Cultural Network

Baxter Family Generation 5

In just over two decades, Kelsey Baxter-1994-has already created a body of work that demonstrates her evolution as an artist both in her skills and her interpretations. Her fascination with simple and familiar subjects reemerges over and over, yet is skillfully transformed by this artist’s hand and thoughtful insight. Like her family before her, she draws visual sustenance from her surroundings and experiences to create art that is deeply expressive, creating visual interpretations that are compelling and insightful.

The daughter of Elona and Kevin Baxter, Kelsey grew up watching her dad work and run his early business Linden Tree Woodcarving, which she credits as being a formative influence on her desire to become an artist. Some of her earliest memories are of watching her father work in the studio he had set up in the garage behind their house and remembering her grandparents Charles and Edna helping with the business.

Kelsey often attended art shows as a child where her father was exhibiting, but she was also exposed to exhibits at the Museum of Nebraska Art -MONA and the Joselyn Art Museum in Omaha while growing up. Being around art from such an early age sealed her fate of becoming an artist, and she says that she never really considered anything else to be her true passion.

Her aptitude for art followed her all through school. Throughout high school, she won awards every year in the school’s annual student art exhibition and graduated with an art scholarship. This lifelong art foundation led her to attend the University of Nebraska at Kearney-UNK-where Kelsey obtained a BFA in Studio Art with a double emphasis in Painting and Ceramics in 2018. As a student attending the university, she took on two large mural projects for the Kearney Area Children’s Museum in 2016, one done in part with two other students from the university for the children’s toy train area, while the other mural near the front entrance of the museum she did on her own.

The hot air balloon design was inspired by a large hot air balloon exhibit that the original Children’s Museum had when the building was located in downtown Kearney. The mural was meant to commemorate the old exhibit and to pay honor to the many donors who are listed on the smaller balloons in the mural, as well as detail the history of the museum. Kelsey chose to work on this mural to give back to the museum where she had spent so much time as a child.

She also credits her time working at the Museum of Nebraska Art-MONA- from the time she was 18 until she was 26 to be a formative experience in her love of the arts, and an encouragement in her own artistic career. Kelsey recalls, I have been very fortunate to have been able to work for the museum for so long. The time I spent around so many other artists and being able to be immersed in art for so many years every day really ignited a fire in me regarding my own artwork, one that I still carry with me years later.
Kelsey, much like her artist father Kevin, has always been ravenously curious to experiment with all mediums, from photography to drawing to painting to functional ceramics to sculpture in clay, wood, plaster, and mixed medium. As far as painting, which she calls her main love out of all other mediums, she has worked in watercolor, acrylics, tempera, and oils— oils of which are her main medium that she works in. Her current style is acutely detailed and often “painfully perfectionistic” as she calls it, and she pushes her own boundaries in her work to constantly improve her style and learn new techniques and how to apply them to improve her art. As much as she loves focusing on tighter and tighter detail, she does want to be able to excel in many different styles, and to be able to switch between styles with ease.

Kelsey’s subjects are frequently inspired by her love of nature. She often finds herself returning to the same subjects again and again, reworking pieces multiple times to get them “just right”. One painting she calls her ten-year painting; she has devoted nearly a decade to painting it, reworking multiple versions of it to finally achieve the success she was looking for in its final form–the fifth version of the painting she has made. This painting has been an experiment in technique and medium, and will serve to better understand this particular style to apply it to future paintings that Kelsey hopes to make.

Kelsey seems to approach her art, and her audience, with a purpose, whether stimulating childhood imagination, bringing social issues to the table, or helping us see nature up close and intimately. Her skills, her aptitude, and her concepts are constantly being refined. We most certainly have something to look forward to in the next chapter of this artist’s life.

Categories: Art

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