Kelly Dabbah was born in Geneva, Switzerland and currently lives and works in New York City. She is a fashion alumnus of Parsons School of Design with degrees in Gemology, Business Management and training from Chanel and Anna Sui. Shortly after her training, Kelly went on to design a unique clothing line. From large-scale art installations to small objects, her digital multimedia patterns are created to be functional. Everything she creates adds a bold accent to home decor, accessories and more. Dabbah’s work was previously featured at Gelareh Mizrahi in the Miami Design District, Kreëmart’s CBD launch party and WAAH Foundation’s “We are all human.” I chatted with her about her career as an artist, her inspirations, and what’s she’s working on next! Read the interview below.
“There is nothing more beautiful than a woman’s body.”
From Kelly's sketchbook
What are your three proudest moments?
It is hard to answer this question as I am just starting and I feel that I still have so much to learn, create and prove to myself. One of my proudest moments was when I decided to apply to Parsons School of Design. I was studying business at the time and wasn’t creating much art, I enrolled in some drawing classes for a year to get back to a creative mode. All the creativity came up pretty fast. I received some help from a teacher in Geneva, Mr. Preece, that definitely helped me push my limits by teaching me patience and different techniques.
My project for Parsons was a psychedelic collage of a woman looking through herself in the mirror. She represented a number, a naked object of our society. Before creating the collage, Mr. Preece asked me to write about the collage, to write an essay about how I felt and what I wanted to express. It was the first time I consciously took time to create something deeper and bigger than I ever thought I could. The result was strong, and I got into Parsons.
My second proudest moment was when I discovered I was able to create art on digital software. This is when I realized that my art has no limits, in the sense that I am now able to replicate my vision on so many mediums and for so many industries; lifestyle, fashion, fine art, interior design, etc. I have been working very hard this year without really knowing where it was going to lead me.
Here is my proudest moment: I had no idea I would be doing art installations. I started with the idea that I would be doing a fashion line, and I ended up doing two art installations and one exhibition in Miami. It is crazy how things can evolve without you even noticing. I’m proud that I was able to adapt as an artist and expand my reach.
Tell me about this latest project. How did the inspiration come to you, what are your goals with the project?
My latest project was in Showfields in New York City. Someone reached out to me on Instagram to be part of the project. At the time, I was doing an art installation in Miami. I ended up using the same prints that I used for Miami but I displayed them totally differently so it looked completely new and fresh for NYC. I have so many prints that it was pretty easy to recreate something fun. At that point, I wanted people to get to know me and what I was doing. So I created a neon sign with the “Pass With Care” quote and my name on it so people could follow me on Instagram and tag me on their pictures. The message for “Pass With Care” is about peace and to treat others the way you want to be treated. I don’t like to speak about politics, I am not a politician, it is so complex and I don’t want to hurt anyone. All I hope for is peace. I was happy to see so many people taking cool pictures and reaching out to collaborate or give me new ideas. I guess one step at a time, it takes time and patience.
You mention your muses on your website. What about these three women make them a muse to you?
My three sisters and my mother are my muses as I look up to them a lot. All of them have strong personalities, they are spicy and sweet at the same time. They are my source of knowledge and inspiration as I never had brothers. For me, they represent the modern woman as they are sensitive but have thick skin. They are independent and free-spirited. We are from the Middle-East and middle eastern women generally have curves and dark hair, strong features and strong personalities. I find it beautiful and inspirational. I definitely use it in my art. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman’s body. I feel women and curves go hand in hand. I started drawing naked women at a very young age. I feel like this is what inspired me the most.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the world who would it be?
I would love to collaborate with Sig Bergamin. He is one of my favorite interior designers and architects. He has a bold, vivid, eclectic, Brazilian style. He describes himself as a “maximalist” so I feel like we would get along pretty well. I would love to see my extravagant prints on a couch, a lamp or a sofa that he provides for his clients. Or even creating an interior design line with him, who knows!
You already have some great wins on your resume. Share some advice and words of wisdom.
I have a lot of work in front of me and I am not scared of it. I guess that is one of my strengths. I have learned from my experiences that everything is constantly changing. Everything can evolve so fast and opportunities can come to you unexpectedly, as long as you work hard and you put your heart into everything to you. As I wrote earlier, I didn’t expect to do art installations at all. I was working on my fashion line and I was creating my prints and had fun displaying them at home for a photo shoot. I randomly showed those photos to a lady that introduced me to Gelareh Mizrahi in Miami. We did a pop-up and from there I got an offer from Showfields and an exhibition at ArtPark in Miami. One thing led to the other. The only key is consistency, which is, for me, the hardest part. Creativity can come and go, which is tricky too. My advice would be to be consistent, work hard, and let yourself live and take on any kind of project. It is crazy how your art can evolve and improve simply by saying yes.
What challenges have you faced as a person and how did you overcome them?
My main challenge is consistency. I can get very inspired by a project and put my heart and soul into it. Then it can fade away pretty quickly. I feel that is why artists can’t stop doing new things because it is part of a constant evolution. And I feel consistency goes with patience. It is hard for me to be patient but I am always trying my best.
I started working on a bathing suit line, and my skateboards will be for sale soon online. I would love to see my art on different mediums and in different industries, by having my own brands or by collaborating with people (artists, designers, architects) and brands from different industries. In particular, the fashion, interior design, and lifestyle industries. I would love to be seen as a designer, a creator and not only as an artist. One thing that makes me dream a lot is becoming a prop stylist; to create crazy setups like immersive rooms with my psychedelic prints for fashion photoshoots, movies,
music videos and more.
To learn more about Kelly and her work visit her website.