FROM FASHION TO FINE ART: A Q+A WITH KERRY PIERI
Kerry Pieri has had a long and successful career in fashion and recently has gone back to her fine art roots. Armed with a degree in fine arts and fifteen years of editorial experience, Pieri began creating abstract nude line drawings in acrylic ink back in 2018. Since then, she has ventured into oils as well. Her latest work is a study in layering black, white, and tonal paints, simultaneously revealing and covering up different shapes, colors, and textures. “I love that these paintings have secrets. It’s reminiscent of all you can really ever know of a person just by looking at them. There’s always so much more beneath the surface, which is why they’re each titled Surface Elements.” I asked Kerry some questions about where she finds inspiration and how her fashion history influences her fine art:
You have a long and successful career in fashion. You are currently the Digital Fashion/Features Director at Harpers Bazaar. What inspired the shift to start painting?
I think having an outlet to channel your energy is so important for balance. Even though my full-time role has been creative in spirit, there is still a draw to have complete ownership of my work and my vision. Painting has become that for me. I have a fine art degree, but since moving out of the city and having space to create, this is the first time I've truly returned to visual art in a real way in a long time. I had been doing line drawings in acrylic in Brooklyn, which I also love, but oil painting feels much freer and uninhibited.
Describe your style in a few words:
My style is textural with an emphasis on white space. I paint in a way that's instinctual. I'm often surprised by the shapes and tones that emerge as I work and cover and uncover areas of the canvas.
Where do you find the inspiration for your work? Do you find yourself gravitating towards similar sources you look to for fashion inspiration, or is it completely different?
I find that my aesthetic overall is consistent in fashion, design, and art in that I am drawn to interesting forms and shapes and restraint in color. I love simplicity, but I'm not a purist or overly minimal. I am drawn to something cool or unexpected happening in otherwise pared-back moments. The designers I love share in that mood- Miuccia Prada, Peter Do, Cate Holstein, Jonathan Anderson.
Who are some of your art or design heroes?
I return to Picasso over and over again; I can't help it. I also love Franz Kline. The social impact and narrative power of an artist like Kara Walker is breathtaking. Rodin is a favorite. Mies van der Rohe, Charlotte Periand, Corbusier, Bellini, and Pierre Chapo for furniture and design. For modern designers, Axel van der Voort, Oliver Gustav, and Kelly Wearstler have such strong and wonderful points of view.
Is there anything you personally collect?
I've always loved vintage bags, and in the past couple of years, I've been spending all of my money on vintage furniture. It can be as collectible as a Bellini chair or just something that I love from Facebook Marketplace; it just needs to say something interesting.
If you get stuck in a creative rut, do you have any practices to help get out?
Looking through art and design books is usually inspiring, and I love walking around a museum by myself. But I just know myself well enough not to force it. I know the feeling well from writing that when you're in the flow, it pours out of you, and when it's not, it will just feel like a trudge, and I think art is similar. Sometimes you need to walk away and do something else. Then when you are ready to come back to it, you know. I love oil painting because it's also similar to writing in that you can edit. If you return to the piece and you feel that you lost the tone, you begin again. It's such a cool process.
Who do you think of as your ideal collector?
Anyone who loves it. We all know that feeling when something sparks inside of you when you see something and you just need to own it. Nothing would make me happier than my art being that for someone.
Along with painting and your work in fashion, you are also a mother. What are your best tricks for managing it all and finding balance?
There's never going to be enough time for everything, so I think the trick is just to be as present as possible in what you're doing when you're doing it.