The Only Way Out is Through
Stephanie Ketty speaks about her debut art show.
@StephanieKetty joined BFA as their first employee in 2010, booking their events. Throughout the years, her role at BFA grew in a deeper way, centered around helping clients solve their content problems each day and helping tell their stories through content. She was head of partnerships for a bit, then head of business development, handling communications for the agency and looking at new revenue streams and opening new markets globally. BFA started in luxury fashion, but diversified into fine art, tech, real estate, etc. Now, they are considered one of the biggest content sources in the world and Stephanie helped build that vessel during the day, all the while honing her own art skills at night. Tomorrow, Stephanie will revisit and expand upon themes that have long preoccupied her with her debut art show, “The Only Way Out is Through” at Cafe Lyria in Soho.
J.E.: What was your journey like?
S.K.: My dad is an immigrant from Baghdad and my mom is Mexican American. I’m originally from Michigan and lived there until college where I studied art and psychology before moving to Miami in 2009. That’s where I worked and saved up to move to New York. Ultimately, I wanted to move here to be an artist and a painter.
S.K.: Growing up was a lot of school, a lot of friends and a lot of art. Especially a lot of people in the arts who told me I wasn’t good enough. Mainly high school art teachers, who said that I couldn’t draw, didn’t like abstract art. That’s probably what took me so long to build up to my profession.
S.K.: I went through the motions of studying art full-time as a major. That didn’t help me as much in what I’m creating. They didn’t teach me the business behind being an artist, best practices. In graduate school, it might have been a little more of that. Even though I’m educated in art, I’m pretty self-taught. Music was something that helped fuel my creativity and strength.
S.K.: Three months into living in New York, I met the BFA partners and joined as employee number one. Nine years later, Michele Hellman asked me to submit a piece of art for the Coalition of the Homeless Artwalk NY auction, and it sold. I knew I had to put together a show after that. Now, I’m painting for me. It’s the release of what I need to get out. I’m using experiences I’ve had in the past twenty years.
J.E.: Where did your interest in art come from?
S.K.: My interest in art stemmed from my want to help people. I think I still help people in some ways, and I get to work with creatives. Helping people allows me to be creative. People who can’t help themselves or are going through pain, I’ve experienced that. I have a chronic illness. I didn’t really realize until later in life, after I was diagnosed, that art is a release of what you’re keeping in you. It’s a conduit into helping the mind release what it needs to when words don’t allow you to. Subconsciously, without knowing, it wasn’t until my early ‘20s, my need of being around people - helping those who aren’t outspoken - I’m passionate about helping people express their need through art.
J.E.: Tell us about your show!
S.K.: It’s atypical for a first show. The space is a beautiful cafe, with giant windows for natural light called Cafe Lyria owned by my very dear friend Yannis Mastoros. It is where I go to be around other creatives and friends to discuss art projects, work, life and music. It’s a haven for us in our neighborhood and has immense meaning to me. It’s a little community of creatives in Soho and down the street from my apartment. I’m so grateful to be able to showcase my work there.
S.K.: I have twelve pieces, and they’re all not cohesive. They’re very different. I symbolize that as each painting representing a year I’ve lived in New York. Each year I’ve lived, I haven’t really lived as an artist, because of my day job. There were a lot of people telling me last year what I should do and what I shouldn’t. Some I listened to and some I didn’t. At the end of the day, I’m doing the show for me.
S.K.: This is my coming out into the art world. Somebody amazing told me that galleries need artists - artists don’t need galleries. That resonated with me so much stronger than anything I’ve heard in my life as an artist. In 2010, I knew nobody. In 2022, I know more people than I ever could imagine. There’s something to be said about what I did and what I build with my day job. That helped me bridge what I needed to do on my own. Will I do the next show on my own? We’ll see. My intention is not to sell - it’s to bring an incredible group of people together in New York and let them see me as an artist.
J.E.: What was your inspiration for this show?
S.K.: I would say New York is probably the biggest inspiration. The pain, the grit, the endless hours of work kind of scaled through the sizes and mediums. I have different oils and acrylics. Some pieces I used brushes, but some I used scrapers. It’s very bright and bold. There’s a couple of darker pieces. When you see the pieces, they’re very lively. Some of them are from when I was very sick, and working like crazy. One of my favorite things to do was look at other people’s art, maybe that was a distraction. I stopped doing that in 2021 and started painting more.
S.K.: The difference between Paris and New York is that New York is very energetic, very driven. I will live in Paris at some point in my life. The energy is so different. The artists that have lived and worked there are such an inspiration. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Claude Monet, Joan Mitchell. So, scale also played a part in this way. I’m used to painting massive pieces. When I saw the Basquiat show at the LV Foundation in Paris, I knew that was the goal. That’s the scale I’m going for.