Kharis Kennedy’s identity as a painter centers on consumerism, commodification and celebrity worship interlaced with influences of her Virgin Island surroundings. Her exploration of animals whose hides have been genetically modified to display fashion-inspired logos reflects a cultural and societal impetus to personally “command” an art form. Animals are free from self-reflexivity and identity politics; however Kennedy humorously posits horses and snakes (both creatures which inspire and, sometimes, are actual victims of the world of fashion) as bearing corporate branding not only as a false garment but also as an organ inseparable from the being.
Kennedy paints using an intuitive, layering process; she builds and shifts layers of glue with pigment to create finished surfaces that often carry the allure of glazed ceramic. She both satirizes and subverts consumer culture by depicting a permanently sinister undertone of human activity. Following her 2011 relocation to the Caribbean faint echoes of voodoo spirituality began seeping in Kennedy's work. Like the Haitians who participate in Jacmel's annual Kanaval she rejects the celebratory visions typically associated with Mardi Gras festivals and instead identifies with utilizing costuming to subvert authority, exorcise painful histories, and evoke the tensions inherent in blending the often contradictory beliefs of Christian and African-based religions.
Kharis Kennedy was born in California in 1976. She received her BFA in Painting and Drawing as well as a BA in Art History from the University of Washington (Seattle). Solo exhibitions of Kennedy’s work have appeared in New York and Seattle. In 2008, Kennedy was the recipient of the A.I.R. Gallery Fellowship. Recent group exhibitions in New York have been staged at Trestle and Life on Mars galleries. She will take up residency with Endless Editions (New York) later this year. Kennedy lives and works on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.