723 S. Valley Way
Open Monday-Saturday 11am-6pm
907-746-7668

Maureen Kelly, Artist of the Week

Maureen Kelly exhibited her work as an Artist of the Week on June 26, 2020.

Gallery

Interview

Interview Transcript

Emily Longbrake
Hi, and welcome. I’m here with the wonderful Maureen Kelly. I’d like to ask a few questions to get to know her better and hear more about her work. Thanks for being here.

Maureen Kelly
Thank you for having me

Emily Longbrake
To get started, could you tell us about the artwork that’s on display at the Palmer Museum?

Maureen Kelly
I picked a variety of things. I’ve got a couple of florals, a couple of faces – I love to do people faces – portraits, and some landscapes. So yeah, a variety of art.

Emily Longbrake
It sounds like you have a really wide range of subjects. Can you tell us how you choose what you like to paint or collage or draw? All of the above?

Maureen Kelly
Yeah, I mostly just come up with ideas. With landscapes, you just have to look outside and see the beauty of Alaska and and you know that you don’t have to go far for beautiful landscapes here where we live. But I do love to do portraits. I’m actually in the process of doing portraits of all my nieces and nephews. That’s one of those things. And florals now here with the garden starting. I’ve got a picture of a delphinium for example: my delphinium are just beginning to bloom. I draw inspiration from both nature and just the life around me.

Emily Longbrake
Excellent. That sounds like great inspiration! In your application, you mentioned that you studied art in college. Did you learn a lot about drawing from life there?

Maureen Kelly
When I was 15, I lived in Chicago. I grew up there, and took a life drawing class at the Art Institute: I was hooked. Ever since when I went to college, I studied art. It was a minor, it wasn’t my major degree but, still I did a lot of art classes and I have continued throughout the years to just work for many, many years. I spent probably 30 years just being, you know, involved with loving watercolor and all of its beauty. About three or four years ago, I realized it was time to branch out after all these years of studying one medium. I decided it was time for oils and acrylics and collage and such and so I have I dove into those as well. So now I’m doing a lot of different mediums and having a lot of fun playing with those mediums. Enjoying just creating with all mediums, I guess.

Emily Longbrake
It’s funny, we just talked to Alli Harvey about her work and she really loves acrylics, but she’s branching out into watercolors. And she said they’re so fickle and difficult sometimes. She respects anyone that works in watercolor!

Maureen Kelly
Yeah, I you know, it’s it’s fun. Each medium has its own beauty and its difficulties as well. It’s fun working through some of those and discovering: that’s what it’s all about.

Emily Longbrake
Yeah, discovering as you create. I’m sure that helps keep it interesting year after year: if you get stuck on something you can always find a new way to express the idea.

Maureen Kelly
I actually recently pulled out an old folder and found artwork from 30 years ago: I looked at it and decided it was time for a rework, and I just started ripping and tearing and repainting and creating new works from old works from years and years ago. It was really cathartic, if you will. It was really fun to take these old works from another time in my life and turn them into new works from this time. It was fun.

Emily Longbrake
Oh, what was the biggest thing that stood out as far as how you changed as an artist?

Maureen Kelly
Oh, well, I I’ve become a better draftsman over the years I I feel like now I am able to draw what I’m seeing better than I did 30 years ago.

Emily Longbrake
A lot of technical growth.

Maureen Kelly
Exactly. That’s what I meant to say.

Emily Longbrake
Oh, it sounds like the same things have been interesting. Just just a different way of expressing them on on paper or canvas. Since you’ve mentioned it, you weren’t an art major in college, right?

Maureen Kelly
Yeah, I studied English. And I actually got my degree in Library and Information Studies. And so I’ve been a librarian for many, many years. And now as a retired librarian, I have more time to devote to my art. I have a lovely art studio that my husband built me, which I’m sitting in right now and, and it makes such a difference to have your own art studio where you can just put out all your paints and canvases and not have to clean everything up every single time. For example, some people have to work on their kitchen table and put it all away before dinner, which is not my situation, thank goodness. But however you can create, create however you can, whenever you can. But lucky for me, I have a place where I can go: it’s my room to myself, if you will, for me.

Emily Longbrake
You also mentioned that you meet with other painting groups?

