Artist Spotlight: Kelsey Brookes

Kelsey Brookes has taken his passion for science and art to a spectacular level, in which he combines explosions of color with atoms and molecules. With a background in microbiology, surf culture and folk art, his stunning pieces of work have gained recognition worldwide. GroundSounds recently had the pleasure of catching up with Kelsey for a quick interview, check it out below

For those just being introduced to your work can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I studied Microbiology in school. I worked as a scientist for 5 years. One year at the CDC studying West Nile and four years in the research department of a Biotech company studying HIV. Eventually I had had enough and jumped ship and started painting.

How did you get your started on this career path? Did you knowingly make the decision to become a professional artist or did it just happen? Did you have any early struggles starting out?

I started painting because it seemed fun. It was a diversion from academics and my scientific career and it eventually swallowed up everything else in my life. I had to consciously make a decision to quit my job at the biotech company to start painting full time. I don’t remember it being particularly agonizing, It was a logistical challenge to get the timing right to leave everyone in a happy place. I thought it would be great fun to be a painter and I wanted to give it a try. Its a struggle to start trusting your own intuition but its a necessary step on the road to relative freedom and independence.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background in science and how this transcends into your work? 

I studied biology and microbiology in school. I found, and still find viruses to be amazing subjects; simplicity, elegance but capable of indescriminantly mowing down entire populations .  They are such a unique branch on this huge tree of life, I had to learn more. I ignored my previous scientific work in my art making until about a year ago when I started painting organic molecules.

How do you typically start a piece of work? Do you have a certain process?

I find a class of molecules that I am interested in. Narrow that class down to 5 or 6 specific molecules of interest. For each individual molecule I lay out all the atoms that make up those molecules on a blank canvas in the precise location and orientation they would appear in the molecule and then start painting.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what musicians or bands do you typically enjoy listening to? 

I mostly listen to NPR.

How does art make you feel?

If its done well how the artist felt while he or she was painting the work.

How do you title your pieces of work?

The molecule pairings are simply the name of the molecule. The round circles all have titles that relate to meditation.

Can you tell us about your upcoming show in NYC ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’? 

IBetter Living Through Chemistry is all about Psychiatric Medications. Its the third show in a series I am doing about psychoactive molecules and neurotransmitters.  The first was about Hallucinogens, the second was about recreational drugs. This is the third installment.

Are there any particular books, people, or places that have really inspired you creatively? 

So many! Richard Davidson, Oliver Sachs, E.O. Wilson, Alexander Shulgin, Albert Hofmann, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Robert Irwin, Sol Lewitt, Fred Tomaselli

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