The figures artist Thomas Kelly paints have a distinctive, deceptively simple style. Representative but not realistic, the geometry of their shapes and body positions are a bit off, in a charming way. They are colorful and alive, with expressions that share joy, reflection, peace, love and a sense of simply living life.
In the 300 years it stood in Princeton Battlefield Park, the original Mercer Oak attracted many artists who photographed it or otherwise memorialized it. But when a mighty wind ended its life in 2000, a new tree was planted from the seed of the mother. The new sapling, having not yet acquired such majesty as its parent, has yet to be significantly chronicled by artists until now. Thomas Kelly has created this image of the new Mercer Oak. Most of Mr. Kelly’s paintings tell stories.
What could be sweeter than knowing that some of your former Fine Arts professors now count your work in their personal collections? Local artist Thomas Kelly has had that affirmation – and so many more – as he continues to produce paintings that are both critically admired and widely popular.
In 1993, Thomas Kelly entered a 10-by-10-inch woodcut in Artworks’ “Smallworks” juried exhibition. It was the first time he’d entered a juried show and he was accepted. The woodcut was “Ellis Islanders.”
If Vincent Van Gogh were alive today he might want to strangle fellow artist Thomas Kelly. He certainly would be envious of Mr. Kelly’s overnight success. Even with a brother who was a well-known gallery owner and art dealer, Van Gogh’s work didn’t sell during his lifetime. To make matters worse, his own mother rejected the gift paintings he sent her.
Hamilton’s Thomas Kelly usually creates his trademark moody narrative paintings on wide swaths of canvas. He has worked on board, paper and wood, but painting two scenes on an unprimed violin – a New Jersey Symphony Orchestra violin, no less – was daunting.
Trenton-born artist Thomas Kelly refers to himself as “a blue-collar painter, a hard worker, a serious painter from Trenton.” He is all those things and more. He’s a professional by anyone’s standards, an insightful chronicler of human emotions – and a likable hometown guy.
It is a widely held notion in art circles that museum visitors spend an average of 3.7 seconds looking at a piece of art. Thomas Kelly’s immense acrylic canvases – enigmatic, moody and strongly narrative – are sure to stretch even the shortest attention span. They’re riveting.
The pairing of Tom Kelly and Loring Hughes is as near perfect as it gets. Each artist navigates the choppy waters of social interaction. Both are painters of people – pampered people at the center of good times (Kelly); and survivors of the worst times, people on the remote fringe of society (Hughes). People are the players, but the real subject for both artists is the situation – people second guessing other people – and the work is totally absorbing.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the paintings of Thomas Kelly may be the genesis of entire novels. His work is currently on display, along with that of five other members of the Trenton Artists Workshop Association, at Ellarslie, The Trenton City Museum.