We’re a diverse bunch, we fans of electronic. In my journeys, I have personally met and had bewitching conversations with grade school teachers, biochemists, students, astronauts, taxidermists, fans of Kim Kardashian, and more than a couple entities that might not have been human at all. Do some profiling next time you’re at an event, and you’ll see. But what if your fandom became interwoven, directly, with the music? Meet Kharli Brockmeier.
“I think that the whole purpose of art is being able to tell a story or being able to describe a situation—which is exactly what I wanted to do with my painting of EDC.”
Currently attending the University of New Mexico, Kharli designs and creates eye-widening costumes and original artwork while studying chemistry and psychology—in her free time. My crystal ball shows a PhD in neuroscience down the road, but for now, there are enough good vibrations for everyone. She’s happy because her painting The Kinetic Temple, a re-visioning of the 2016 EDC stage backdrop, went viral—drawing attention from the farthest flung corners of electronic-dom. Her friends are happy, as they draw continual praise at shows for their Kharli-made duds. Insomniac is happy because making people happy… makes us happy. The future is happy, as her trail is gonna’ blaze—a blaze so bright, she’s gotta wear shades. But how the hell did she get so focused?
The answer? Harry Potter. No, not really. It is true that she got hooked into what she now considers to be her rave family while teaching a class on Harry Potter and Hogwarts at UNM (as a designer, her favorite house is Ron Weasley’s house—“It just feels like home”). It all really began back in high school. High school isn’t the romanticized wonderland that TV and the movies make it out to be. Spoiler: There are no vampires or magic cauldrons, and very few nerds date the captain of the football team. In fact, if you’re creative and maybe a little different, it can be a real pisser. But that wasn’t going to stop our Miss Brockmeier. Noticing that people around her “all had these really cool things, and that they were all doing something that made them special,” she set out to even the playing field. Being an avid reader wasn’t cutting the mustard, so she turned to her other love: art. “I sat myself down and was like, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to draw. I want to paint.’”
“I realized at that moment that I am the only person in the universe who can make me happy. I can be happy in any situation if I just allow myself to appreciate the moment.”
The first few things she belted out were a bit raw, but one of those rare rose-in-a-turd-pile teachers threw her encouragement, bumping her into the advanced class the following year. And there’s where she took off. It was an unguided class, which meant she had to motivate herself—something she’s become something of an expert at. “We’d choose what we wanted to draw or paint, choose our medium, and then we would just go. The biggest thing I did was inspired by The Lord of the Rings.”
From that point on, it was a matter of channeling that energy into types of art she loved. A full-time comic book enthusiast, she took her first steps into costuming via cosplay. Her love of electronic soon entered the mix, however, and ramping it up just happened naturally. Now she continually cooks up costumes, evolving technique, fabric selection and design as she goes. And the reception she receives speaks well of the dance music audience.
“Whenever people compliment me, it’s always in a very nonsexual way,” Kharli says. “It’s like, ‘Your outfit is awesome,’ ‘I really like what you did with that,’ or ‘You’re absolutely beautiful.’ I never feel creeped out at events. I think that just shows the whole PLUR thing—people are really respectful of you. Girls are wearing much, much, much less here than when I used to go to comic conventions. I felt constantly preyed upon, and I was wearing a lot more clothing. I really appreciate the rave community for that.”
Kharli’s Process: When I paint, I like to map out my plan. I usually have a vague design idea. I then search for reference pictures to help me with color and proportions. Afterward, I do a rough sketch of the painting. Then I take a section and do the first rough layer of paint with just the basic colors, and finally I go over it one last time with the details and shading. I try to do the easiest parts first to give me encouragement, the hardest parts in the middle to power through, and the second-easiest parts last, so I don’t feel too drained and give up at the end.
And so we reach the part in our narrative where the giving back begins. Massives can be uplifting. Massives can be chaotic. When the two combine, it can be life-changing—and so it was with Kharli. The Kinetic Temple, the piece that launched a thousand ships, came out of an epiphany she had while catching Seven Lions at EDC 2016. Pull up a chair as Kharli lays it down:
I think that the whole purpose of art is being able to tell a story or being able to describe a situation—which is exactly what I wanted to do with my painting of EDC. I deal with a lot of anxiety. Even though I very much love festivals, they can be a source of great anxiety—especially EDC, which is so huge and crazy to get to. And hot. I was just stressed out the entire first day. All I wanted to do was feel okay. I was kind of panicking and feeling a little claustrophobic. I’d seen Seven Lions at Life in Color two years earlier, and his music has always been soothing to me. I love metal and classical music, and I think it’s a really great combination of those. I kept looking up and a lot of times the stage was one or two colors, red or blue, but at one point it turned into this rainbow color burst. There’s something so cathartic and warming about multiple colors to me for some reason. I just felt at peace. I realized at that moment that I am the only person in the universe who can make me happy. I can be happy in any situation if I just allow myself to appreciate the moment. So I did, and I ended having a great trip the rest of the time.
And so our heroine began the most recent chapter in her budding career. She set brush to canvas in order to express that moment of clarity, to share it with others, and things couldn’t have worked out any better. With the simple goal of having Pasquale Rotella see it, she used Facebook and Instagram as her tools. The thing began snowballing, as such things sometimes do, and “fortunately, he saw it on Twitter and retweeted it!” Kharli explains. “I was absolutely overjoyed by the responses. I received 536 reshares and 1,524 likes. Even Seven Lions responded, saying, ‘Wow, that’s fuckin’ rad!’ Insomniac then retweeted it and even shared it on their Facebook, and I got asked to do this interview! I could never have imagined getting this much attention for it. But I’m so excited that my fellow ravers like my painting and are able to remember their wonderful experiences at EDC.”
“I’m so excited that my fellow ravers like my painting and are able to remember their wonderful experiences at EDC.”
The finished product, which more than 73 hours over a two-week period, is an epic remembrance of the 2016 kineticTEMPLE stage, focused though her own brain wave. The painting has retired from public life, now residing on her living room wall. If you’re curious, check out more of Kharli’s stuff—you may have seen her cosmic jellyfish floating among the crowd yourself. Her next project is, from memory, the pond at Dreamstate SoCal. “It was so beautiful with the lights reflected in it—and the rain,” she recalls.
Also, rumor has it she’s considering taking on a few commissions—between raves and chemistry class, that is.
Every artist has a guiding principle—their “main aesthetic,” if you will. For Kharli, it’s beauty. So, if you’re a fan of pretty things, check out this playlist: Kharli’s top 15 most beautiful songs (because five wasn’t enough):