Confessions of a Perfume Addict: An interview with Kelley
Of course, readers of PST know Kelley from his witty and well thought out posts, but now you will get to know the real Kelley: he's even brighter, funnier and nicer than you thought! (He even forgave me for shamelessly lifting his questions, how nice it that?
Tell us about your childhood (just get comfy on that sofa...): where did you grow up? Siblings? What did your parents do? What did you study in school? What did you love and what did you hate about the place you grew up? Why did you leave?
I was born in Daytona Beach, Florida, but we didn’t stay there long. We then moved to Oklahoma to be near my grandparents. My mother was a cytotechnologist (looked for cancer cells on slides) and my father was an insurance salesman. While selling insurance door to door, my father met a lovely woman that is now my step-mother. My parents soon divorced (well, after my mother found out about the other woman). My childhood was spent moving from city to city and from school to school. In fact, I think at last count I attended 13 schools before I graduated from high school in Spanaway, Washington. I have two brothers and a sister.
I was a creative writing major at the University of Washington. Then I was a fine art major at Oklahoma State. Oh yeah, and then I was an art history major at Tulsa University. Did I ever get a diploma? Nope. I think all together I have as much higher education as a doctor.
My mother married a man in the US Army and so we traveled all the time. It was tough. We would move to a wonderful place and start to make friends and then we would have to move again (we lived in Tehran for two years and that was a wonderful experience). That was the worst part…moving. I have lived all over the US but it took leaving the country to finally find a very supportive place for artists (I will explain later when we talk about Mexico).
We can see from your website that you are an artist- and a very good one. What drew you to art? How did you end up in Mexico?
I remember thinking that art was too easy and fun therefore it couldn’t be a job! I tried several things (I was even given an award by the Tulsa World newspaper for male secretary of the year in I think 1988) before I finally decided to make a go of painting. I have always painted…my whole life. The pivotal moment came when I was house sitting for my uncle (the spooky thing about that statement is that I am house sitting for the same uncle at this very moment!) when a famous artist knocked on the door and introduced himself as such. He told me that he would be glad to critique my work for free. I took him up on the offer and his first comment upon seeing my work was that I needed to go away and come back with some real art. I wasn’t devastated just determined to prove him wrong. I went back several more times before I finally quit painting sweet paintings and started painting strange and unusual ones. When I went to see this famous artist for my final critique, he was on the phone and I just remember him looking at my painting and hanging up without even saying goodbye and told me to take the painting and have it framed. He said that he would get me into a good gallery in Tulsa (which he did). The painting sold just a few hours after I dropped it off. And, as they say, the rest is history.
I moved to Mexico because I was slowly getting further and further into debt. Don’t get me wrong, I was a very successful artist but how can you pay your bills much less have medical insurance without a steady income. The year before I made the decision to move, I sold a painting for $15,000 and within weeks there was a famous hail storm that destroyed my roof and my car. I just couldn’t get ahead! My mom, who lives here in San Miguel de Allende, called and told me that the man that lived next to her had died and his sister was looking for a house sitter. I sold everything and moved down. It was an easy decision to make because I had been here before. San Miguel is a beautiful colonial town with cobble stone streets and tall Cyprus trees. It looks a lot like Italy.
You are American by birth; what is it like living in Mexico? You've mentioned that it's a small town, how does it differ from an American one? What do you do for entertainment? What are the pluses and minuses living there? How has it changed over the time you've lived there? (I'm fascinated by this; I've never lived anywhere but America, and not being fluent in any foreign language I don't know that I could)
Yes, I am American. Living in Mexico is very exotic. The days are warm but not hot (San Miguel is over a mile high) and the nights are cool. My electric bill this month was $20. I only pay 3% tax on my income as an artist/gallery owner…I kid you not! It’s a very different kind of life here. It’s very laid back. On Tuesdays, I walk down to a little street vendor and buy my fruits and veggies for the week and I might spend $4. I have my own gallery that is only a block from where I live. It’s a great life.
When I say this is a small town that is putting it mildly. I can walk from north San Miguel to the other end of town in about 45 minutes. I know because I have done it. We have terrific restaurants but I don’t go out to eat that often. We have a major jazz festival and a film festival among many other things. I have to admit that I don’t get out much except to work
Palliser’s “The Quincunx”. I also love “Lord of the Rings” and “His Dark Materials”. I read all the time but it has to be well written or I will give it away.
