The whimsical world of artist Allie Kelley by Jeffrey Pillow
(From left to right) Deerly Beloved - 18x24” oil on canvas, The Cage - pen and ink, Blue Buck - 16x20” oil on canvas, Jurassic Heart - 18x24” acrylic/oil on canvas
ounted on her grandfather’s wall, taxidermized white-tailed deer with brown glass eyes, smelling faintly resinous from turpentine and shellac, stare down at Allie Kelley, a 28-yearold artist from the hollows of West Virginia turned Blacksburg transplant. “Every winter,” Kelley reminisces, “my grandfather would shoot at least one buck, bring it home, and string it up before taking it to the butcher. He was a master huntsman. I imagine he is what Teddy Roosevelt would have been if Teddy Roosevelt was a West Virginia coalminer rather than a born wealthy politician. Anyway, he hunted everything. I mean everything: bears, boars, deer, squirrels, whatever; and I seemed to always be there when he brought his kill home.” “He’d pull me outside, plop me in front of this strung up, field-dressed, dead deer, and tell me he had shot Rudolph . . . Of course I knew he was fibbing because of the obvious lack of a red nose.” The departed souls of deer: it is an image fixed within Kelley’s memory. She laughs when telling the story and admits that as macabre and scarring as this may sound for a child, it was far from it. “I used to kind of stare at them, these huge antler racks mounted on the wall and make up stories
about them . . . I wondered what the deer thought about me not having antlers.” Granted the deer were dead, the mind's eye of a child is unrivaled in its ability to construct its playful fiction and interspecies dialogue. “Fast forward 15-20 years, I spent six months painting everything in sight with antlers, even a blueberry muffin with antlers,” though she admits the latter didn’t work out too well. From the work of Dr. Seuss, a detour off I-81 to the Virginia Safari Park (commonly referred to as The Drive-Thru Zoo), to reliving a childhood story of her coalmining grandfather’s avocations, Kelley’s art is inspired by and inspires a fantastically sanguine altreality—a colorful universe of peacock feathers, henna designs, and hidden bunnies. “Jurassic Heart,” an acrylic/oil on canvas work, 18x24”, embodies this bright, imaginative playground of the artist. The red of the sun fuses with the orange of the rays and the yellow heat of the sky. “Warm, happy, fun—‘Jurassic Heart’ is simple at first glance but full of happy tidbits,” Kelley says. “The painting contains four birds, three hidden bunnies (go ahead, try and find them, she tells everyone), and a turtle in conversation with a big-hearted tricer-
atops.” “It’s what I want life to be. It makes me smile. It makes me want to throw on my brightest scarf, drink a giant cup of coffee, and conquer the world.” In his 1919 treatise, Sull’arte metafisica, Giorgio de Chirico stated, “Art is the fatal net which catches these strange moments of cerebral abnormality on the wing like mysterious butterflies, fleeing the innocence and distraction of common men.” If this be so, then Allie Kelley is his proverbial butterfly chaser. Allie Kelley lives in a tiny apartment with her lab mix, Goober, her hateful cat, Gidget, and her fiancé Will. She will showing at the Mish Mish Gallery in May and the Square Café in Pittsburgh, PA in July. For more information on Allie Kelley including commissioned pieces, visit her online at www.alliekelley.com or contact her via e-mail at AllieJKelley@gmail.com.
Jeffrey Pillow is a contributing writer for the online literary collective The Nervous Breakdown and Literature & the Arts columnist for Press Media Group. Visit him online at www.jeffreypillow.com.