Melinda Kelso finds 'Nirvana' in upcoming collection

Nothing is cooler than being compared to Jackson Pollock.

Melinda Kelso knows that all too well. Her canvases - messy and colorful glops of carefully controlled chaos - have been compared to the famous abstract artist several times.

"(It) makes me feel ultra-cool," Kelso said.

Kelso is one of several featured artists who will be on display during Pioneer Square's First Thursday Arts Walk on Oct. 4. Her work, inspired by Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, will be on display at the Gallery at OK Hotel. The location for her show is fitting because it was the first venue that Nirvana performed their hit, Smells like Teen Spirit in 1991.

"I'm excited to finally be showing at the OK Hotel, considered by many to be the birthplace of Grunge Rock," Kelso said. For the exhibit, she chose to display a 2424 canvas titled, Poppies for a Friend.

Kelso said the piece was inspired by Cobain's inspiration for the In Utero album, which he had sketched his ideas and notes for imagery and specific colors he wanted in the video/sound stage. Kelso's piece includes poppy flowers against an apocalyptic sky, with thrashed with streams of black, blue and red. The poppies lack shape and stick to her distinctive, abstract style.

"In short, I wanted to do this piece in his memory," Kelso said. "I'm honored to be able to show it with the rest of the artists at Okay. I hope he would have liked what I came up with. I think he would have."

Kelso is a self-taught artist. Although she has some roots in the Northwest (she graduated from High School in Wenatchee), she was mostly raised in the Midwest. She completed a Liberal Arts degree from Xavier University in Ohio, and moved to Seattle just three years ago. She uses art as a means for self-expression and a way to keep busy during her military husband's deployments. He's currently stationed in Korea.

As one of Seattle's newest implants and rising art stars, Kelso said she doesn't really consider herself an artist.

"I've always been a creative person, and I've always thought about how great it would be to have an art show," she said. Over the last few months she got to work and created about 25 pieces. Just a handful will be on display during the art walk.

Kelso said the Nirvana-inspired exhibit is especially poignant and personal because it reflects the nostalgia of her childhood.

"Nirvana has come and gone, but there's still a whole lot of mystery behind his death. (The band) still influences so many people," she said. "I just wanted to do something personal. This exhibit is about people being inspired by things they love. It's good to be inspired and get out and do things you enjoy."

Don't miss Melinda Kelso's artist reception on Nov. 9 from 6-9 p.m. at Aquabar.

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