Local artist Alice Kelsey conveys her appreciation and intrigue found in and around Bellefonte in a collection of oil and pastel paintings, “Bellefonte: Bridging People and Place.” Standing out in these works are visions of slicking water, moving reflections of several seasons of color, architecture and landscape rhythms, people in repose, and bridges — all aspects that define the interplay of human and natural forces at work. The exhibit is on display in the Sieg Gallery at the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County through Nov. 30.
Kelsey said she feels an ongoing connection and curiosity when she visits the town. And because she has always lived in rural areas, she said she appreciates the historical roots and small-town traits of Bellefonte.
“It’s urban enough to raise my curiosity — with buildings close together, and cars and people pulsing by,” she said. “Yet it’s set in a wider natural environment — with the backdrop of Bald Eagle Mountain, streams, and streets on hills — where I feel connected.”
Kelsey said she can sometimes picture horses and carriages bustling about the county seat.
“The historical roots also feel special, where buildings and structures with functional purpose in former centuries — mills, factories and dams — continue to yield in aesthetic qualities,” she said. “I like the layout of the town following the course of Spring Creek and the hills which flank it, the solid architecture of brick and stone, and the magic of Big Spring arising from the earth with an immense and steady flow.”
Kelsey said she recalls places in Bellefonte where she experienced a sense of gratitude and connection, from misty mornings in Spring Creek Canyon to striking colors and lush growth of several seasons in Talleyrand Park.
“These strong stirrings lead me to paint, and although physical structures with recognizable places are part of the image, even more importantly, I want to employ color and gesture to express the mood of a place and the relationship between forms in a scene and the viewer,” she said. “As I explore in nature, and in the act of painting, I often experience a connection of a spiritual sort as well, a powerful tenderness and sense of ‘something more.’ ”
Following this mysterious draw to the town, Kelsey began to paint in Talleyrand Park two years ago. In the process of searching for ways to capture its essence in oil and pastel, she came to understand that it is the interplay of human and natural forces there, each shaping the other, that captivates her.
“My artwork focuses on the connection which I feel to the natural world; places where people intersect harmoniously with the land — hedgerows, paths, old barns, edges of woods and fields and stone houses — tend to stir this spark for me to paint,” she said.
Kelsey said visitors to the museum talk about their appreciation for the town and like how she has depicted several landmarks in her paintings.
“People often comment that my paintings draw the viewer’s eye in to the image to explore, and are expressive with a strong sense of color and gesture,” she said. “I expect to continue painting in Bellefonte, since several other sections and structures have caught my attention. I may well find inspiration in other towns too. We’ll see what catches my eye.”