Although Bussie Parker Kehoe, a mixed-media artist in Winston-Salem, studied art in college, her focus was on becoming a lawyer.
In 1995, she graduated with a law degree from the American University Washington College of Law then worked in law in some form — writing or practicing — until 2003.
She became a preschool teacher after the birth of her third child and then an art teacher.
Kehoe said she loved teaching art and was motivated by the children to eventually do more of her own artwork.
“The children are so inspiring because they don’t know any rules,” Kehoe said. “When they approach any kind of art, the way they approach materials is so inspiring because there’s nothing stopping them and that’s what I’m trying to grasp. When I look at, like, acrylic paint, I don’t use it like a normal painter. I think it’s because I kind of channel how the kids would have looked at it.”
She did not focus on her own artwork until she and her family moved to Winston-Salem from Allentown, Pa., in summer 2017.
In 2018, she opened a working studio in Sixteen Over Six Artist Studio in the Downtown Arts District in Winston-Salem.
For years, Kehoe held onto boxes and boxes of things she had collected for her students when she was an art teacher, including old security envelopes, objects from nature, and old yarn and fabric. She recently parted with all of it, donating it to a local preschool teacher, except for the security envelopes.
“I’ve been cutting them out and making drawings and making collages out of them ... I’m trying to make a peaceful and/or organic piece where you wouldn’t know that it’s made out of envelopes,” Kehoe said.
Q: How would you describe your art?
Answer: I am working with two different media. I have been working with acrylic paint as a sculpting material. I pour acrylic paint onto glass, let it dry, then peel the dried paint off the glass and use it to make wall sculptures. My new direction is transforming paper — usually used security envelopes. I like to create organic shapes and hide the original material so that you can’t place it.
Q: How have you evolved as an artist?
Answer: I studied drawing and printmaking in college. Then, I took a long hiatus working as a lawyer, preschool teacher and raising kids before opening my studio in downtown Winston-Salem. My first series focused on drawings of children in fantastical vignettes, called memory mirages. I poured acrylic paint to make the environment surrounding the children. Eventually, I enjoyed working with the poured paint more than drawing, and spent a lot of time tinkering with the paint. I have made dots, ruffles and large swaths of poured sheets out of acrylic.
I am currently compressing poured acrylic “skins” together and cutting them, then assembling them on board. Working with acrylic paint has been very exciting — so many discoveries! But I am aware of the amount of plastic I am putting out into the world — acrylic paint is plastic. That is why I am turning my attention toward my collection of security envelopes and other found objects.
Q: Who has influenced your art?
Answer: I love the work of Seonna Hong and Jae Ko. Both are female Korean American artists. Through Instagram, I’ve discovered so many fabulous artists. I’m loving Gillian Theobald’s cardboard collages; also, Taylor White has amazing fresh work, and he always makes me laugh.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
Answer: Time. There isn’t enough time to do everything I want to do. I have scribbled ideas on loose pieces of paper all over the place, but I find it hard to find the time to work on every idea. The other challenge is balance: When focusing on the art, everything else goes by the wayside.
Q: What does art do for you?
Answer: This is hard to answer because art is so much a part of me. Art is a form of communicating and expressing myself. It’s constant problem-solving, learning and growing. It’s essential to me.
Q: Any advice for other artists?
Answer: Keep going and don’t worry about whether others like what you’re doing. You’re doing it for yourself. Work every day, even if you don’t know where to start. Be patient and gentle with yourself.
Fran Daniel writes about artists — visual, musical, literary and more — weekly in Relish. Send your story ideas to email@example.com or call 336-727-7366.