Kharis Kennedy approaches the body and objects as sites of knowledge and repositories of awareness that can be resourced in the service of personal discovery. She uses painterly metaphysics and intuition to build images and reveal inner truths. Her themes are broad but interlaced: the depiction of animals who reflect the spirit of their owners; a satiric presentation of fashion’s role in informing individual and social identities; the turbulence of her inner world; and in recent years, the portrayal of psychic and social relations in all the complexity of contemporary life. Her paintings, videos, and performances are always psychologically revealing and deeply felt.
Following her 2011 relocation to the Caribbean tendencies towards animism became more pronounced in her work. She identifies with the region’s enduring practice of performative and ritual healing, in which painful personal and collective events are exorcised through ceremonial enactment. Costuming is often used to subvert authority; tensions inherent in the blending of contradictory beliefs, Christian and African, are implied in Kennedy’s work. The artist works with the contemporary themes of gender, race, power, and control as constructs of identity; her insights are afforded by her complex experiences as a female artist, as a mother, and as a daughter. Her awareness of the intricacies of privilege results in paintings that communicate powerful insights – of conflicting feeling and imagistic report. Her figurative art reports on both her inner self and on her ongoing investigation of public identity.
Kennedy was born in California in 1976. The daughter of a professional basketball coach she was raised internationally but returned to America in 1999. Her art has appeared in public and private sites throughout the United States–in New York, Seattle, and Miami, as well as in the Virgin Islands. In December 2016, Kennedy co-founded and participated in a multi-experiential exhibition and performance series, Take Five – A Survey of Race, Identity, and Power in St. Croix, to bring about social engagement and insightful dialogue in her local art community. She serves on the Artist Board of the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts in the United States Virgin Islands. In spring 2017, Kennedy took part in a two-person exhibition with the sculptor Judy Pfaff at Art100 gallery in New York City. Her work was displayed in the fall of 2017 at Pen + Brush gallery, New York City – where it will again be exhibited in April 2018. Kennedy continues to live and work on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.