Centre County artist Alice Kelsey said she’s always been a lover of nature and the outdoors, and her new exhibit, “Passages: Recent Paintings,” is a chance to put her words into images.
The 30-piece solo show, on display at the Penn State HUB Gallery through July 31, features visual representations of what she found on her forays into the wilds of Centre County. Rich tones depict muffled movement and stillness, shadows and light, and the varied but vibrant hues of each season.
Traveling light with a portable easel and backpack stuffed with art supplies, Kelsey is able to discover new inspirational painting locations, the theory behind the plein air style (“in the open air”). The artist recently took time off from planning a July 12 public presentation to discuss her excitement of the exhibit, specifically, the way the exhibitors arranged her new pieces.
The walls were repainted for the exhibit, with sections of blue on the panels, creating a spacious feeling like being outside, where the paintings started. The excellent lighting is also very inviting. It is wonderful to exhibit a large body of my works in a solo exhibit, where the works are diverse though united by the marks a single maker.
The framing of the works also adds to a sense of a harmonious whole in the exhibit. Most works are presented in frames custom-made from local hardwoods, including some unusual species such sycamore and butternut, as well as cherry and walnut. My husband, Tim Kelsey, and I collaborated in selecting wood individually for each painting, and building and finishing the frames.
In the exhibit space, I am drawn to linger and wonder and explore, much as I did out in the landscape where the paintings started. It is very gratifying to me as an artist to see these latest works together, clearly of the same hand while having unique moods and voicings, speaking of the land that I love in central Pennsylvania.
Back in the studio, I often develop the work further, or create new works based upon it. Most paintings take several months for me to fully finish. I’ve been a full-time professional artist for 11 years.
It is wonderful to have vibrant materials, tubes and sticks of lush color, textured paper and canvas, and stirrings for gesture to put these experiences down visually.
Plein air work is the root of my art-making, a reliable “spark” of inspiration, a place where there is always something more to see and to appreciate. I learn a lot from nature — seeing colors and shape relationships that are so rich. Some of these works are exercises, some lead to others, and some are whole and complete and are framed to share with others. I also work regularly in my studio, using plein air works as “jumping off” places for other works.
I am passionate about many outdoors activities, including hiking, fly-fishing, gardening, and horseback riding, and many artistic inspirations arise in the midst of these adventures, so I’ll often return to a spot with art materials. I have a backpack loaded with art supplies, which frees me to travel miles off road to paint.