The time she puts into a given piece—sometimes weeks or months—is a process the artist enjoys. “It’s rewarding to start with a thought or idea and be able to achieve it in a painting,” Kelly says. She views the layout of each painting as vitally important. “The most important step is composition,” says Kelly. “If the composition is wrong, sometimes I even have a physical reaction. My chest will ache until I alter the artwork.”
Kelly’s meticulous approach is rooted in the training she received from her mentor, the late Curtis Rosser of Orleans. “I want to paint it exactly the way it is in reality,” she says, “I was taught that it’s amateur to do otherwise.” When she first sought out Rosser as a potential mentor in the mid-1990s, the artist visited her studio, reviewed her work, and began to give her assignments and critiques on completed pieces. “The critiques were rather painful at first,” Kelly recalls, but she adds that the feedback helped her grow as an artist. “I would paint furiously,” she says, “so I would have more to show.”
Kelly generally paints in the afternoon, often playing classical music while she works. “I am detailed and a realist,” she says. “I like focusing on the architecture and the connection between people and buildings.” In her painting “Morning on Commercial Street,” for instance, Kelly depicts a well-known area in Provincetown from the perspective of a visitor on the street. The businesses along the road dominate the composition while visitors mill about in the background.
In her work Kelly likes to challenge herself, both in taking on new techniques and in tackling complex subjects. She frequently incorporates water into her paintings, such as in “On the Hunt,” which illustrates a crane standing in water. “I like my paintings to be moving,” she says, “with characters doing something or waiting for something.” In another piece, “Grand Central Station,” commuters can be seen walking along hand in hand, checking the train schedule, and purchasing tickets. “There are so many people going somewhere, doing something,” Kelly says, “and that intrigues me.”
Another of the artist’s personal favorites is a large, 30” x 40” study she completed of the American flag. Titled “Saluting the Flag,” the piece concentrates on the folds of the material as it waves. Bold red, white, and blue hues take up much of the canvas; planes soar through the clouds in the background; and the foreground is filled with the details of the fabric. The painting hangs above a staircase in Kelly’s home.
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