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Into the Wild

Author: Breanna Grigsby
Issue: February, 2016, Page 44
Photos by Art Holeman
Artist Keri Chartrand prefers painting with acrylic, saying “It feels more free and forgiving.”
Keri Chartrand’s unleashed creativity is reflected in her colorful abstracts and nature paintings

When Phoenix artist Keri Chartrand sleeps, she often dreams of her childhood home in upstate New York. Transported back to her family’s 60 acres, lushly dotted with fruit and evergreen trees and with plenty of places to play, she recalls, “We certainly did not have a lot of money, but we had love and space for me to be free and wild, and just be a kid.”

Now, years later and two time zones away, Chartrand’s painting style, inspired by her connection to nature, is also free and wild. Some of her frequent subjects are animals—everything from birds to bison—and even her abstract pieces with blocks and arches of color have an organic feel to them. Chartrand explains that she captures the “juxtaposition of nature” in her art.

“Color Splash,” acrylic on canvas, 36"H by 48"W
“I want each piece and each color or line to possess its own beauty, but to also function as a whole with the other components of the piece,” she says.

Even her approach to painting can be described as free and wild. Her whole body is used when creating a piece. Crouching low to the ground, with her canvas on the floor, Chartrand sways and lunges with each brush stroke, an uninhibited dance between artist and work. Most of her clothes and some of her home’s walls have marks—splattered and speckled paint—of this passionate creativity. “When you can’t control something, you just need to let it happen. I have a lot of freedom in my paintings because if I try to control it too much, it gets too structured, and then it’s just wrong,” she says.

Art owners from all across the country, drawn to the energy of her work and to the artist’s unique philosophies, have commissioned paintings for their homes or bought her art at shows. One practice, not naming her earlier paintings, reveals both humility and an awareness about the emotional impact of art. “I didn’t want to change how they felt about a piece originally,” Chartrand explains. Now, while she has started to name her works, she adds, “You’re free to think whatever you want about it. “

“Blue Buffalo,” acrylic on canvas, 36"H by 36"W
Still young in her life and career, Chartrand shares her talent with others. Teaching art and craft classes at CoCo Milano’s, a Mesa interior design studio, allows her to encourage others to find their wild side and the creativity within themselves. One class participant described her as an excellent teacher whose patience, passion and keenness for many mediums helped a friend draw out her creativity to make something beautiful.

So, where will this emerging, talented and passionate artist be in the future? She will continue to paint, of course. But she also talks about reclaiming an old farmhouse, probably one reminiscent of her childhood home. Whatever her path, it will be connected to the freedom and wildness of nature that inspires Chartrand’s unique approach to her work.

From left: “Wildflower Flash,” acrylic on canvas, 36"H by 36"W; “Desert Bloom,” acrylic on canvas, 16"H by 12" W

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