Maureen Kelly
Well actually I do like online painting classes, so I’ve taken quite a few of those. In fact, there’s one that’s going to be beginning on June 30. It’s learning to do big florals and acrylics, which I’m looking forward to. But I also meet with groups here: in one specific group actually here in Palmer. It’s on a bit of a hiatus Now, of course, with COVID. But, up until that time, we did art journaling every Sunday, and I love the beauty of art journaling, the immediacy of it, and the privacy of it too. It’s nothing that you’re doing to show anyone or to sell to anyone, you’re doing it for your own self: you’re creating for yourself. It was just a fun group about seven or eight of us that get together on Sundays and create. I’m looking forward to it resuming when we’re able to after the this crazy virus passes away.

Emily Longbrake
Did you have a strong sketchbook practice before meeting with that group?

Maureen Kelly
Yeah, it’s funny, I hadn’t thought so, but I had moved from one house to another and everything went into storage and once this art studio is built, I began pulling things out from In the closets and under the beds and out in the garage, and and I came to find I had more sketchbooks than I realized. It was fun to go back through things that I had done way back in the 80s. I was going, oh my goodness, I forgot all about these, about being interested in this facet. It’s funny as you grow as an artist when you go back in time to see your earlier works and where you were at and what you were interested in. So it’s interesting to see how you’ve grown. So yeah, I had more sketchbooks than I thought.

Emily Longbrake
Were there any particular mentors or influences that you felt like were really special?

Maureen Kelly
I’m absolutely going to just say different artists from the ages you know, you get on to things like Klimt or or Matisse you know, the Masters if you will, for example on I don’t know have you ever heard of Flaming June [by Frederic Leighton]? This was my attempt here: there she is, Flaming June in Alaska. Studying old masters is a wonderful way to hone your technique. So, I found many different artists whose styles I wanted to learn from, if you will, but no one in particular. Maybe Art Deco: I did go through a major Art Deco phase at one point, but so many different influences over the many, many years of your life for everyone, I mean, your music, the music, that you listen to, the art that you that you look at, just everything that happens in your life makes you who you are and, and that’s why when you create art, you’re creating a unique piece. Every single person creates uniquely because they’re unique. No one will ever create art like you ever.

Emily Longbrake
We all have experiences: where we come from, wherever you are going.

Maureen Kelly
Absolutely, absolutely. And that’s what’s the beauty of seeing different artists work, so many different styles and ways of expressing that of who they are and where they’ve been and where they’re going. That kind of thing.

Emily Longbrake
Second to last question, could you tell us about the Valley Fine Arts Association?

Maureen Kelly
Yeah, we have quite an active group. Prior to COVID we had been meeting once a month at the college and we had arranged times to meet at the library and Palmer. We were actually quite active and every September there is a retreat. Unfortunately that’s been cancelled this year as have all of our monthly meetings and get togethers. But still, we have an active Facebook group. If anybody’s interested in learning more about the Valley arts, they can go onto our page on Facebook and and see what’s going on there. And yeah, we’re in a bit of a hiatus. At the moment, as are many groups, but I’m sure when all this is over, we’ll be coming back just as strong as ever. We have quite a large following here in the valley.

Emily Longbrake
We’ll put a link to that in the notes for the video so that people can go and find them. And speaking of reaching out online, how can folks get a hold of you if they’re interested in the work?

Emily Longbrake
I do have an Instagram, IBut I have yet to finish up making my webpage and my artist page and all that. If anybody really wants to meet me if they happen to be out and about at the Friday Fling this coming Friday, I’ll be at the museum.

Emily Longbrake
Yeah, that sounds great. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with folks that might be interested?

Emily Longbrake
I do put out the news for the Valley Fine Arts Association into the People’s Paper, so if there’s any big news, I’ll be mentioning it there. I do have a show coming up at the Matanuska Brewery on the Palmer Wasilla Highway for the month of July. That’ll be my next big show after the museum show.

Emily Longbrake
Wonderful. Well, I look forward to it. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time. And we’ll have lots of notes and this video on Facebook for folks to check out and look forward to seeing more of your work.

Maureen Kelly
Well, thank you so much. Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure to sit and chat with you for a bit.

Emily Longbrake
Thank you!