have a whole website full of art.”
Kett describes both her work and artistic practice as intuitive. She began to draw by holding a pencil in each hand, closing her eyes, and letting marks spill onto the page without any planning or agenda. Her resulting works are brightly-hued organic shapes, drawn in a style both fluid and playful. Though her works may appear primordial, Kett wants to ensure that viewers understand that they are not like anything you could see under a microscope. Rather, Kett’s works represent her spiritual interpretation of what happens when our cells interact with our emotions. “I wanted to explore the concept of cell by cell, particle by particle, that we are evolving and growing, healing and recovering,” says Kett.
Through her work, Kett hopes to help people find a way to embrace the conflicting emotions we all experience: “I think our culture at large wants you to be happy all the time and not really deeply feel your negative emotions. Everyone wants to say, ‘It’s going to be okay, it’s alright, just think positive.’ There’s always this pressure not to feel all of your human emotions. I think you can be happy and sad at the same time. I think you can be feeling really ambitious but also lethargic at the same time. We deal with conflicting emotions all the time. It’s totally normal, it’s a normal thing and you don’t have to fix it.”
Kendra Kett’s work will be for sale at TAC through November. Click here to learn more about her and her work on her website. Visit thebluemoongallery.com to learn more about the Blue Moon Gallery, located at 18620 Belvidere Road in Grayslake, Illinois.
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