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Monday, June 10, 2024

‘Lucky Seven’: Artist Bussie Parker Kehoe featured in Pence Gallery solo stairway exhibit

The Bay Area artist discusses the methods and meaning behind her sustainable practice 


By SAVANNAH ANNO — arts@theaggie.org

In between the top and bottom floors of the Pence Gallery, visitors can find the Stairway Display. Engaging patrons with art even on their journey from one story to another, the transitional exhibit features a different local or regional artist each month. 

On March 1, the gallery debuted the work of San Francisco-based artist Bussie Parker Kehoe. Her solo exhibit, “Lucky Seven,” highlights the range of possibilities that a sustainable art practice can inspire. 

Kehoe, a mixed-media artist, utilizes discarded house paint to create her pieces. Intricate and kaleidoscopic, Kehoe dries and then layers paint to create a range of shapes, patterns and textures. Arranged and glued onto wood panels, Kehoe’s work jumps off the stairway wall directly into the eyeline of visitors. 

In her “Lucky Seven” series, Kehoe tested the limits of her creativity by setting up parameters. She had to create seven pieces, each manipulating the dried paint in a different way while only using seven colors, hence the exhibit’s name. 

“I like to be a little surprised with the final product,” Kehoe said. “This series allowed me to consider and enjoy my unusual process.” 

The unusual process she refers to came to exist in a moment of serendipity. Kehoe became inspired while creating her earlier pieces, pouring acrylic paint onto paper. 

“The short story is that I discovered my process by accident,” Kehoe said. “I had errant paint drops that landed on the plastic sheeting covering the floor. Once dried, I could peel them off the plastic and play with them. That’s when I started to work entirely with poured paint skins.”

In “Lucky Seven,” Kehoe showcases the variety of ways in which she can shape and layer her paint skins. Some pieces — square-shaped and layered in geometric patterns — resemble Bojagi, a type of Korean textile technique that reminds Kehoe of her childhood. Other paint skins take on more of a rounded, flower petal shape, layered almost like CD discs or fish scales. 

Mainly made up of warm pinks, oranges and yellows, the pieces within “Lucky Seven” remain consistent through color despite their varying textures. 

Similar to the origin story of her process, Kehoe stumbles upon her colors by chance. Each can of house paint she receives is through donation. Within less than three years, Kehoe has acquired at least 50 gallons of old paint, all from the San Francisco area.

Known for being difficult to get rid of, Kehoe provides a solution to San Francisco residents who don’t have the time or don’t know where to take their house paint for proper disposal. When disposed of improperly — thrown in the trash or put down the drain — exposure to paint chemicals can cause both environmental contamination and health issues. 

“I switched to upcycled house paint in an effort to have a more sustainable practice,” Kehoe said. “I saw an unlimited supply that I could use and keep out of landfills. I also have a soft spot for things that are unwanted. Strangely, I felt sorry for those dusty old cans.” 

Not only does the use of recycled materials make for a more sustainable way of creation, but for additional meaning. Each small piece of paint Kehoe uses was once purchased for a completely different use, possibly intended to cover a bedroom wall, a garden fence or the outside of someone’s home. 

In her work, these short histories collide, layered on top of each other to reflect Kehoe’s own life and feelings. Climbing the stairs of the Pence Gallery, each work within “Lucky Seven” builds on the last, coming together to support each other; the shared meaning is a purposeful decision on Kehoe’s part.

“[I] intentionally place each dried paint peel so that it connects to the others surrounding it, which is directly related to my own life experience of moving and searching for those connections and support,” Kehoe wrote in her artist statement

Living on both sides of the country and transitioning from a career in North Carolina to one in San Francisco, the diversity of her designs plays into the way Kehoe views not only her own experience but a larger idea of adaptation. Similar to the way her house paint changes forms to create something new, so does Kehoe. 

“Chaos and order are inherent in this process,” Kehoe wrote. “It reflects life, where you take what life throws at you and try to make sense of it.” 


Written by: Savannah Anno — arts@theaggie.org 


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