“Auntie Mame”, anything by David Lynch (especially “Wild at Heart”), “Dark City”, and “Cold Comfort Farm”. The problem with this question is that I collect movies and have so many!
My favorite group is the Indigo Girls. I like Sarah McLachlan, Lisa Gerrard, Evanescence, Radio Head (Thom Yorke is a god), Tori Amos, and Mindy Smith. I also have a huge collection of Latin masses on my Ipod.
Donald Roller Wilson.
(Yes, I am going to shamelessly steal your questions; they are good ones and I am lazy)
You mentioned that you are also the year of the Ox, what is your Astrological Sign?
I am a Sagittarius.
You asked both myself and Colombina about mystical experiences and our ideas on destiny, which leads me to believe that you have had one (at least) and have definite ideas on the subject, care to share?
No mystical experiences here. However, they fascinate me! I am a total heathen and don’t believe in organized religion (It exists; it’s just not for me).
You've mentioned that you are gay as well, and I am going to toss some of your questions back at you: when did you know? How did it affect your relationship with your family? How do you think it influenced your decision to live out of the country, if it did at all? How is it being a gay man living in Mexico (which I view in the stereotypically Los Angeles gay-guy way as a very Catholic country, not exactly gay-friendly)? Crushes? Boyfriend?
About being gay, I think I have always known. I remember having a terrible crush on Batman (in the black Speedo). The family thing was tough. I didn’t speak to my parents for several years after they found out because their reaction was terrible. We are all OK now and I talk about it openly. San Miguel is not the place for a gay white boy to live! It’s a tiny town. I just hope that doesn’t mean that I am doomed to live a single life! Mexico is cool with the gay thing. In fact, it’s legal for gay people to get married here.
I will ask you your 10 desert island scents, but I am also going to ask you to list ten items that you could not live without on that same island (we are assuming art supplies as a given, so no, you can't fill it up by listing pastels, oils, gouache, etc.)
Tom, I can’t imagine that anyone will have read this far but here goes.
1. Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie – roses and ambergris.
2. L’artisan Premier Figuier – coconut and leaves.
3. YSL M7 – I love the amber and oud in this.
4. Alexander McQueen Kingdom – pure pheremones and deliciousness.
5. SL Chergui – I love its tobacco and sweet grass.
6. AG Sables – this just smells like an artist would wear it.
7. Hermes Eau des Merveilles – the ambergris in this just makes me smile.
8. Tauer Lonestar Memories – it’s a birch tar masterpiece.
9. L’artisan Timbuktu – one of the best saffron scents out there.
10. L’artisan Navigateur – Smoke filled, spicy mélange.
I couldn’t live without my Ipod (is there such a thing as a solar-powered Ipod?), Fleurs de Bulgarie, sunscreen, bar of soap, a totally hot guy (I have seen those prison movies so he probably doesn’t even have to be gay!), “The Quincunx” for when my boyfriend is napping, a chef because I love to eat good food, a pillow top mattress because sleep is important, my dogs because who else could love them like I do, and last but not least a lifetime supply of Lindt chocolate.
What are 5 foods you absolutely love? 5 that you loathe?
Love chicken alfredo pizza, fried mushrooms with ranch dressing, molten chocolate cake, chicken enchiladas with mole sauce, and peach cobbler.
I hate fish that is fishy tasting, raw bell peppers, bologna, cooked spinach, and my mom’s Italian Delight (because it always made me feel sick).
If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?
I would have found my true love by now (or that hot guy from the desert island!).
(Yes, I am back to stealing) Since you're so well traveled, I am sure that you have some interesting scent memories: care to share some?
I remember my budgie’s cage (birds have a weird smell). I also had a bottle of herbal cologne that you sealed with a cork when I was 5 and it smelled divine. I remember my grandmother’s garden filled with mint and chrysanthemums.
Finally, if you could create a scent that would be the quintessence of Kelley, what would the notes be?
I think it would smell like turpentine and linseed oil and church incense and some bergamot as a top note. Diptyque has a scent called L’Eau Trois (I think that’s the one) that is fairly close to what I am talking about but not quite.
I know you have a picture on your website of you, you handsome devil, what about one of your washboard abs?
Thanks for putting up with my importuning and natterings!
I am honored that you would ask! Oh, and the washboard abs are hidden under a protective layer of fat…
The photos are of the San Miguel Paroquia, a rock wall in my gallery, me (thanks Marshall), and the photo of Auntie Mame is courtesy of the Teegarden/Nash collection.