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Keltie Ferris Spray Paints in Solitude

August 26, 2011

How does an artist connect to the world while working alone? In this film, artist Keltie Ferris begins a new series of abstract paintings in his Bushwick, Brooklyn studio. Painting in isolation, Ferris discusses both the pleasures and anxieties of working in solitude.

Throughout the film, Ferris looks outside of his daily studio process for connections to the world, taking stock of viewer’s responses to his work, finding inspiration in both books and the urban environment, and situating his paintings in an art historical tradition. Applying oil paint with various techniques—brush, palette knife, and a spray gun—Ferris builds up layers of marks over several weeks into complex shapes and patterns. Asserting that abstraction is about “trying to undo the nameable things in life,” Ferris describes his paintings as being about “seeing through to other worlds.”

More information and credits


Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Joaquin Perez & Mary Ann Toman. Cinematography: Rafael Moreno Salazar & Ava Wiland. Sound: Nicholas Lindner, Wesley Miller & Ava Wiland. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Production Assistant: Paulina V. Ahlstrom, Don Edler & Maren Miller. Design & Graphics: Crux Studio & Open. Artwork: Keltie Ferris. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2011. All rights reserved.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Keltie Ferris

Keltie Ferris was born in 1977 in Lexington, Kentucky, and lives and works in New York. Making references to Impressionism and abstract painting as well as Pop art and graffiti, his large-scale paintings are staunchly analog, despite the ease with which they can be read digitally. Ferris’s investigations into the relationship between his body and the canvas have resulted in signature body prints and emphasize the artist’s fixation with abstraction. His process for these works—layering images created by pressing his oil-covered body against the canvas surface, and then brushing or spraying pigment onto it—is one of simultaneous concealing and exposing.

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“My paintings are about seeing through to other worlds.

That’s what abstraction is—it’s trying to undo the nameable things in life.”

Keltie Ferris