Billy Kheel is a Los Angeles based artist whose recent work in felt appliqué is best described as “Rick Ross meets Betsy Ross”. Kheel first began working with felt by making large-scale felt appliqué pennants. Kheel pushed the material beyond sports memorabilia by creating projects about Los Angeles strip mall culture and the Los Angeles River. “Skyhigh” represents Kheel’s return to sports as subject matter, with a greater focus on pushing the medium into the realm of painting.
From Billy Kheel:
The title “Skyhigh” has multiple meanings for me. This is my first time exhibiting art in Denver and the city itself really inspired me. Geographically the city floats high in the air atop the Rocky Mountains. Denver also has a rich and passionate sports culture which I wanted to reference and explore. And, lastly, the recent changes to the laws governing marijuana use in Colorado are completely new to me. All of these distinct ideas were swirling around in my mind as I cut and sewed the art for the show.
This is my first time showing these felt appliqué sports themed paintings. Aesthetically, I love the image of a human propelling themselves through the air. As a former college football and lacrosse player, I remember the slow motion sensation of floating through the air to be one of the most profound experiences in sports. I’ve also always been fascinated by the idea that many amazing, high-performing athletes were smoking marijuana while they were also dominating their competition. Athletes caught using weed have been subject to suspensions, and even criminal prosecution. I feel that highlighting some of these All Star and Champion stoners raises interesting questions about sports and culture and our shifting ideas on what constitutes healthy behavior.
About Billy Kheel
Using felt and thread, Billy Kheel builds soft sculptures and wall hangings. His approach plays with the concepts of masculine vs. feminine and folk vs. academic in relation to artistic process and intent. By using craft techniques to explore typically masculine subject matter, Kheel’s work is influenced by the impact of shifting gender roles on culture. Regardless of the subject of a given series, a sense of humor and warmth runs throughout his work. This is Kheel’s first exhibit with Black Book Gallery. Kheel has exhibited nationally and internationally and his work has been featured in Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, KCRW’s Design and Architecture and KCET’s Artbound.