Written by Aleen Ratzlaff Wednesday, 20 February 2008 07:00
February is capturing some extraordinary moments in Kelli Just’s life. Besides recently completing her undergraduate degree, Just will be showing her paintings at an inauguratory event in Junction City and then seven days later saying her marriage vows.
Just will the guest of honor Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Junction City Arts Council’s Premier Masquerade Ball, a fundraiser for scholarships that promote art in the Junction City area.
“It’s probably overwhelming when I look at all that’s happening,” she said. “But I work best under pressure. It’s probably a blessing in disguise.”
|Two of Just's water colors: "Self Portrait " above and "Two women" below|
Last month, Just was named JCAC’s first Premier Artist following a competition that drew submissions from six artists in Kansas. Her watercolor and oil paintings will be featured at Saturday’s event.
As a masquerade ball, eveningwear and masks are the attire.
“We got our masks—we’re excited,” Just said in anticipation of the event. She will attend with her guests, fiancé Caleb Dirks and parents Darrel and Geneva Just of Hillsboro.
Several for-profit galleries will view Just’s paintings and provide one-on-one consultations as part of winning the award, according to the JCAC Web site. Some of her paintings will be for sale at the premier.
Just learned about the Junction City competition from Shin-hee Chin, her painting professor at Tabor College.
“I usually don’t seek out those sorts of things because I’ve got school going on,” Just said. “She was the one that encouraged that and kind of made it happen because of all my other school stuff going on.”
Chin first taught Just in art classes about 2½ years ago.
“Kelli is very talented—a hard worker, punctual, very focused and humble,” said Chin, assistant professor of art and design. “It is easy to teach her.”
Following Chin’s encouragement, Just submitted digital images of 10 paintings, her resume and a general artist statement to the JCAC juried competition.
Just said her entries reflect her view of art—a means for capturing everyday, ordinary moments that are easily overlooked.
Just sought to emphasize that theme in her painting projects completed during the fall semester, adding that she drew her stylistic inspiration from an oil painting by Edgar Degas, “The Absinthe Drinker,” which depicts a couple seated in a café.
“I was intrigued by the painting. I saw it, actually, when I in Europe and it struck me,” she said. “I saw the emotion captured in that moment.”
She recreated the Degas painting using watercolor and went on to complete a series of five paintings depicting women in such “unseen or unimportant moments in familiar settings,” she said.
“I generally don’t work in series like this,” Just said. “This semester was different.”
Those works were among the 10 she submitted to the competition.
In “One Woman,” Just painted a young woman lying on the bed in her room.
“She looks kind of heart-broken,” Just said. “It’s very distant. She’s small in the composition and it kind of portrays how isolated she feels.”
“Two Women” portrays women talking as they get ready in the morning, while “Three Women” focuses on friends conversing at a table booth. She said the fourth and fifth paintings in the series reflect similar settings.
Just’s passion as an artist is for photography, a career she intends to pursue. She worked several summers at Designer Images in Hillsboro.
Like painting, photography also captures moments.
“When you take a piece out of reality, you see it in a new way,” she said about shooting photos. “You see its intricacies.
“It separates itself from reality and becomes an escape. When you know the full picture, you mostly see reality, whereas a photo separates it out.”
Just graduated from Tabor after January interterm and will be married to Caleb Dirks Feb. 29 at Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church, rural Hillsboro. The couple plans to move to Nashville, where they both are looking for employment.
“We know there are opportunities (in Nashville),” said Just, adding that she has had several interviews with photographers in the area.
Her fiancé also is a graphic designer, but his emphasis is film.
“We’re confident that’s we’re to go,” Just said. “On the side, we want to pursue our freelance (work).”