J eremiah Kille creates art that blurs the line between figurative expression and geometric abstraction.
Born and raised in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Jeremiah Kille has liked art as early as he can remember. Though his family moved around from Arizona to Sacramento, Kille’s love of art kept growing. An avid skateboarder and snowboarder, Kille’s early artistic influences came from the bold graphics that adorned his decks. “Early on, I was exposed to a lot of skate art and culture,” he recalls, adding, “Like skateboarding, a lot of my art is pretty graphic.”
Kille drew more than the average kid, but it wasn’t something he took seriously until much later. He spent most of his twenties outdoors, working as a mountain guide at ski resorts, making and shaping surfboards—anything that was outside and required his hands. Kille credits all these almost-careers with informing his artistic expression. At the time, Kille was living in Santa Cruz with his then wife and was looking for a direction to take his life in. He considered nursing like his wife; instead, she encouraged him to go into art. “I was a late bloomer,” Kille laughs, “and it was pretty amazing how supportive of my art she was.”
He started attending San Jose State University in his late twenties, where he studied pictorial arts, including oil painting, printmaking, and drawing. “At that time, I was really focused on making surfboards,” Kille says. “But at some point, there was a shift for me, mostly with my son being born.”
He knew that making surfboards wasn’t a lucrative enough industry to support his family. Around that time, he also started hanging large paintings at Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz. Kille wasn’t expecting much, but the work hanging in Verve was a hit, and he sold a number of paintings while still in school. The positive reception of his work, plus the good money he was getting for it, really shifted Kille into being an artist full-time. “It sounds bad, but money was a big motivator,” Kille says. “Times were tough, so I gave myself a year window to really pursue art.”
A couple of months into his self-imposed time frame, Kille knew that he wasn’t going to quit art anytime soon. “I was all in,” he recalls, adding, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Kille’s art is a bold, explosively toned journey into his subconscious. Much like his juggling of jobs, Kille’s work is a kaleidoscopic expression of the warring sides of his brain, where one day abstraction takes the driver’s seat and on another day figurative composition bleeds in. Focusing often on living, breathing motifs, such as elephants, birds, and matadors, and on the more inanimate, like boats and hot air balloons, Kille transforms this familiar imagery into a vibrant, texture-hopping landscape of metaphysical possibility.
Working mostly in oil and acrylic paint, Kille creates geometric compositions that melt into graphic representations of dreams through the use of loud, wild color. By combining the familiar elements of different styles, Kille creates entirely unique and unfamiliar compositions. “I am drawn to art that has elements of abstraction with moments of realism or recognizable objects,” Kille says. “To me, that combination is provoking. When I look at art like that, I am drawn in by the tensions between the two worlds as well as the balance.”
Through most of his artistic life, Kille has been met with pushback to his desire to jump around between styles and techniques. He understands unifying one’s work and seeing the artist as a brand, but Kille refuses to be tied down to one style or forced into one direction. He says, “If you look at my work, I do a few different things. I think it’s natural for me to not be boxed in creatively.”
As for the future, Kille’s work is going to be featured in an art show in Sacramento, as well as at numerous outdoor festivals, where he hopes to expand his large-scale painting skill. Either way, Jeremiah Kille is going to continue making art on his terms—and sometimes get recognition for it.
Article originally appeared in Issue 10.3 Perform (Print SOLD OUT)