Kelly Hoekema: The beautiful and the damned

By Marie Biondolillo

“The better the fruit, the more wasps to eat it.”-Folk proverb
When you first look at the work of Bellingham artist Kelly Hoekema, you see pretty women, prettily painted. Then you look closer, and realize something is awry. You can see the teeth and jawbones behind the rosebud lips of “Alice”; you notice the wolves howling behind the chesty redhead in “Never Cry Wolf.” You see that these paintings are not just concerned with prettiness–they’re also focused on decay.
“[I’m interested in] the death of beauty-the passing moment when we are attractive and then fade so that the next generation can rise to the occasion,” Hoekema said. “I like the transient theme because nothing truly lasts forever; everything ends and that’s a beautiful thing. It allows us to shine in other areas and helps us grow.”
You can see the theme of death running through all of Hoekema’s work. Like the Pop Surrealist illustrations of her favorite artists, Jeff Soto and Camilla d’Errico, Hoekema’s bright, candy-colored paintings utilize the iconography of childhood cartoons but remix them into more sinister contexts, mining dark sexual and emotional veins in the process.
“I started [painting] in 2007 after a long and tumultuous marriage ended,” Hoekema said. “It was the first time in a long time I felt like I was able to be emotional without seeming weak. You’ll see this theme repeatedly in my art-strong women who are lost, withdrawn, or sad.”
Hoekema’s painting helped her to channel her emotions productively.
“I was able to start letting go of the negativity and suffering that defined that part of my life and then beautiful women like ‘Alice’ and ‘Apple’ appeared,” Hoekema said. “Emotions aren’t making them weak; they are allowing them to become even more powerful in their beauty and adding to their mystique.”
After she began painting, Hoekema started selling paintings and postcards at the Black Market Boutique, as well as online at her Etsy shop (thisfoxrunswithscissors). She also collaborates with Aaron Brick on a side-project called AK-27, holding monthly shows with him as well as displaying her own work at Glow Nightclub on the last Tuesday of every month.
Hoekema also enjoys painting with her young sons.
“My sons paint right alongside me!,” Hoekema said. “Finny and Lars are very creative and enjoy any time that we spend together.”
Hoekema occasionally features her sons’ work in her shows.
“Finny’s favorite subject to paint right now is robots and Lars is all about the people and trees,” Hoekema said. “Lars has even sold a piece . . . though Finny’s robot will definitely sell next time!”
While she is currently producing work, a recent bout with melanoma left Hoekema unable to paint for a while.
“The doctors thought it had gone into my lymphatic system which was very frightening for my family and I,” Hoekema said. “Slowly I am getting back on my feet financially. I think not being able to paint for so long was the most frustrating part of recovery, but stress-wise money worries take the cake!”
Luckily, with help from her job and friends (including poet Robert Lashley, who held a fundraiser), Hoekema was able to pay for her treatment-and start painting again.
“For April Art Walk, I am opening a new mural and hanging at the Donkelope Bikes Headquarters,” Hoekema said. “It’s an AK-27 project, ‘Star Wars’-themed, with a Wampa design we saw on a T-shirt and an Aayla Secura pin-up.”
Hoekema’s Donkelope Bikes art showing will begin on Friday, April 6 at 6 p.m. during the Downtown Art Walk. Donkelope Bikes is located at 1457 Humboldt St. in Bellingham’s York neighborhood. To find out more about Hoekema’s work and projects, look for her Facebook page, This fox runs with scissors.