New Gallery-For-A-Night at Barking Legs Theater features Lorri Kelly this week
When you see one of Lorri Kelly’s paintings up close, you can feel something that you won’t get from a photograph of the work. The fascinating compositions that inhabit the surfaces of her art have a story to tell with their colors and textures. Kelly is the second artist to be featured in Barking Legs Theater’s new Gallery-For-A-Night series, happening Monday, Feb. 9, from 5 to 10 p.m.
The Pulse: What are your earliest memories of making art?
Lorri Kelly: I remember rubbing my hands in the wet paint of my artist fathers’ paintings. We were always tramping from art show to gallery to museum, with my little art kit of paints, colored pencils and oil pastels under my arm. My earliest body of work was in elementary school at St. Nicholas: stippled drawings based on Greek mythology.
TP: How did your education affect your artwork?
LK: I am mostly self-taught, aside from art classes at Girls Preparatory School, and some basic lessons from my dad. I drifted from art as an adult, spending years in the corporate world. I didn’t begin painting as a profession until after the death of my daughter Jessica, who died of cancer at age 5. My father suggested painting as a way to deal with my profound grief. My art has become an unspoken language that covers the spectrum of emotions. That’s why I named this current exhibition “Whispers and Shouts: The Emotional Abstractions of Lorri Kelly.”
TP: What inspires your choices of color and composition?
LK: Sometimes I awake with a certain color in my mind, and that color feels like a mysterious door that is leading me into an emotional place that needs exploration. So I open that color up on the canvas, and see where it takes me, adding other colors as I go. When it comes to composition, I see intimate spaces between the colors and lines as they move together or apart, and I try to let those little spaces have their moment, keeping my fingers crossed that all these little moments will work together!
TP: What processes do you employ in your work?
LK: I literally paint with my hands, because even the short length of a paintbrush keeps me too far away from the close contact that these intensely personal stories demand. I use acrylic paint, and as the abstract color-content begins to take shape, I then use various pencils, scraped lines, or hard chunks of pigment to define some of the emerging images that I see. Sometimes I am surprised to find that I’ve painted the whole thing upside-down, or that there are four different paintings, depending on which direction I hold the panel. In one direction, certain colors shout and others whisper; in another direction, the colors switch roles, or another emotion speaks up louder than the others.
TP: What kind of music do you listen to when you’re working?
LK: I simply must have music when I paint; it could be Pavarotti and opera one day, and the next be Led Zepplin, and the next Miles Davis. I believe the more passionate the music and the more complex the music, the greater my paintings turn out. I will be showing a series of white and black paintings called “The Jazz.” You can almost see the notes.
TP: Do you see art as being mystical or scientific?
LK: My art certainly seems more mystical, although there is probably strong science behind it that has yet to be explained. [My husband] Steve says that I am in a trance-like state when I’m painting, totally caught up in the process. Sometimes I feel like I’m showing up at the canvas just to see what will flow out of my hands, from some deep nameless wordless place that holds messages and stories that must be told through paint. I step back to look at what’s developing, and begin to see figures, faces, animals, and places. Some are familiar, but some content is for others to recognize.
TP: Do you have any observations about our local art scene?
LK: Chattanooga has swarms of artists, some of the most talented artists in the country; yet the most of them have to go outside of Chattanooga to make their living. I think the community loves boasting about all the artists here, who beautify the city with murals and sculptures, but they haven’t quite made the connection that “supporting the arts” means actually going to the art events, meeting the artists themselves, and taking home some of their work, so the artist can carry on. That’s why I’m so excited about Barking Legs having this monthly Gallery-for-a-Night: it gives the artist a lovely venue for showing their work, and it’s a chance to establish a monthly creative hub where artsy folks can network.
To see more of Lorri’s art, visit her website at lorrikelly.com. Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave. (423) 624-5347, barkinglegs.org