Artist Series 010 - "Seeing Double" by Kalee Choiniere

A conversation with Kalee Choiniere. Words and images by by Swish Projects for Coffee and Tea Collective


S: Hello, Kalee. Could you tell us a little bit about where you’re from and how you ended up in San Diego?

K: I’m originally from Rhode Island. I moved to Seattle at 23 and was there for about a year. I then left Seattle to go backpacking for a year and went back to Seattle to try and make money again. And then when Covid happened, I was like, fuck this, I’m moving into my car, like I can’t afford rent. And so my friend was like, “Oh, I wanna move in my car with you”. So we spent the summer building our cars out.

We traveled together for a while, and it was the most incredible experience to feel so free with someone you care about so much. After we parted ways, I lived out of the desert in Phoenix for a while and remember missing the process of painting my big pieces (most of them are 48”x60”) and realizing I could fit one in the trunk of my Highlander — which led me to work on this painting for 2 months in the desert. It completely changed my path. I realized there was nothing else I would rather do with my time than being in nature, traveling, and painting—so I became determined to make it my life. I feel like my art style changes as I become even more aligned with my soul’s purpose. My art keeps growing to be an even truer reflection of how I’m feeling.

Since then, I’ve lived on the road for almost four years now — one in a car and three in a van. For me, it started out of necessity at the beginning of Covid. I had been planning to move into a car to travel, share my art, and paint murals. And then, once the Covid happened, I saw it as the final push to actually do it. Once I started, I realized it would be a long while until I was ready to settle back down in one space. It’s definitely not for everyone and takes quite a bit of grit. You have to be ready to roll with the punches. As an artist, I’ve sold my prints on many boardwalks, live-painted in parks across the country, and done weird and random side jobs. It’s shown me that nothing is ever certain, and in many ways, I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants for years now. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would live like this forever if it meant that my life would consist mainly of art and connecting with other artists, nature, travel, and new experiences. My advice would be, if you really want to do it, you will always find a way to make it work, even when the going gets tough—you have to trust the process every step of the way and lead with passion. If you’re a person who finds joy in taking life and its challenges as it comes, it will all be an adventure.





S: Switching gears here, could you tell us about the work you’ve created for your upcoming show Seeing Double?

K: Seeing Double is an ongoing vision that I’ve tended to over the last five years, where my whimsical illustrative style started to blend with a more psychedelic feel. I’ve always tended to use bright, contrasting colors, but Seeing Double has an additional dimension through the use of patterns. I see this body of work as individual portals that lead you (the viewer) back to yourself. In this series, I also focus more on my characters with double eyes. For me, the double eyes symbolizes the first time you see something or a situation, and the second time you look at it with a new perspective, or a “new set of eyes”. It’s my own reminder that life becomes more expansive the more we allow ourselves to be wrong, be open, or be changed. This has been the most fun series I’ve ever done, and the ideas keep coming. I could be working on this series for years to come.




S: So is this a body of work in continuum, or would you say that it's self-contained?

K: Yeah, this has been a continuing body of work for the past three years. I started doing this super drippy flower line work, and for me, seeing double is looking at a situation and then having the awareness when you look at it again with a new perspective. And so I feel all my pieces have this fluidity of allowing yourself to be changed by different perspectives.

S: Can you describe your artistic style and how it has evolved over time? 

K: I would say my artistic style is ‘psychedelic’ for lack of a better word. I love making really big art that tells its own story, based on the onlooker’s perspective. When I first started more “seriously” painting about eight years ago, it was still sort of psychedelic but very illustrative, and very weird, like ladies with cactus armpits and a distressed person falling off of a camel. I originally wanted to paint murals but had no idea where to start, so I decided I would make as big of paintings that I could that fit in my car. I’ve slowly built this ‘language’ or style of art. It uses less illustration nowadays, but the characters I use are staple symbols of my art, like my sun and moon with double eyes. They all have a special meaning to me, and I love to hear other people’s interpretations. The one constant is that I have always used really bright colors, sometimes contrasting with a dark background, to make the image ‘pop’ a little bit more. Each piece is an opportunity to be absorbed into a portal of color that viscerally stimulates a hug for your brain.




S: Which artists or creative movements have had the most significant impact on shaping your practice?

K: One of my favorite artists is Hilma af. Klint, a Swedish painter who was really active in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. I actually didn’t know about her until a few years into me painting when a friend showed me her work. All of her work is around 10 feet tall, filled with bright colors and symbolism, and inspired by complex spiritual ideas. I feel like her and I would be really good friends if she was still alive. I’m also really inspired by Christina Bothwell, a mixed media sculpture artist who makes really interesting pieces that always make me feel like I’m deep inside of a dream. Also Robert Williams, an oil painter and cartoonist, his pieces are so insane with detail. He uses the smallest brush for the biggest canvas. There’s not really a particular movement that I’m really inspired by as much as I am by the people around me, currently. Some of my best friends are the most incredible artists, and I truly feel they are making and shaping history: John Behr, Daniela Blanco, Maurice LaFlemme, just to name a few out of so, so many.

S: Thank you for your time Kalee. 


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