Artist lecture series features Kelly Inouye

For any aspiring artists looking for inspiration to make a career with their work, the Visiting Artist Lecture Series presented by Sonoma State University’s art department is an opportunity for students to become exposed to people who have made themselves known in the world of art in the local community.

Every week a different artist comes to campus to share their work with students and professors, providing an intimate setting for anyone to ask questions about their the process as to how they have become successful.

San Francisco based artist, Kelly Inouye, visited campus Wednesday to share her story about how she became an artist.

As a graduate from University of California, San Diego and the San Francisco Art Institute, Inouye assembled a lot of experience before her work was shown in venues such as the Morgan Lehman Gallery in New York and the Southern Exposure and Interface Gallery in Oakland.

In addition to becoming a contributor to the San Francisco Arts Quarterly magazine, Inouye has had her artwork featured in New American Paintings and Watercolor magazine.

With students and other observers packed into the small classroom, Inouye provided an intimate presentation on her life story and journey into her artwork, specializing in contemporary watercolor based on ambiguous forms of popular culture that focuses on the concept of collective memory. 

“San Francisco is a bizarre and interesting place to be an artist,” said Inouye.

Inouye specializes in American television series between the 1970s and 1980s, and their cultural shifts from when she watched them as a child to watching them now as an adult. Two of her inspirations are “Fantasy Island” and “The Love Boat,” two American TV shows that both started airing in 1977.

“Taking something superficial like television and teasing meaning out of it through art is the basis of my studio practice,” said Inouye.

Inouye played clips from some of the shows to familiarize the audience with where her art derived from before revealing the artwork that paralleled them. 

“I’m very interested in nostalgia. [Showing] to question why we are attached to this stuff – I always find new things to dig into,” said Inouye.

In 2002, Inouye began her array of watercolor paintings in Brooklyn, New York, entitled the Sitcom Series.

The series focused on characters from different television series in addition to the ones previously mentioned, such as “The Facts of Life," “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and “Charlie’s Angels.” 

“It’s an intense way to paint,” said Inouye. “Watercolor is a tricky paint to work with because it evaporates quickly in dry weather.”

After showcasing some of her other projects in the making, Inouye went into some detail on how she began to get her work shown..

She lived in New York throughout her 20s and worked a demanding full-time job all while painting and exhibiting her work on the side.

“I felt like a total hobbyist,” said Inouye. “While I was painting, exhibiting my work and getting it published, I was still working full time and really did not feel like a participant in the art world.”

After more than a decade, her work has been recognized and shown at galleries in the Bay Area and nationally.

She expanded her work enough to become a finalist for the Creative Capital award. This is an organization that has awarded over $30 million to 530 innovative artists through funding and career development service. 

Nathan Haenlein, professor of studio art, runs the course that presents the Visiting Artists Lecture Series on campus.

He was moved by the creative spin Inouye established in the inspiration of her work on the Sitcom Series.

When Haenlein asked if Inouye’s work exemplified the lack of colloquialism, Inouye said, “There was very little diversity in the television I watched growing up and that’s troubling – these shows originated in Hollywood and were disseminated all over the world. I think people underestimate the effect that can have.”

After revealing some more projects underway for her artistic future, Inouye closed her presentation with the opportunity for any students to ask her questions about her experience from an aspiring artist to a locally-known artist in the Bay Area. 

“I think it’s important to communicate to young artists that you can do it on your own,” said Inouye. 

The Visiting Artist Lecture Series is an event that takes place Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. in Carson 68.

The lectures are open to the public and seats fill up quickly, so make sure to stop by and be inspired by many artists of the Bay Area.