Memphis Theological Seminary
liturgical work has been in black and white to honor the budget constraints of the churches I work with. When I began, pen and ink was more comfortable for me anyway, but I've really been enjoying watercolor the last couple of years, so I'm excited to get to branch out a bit for MTS. Here is my Genesis painting for the first week of chapel. I'm looking forward to doing a series.
I had a sketching dinner with Elizabeth Alley last night. Every once in a while we go out to sketch together, talk about our travels, talk about materials, techniques, teaching, and whatever else. I usually sketch solo at places, so it's fun to have a meal with someone else who's doing the same thing.
The segment about me that was filmed by the PBS show Tennessee Crossroads is out and up on You Tube. You can watch the six minute segment at:
I'm always a little stunned at how Southern I sound outside my own head, and occasionally I feel like there's a reason I'm a visual artist instead of a verbal one, but they did a really nice job of putting together an overview of my life, work, and creative philosophy.
And they showed off Mr. Darcy....
Lent into Easter
Above is my sixth Lenten psalm block, taken from Psalm 18. It is the last one I finished this year, although I still hope to do a block from Psalm 22 to honor Good Friday as well. With a recent trip, I just couldn't get it done in time for this year, but it will join the series soon. I already have it drawn out.
And here is Easter. I wanted color for Easter instead of the stark black and white. I mixed an orange and a yellow and tried several different ways of rolling them on top of each other, a technique I saw in progress at the venerable Hatch Show Print in Nashville when I visited there.
Here is the final version, taken from Psalm 149. It feels good to be out of a long and dark Lent and poised to celebrate Easter.
I've spent most of the week working on illustrations for a short story for Memphis Parent. It's my first commission for them, and I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to post them before they go into print. I was excited to be asked and very happy to be illustrating again. It's fun to work with a text and see which scenes really beckon to me.
So instead of posting those, I'll post this super cool video. Frank Kelly, the director of youth ministry at Idlewild, took photos of the hanging of "The Garden". He set up the camera to shoot at one minute intervals and then strung together a 30 second video from his stills. I'm so grateful to him for using his gifts to document what was, for me, quite an occasion. And I'm posting it here because it really is nifty to watch.
It's fully three years since I first started thinking about doing a large scale painting for the chapel wall at Idlewild Presbyterian, where I'm artist-in-residence. I almost always go to early service, so I spend a lot of time in the chapel.
I did one early study, and while there were things I liked about it, it wasn't right in the space and with the windows. After thinking for a while, I did the study of what would become the final painting. It's a more ROYGBIV than most of my paintings, but the front of the chapel has a fabulous, mod, 1950's or so stained glass window with lots of red and yellow, and I wanted colors that would complement it.
I did a good bit more thinking before I dove into painting. I had done exactly one painting even close to the size of one of the larger sections, so this was fully three times bigger than the biggest thing I've done. It was intimidating, but also exciting. A trip last year to the Walter Anderson museum, with its glorious murals, finally sparked me into action, so it's fitting that I was just there again before the final hanging of my piece.
The painting is called "The Garden", and is my vision of the promised renewal of creation, with the tree of life at its center and rivers flowing out of it to water the earth. I've been teaching apocalyptic literature over the last couple of months, and one of the things I love about it is that promise of a new creation. Not just human souls are saved, but all of creation is remade into what God intended for all of us. The visions of life lived in the very presence of God are the most compelling thing about that genre for me, and worth facing and making peace with the strangeness and occasional violence of those books.
The Bible texts included in the painting read: "They will be called oaks of righteousness, the plantings of the LORD." (Isaiah 61:3). "The righteous shall be like trees planted by streams of living water." (Psalm 1). "The LORD God planted a garden.... A river flowed out of Eden, and there it divided and became four rivers." (Genesis 2:8-10).
The painting was done in memory of my mother, Neta Wellford Kelly, but because of the tree of life imagery, I decided to include names from my personal tree of life along the stretchers on the back. I have found myself unexpectedly moved by lighting candles in Greek Orthodox churches on my travels, a completely alien action for a life-long Presbyterian. However, the tangible symbol of the prayer, continuing in the space even after I've left the sanctuary, is powerful. I decided to include the names of those who have been dear to me as a tangible prayer, keeping their names perpetually in the space of worship, even if I'm the only one who knows they are there.
I'm a little nervous about people seeing it for the first time on Sunday. It's big enough that folks can't ignore it, like it or not. I hope more people than not are happy to have it in their worship space. I love the Gothic idea of every craftsman in the village building the cathedral bringing their best work to be part of the house of God. I'm incredibly honored to be able to do that in my own way, and I hope the painting will be a help instead of a hindrance to people's worship.
I've been working on a five panel painting for my church, Idlewild Presbyterian, for the last year or more (with several long pauses along the way). This is my final large project for them as part of my artist-in-residence position. I'll keep doing the weekly bulletin drawings, but I don't have another large project planned for this year.
Over the last week, I've finally gotten the five panels pretty much finished. Today I had a scattered sort of day, with lots of outside business to attend to, but I did take advantage of the cold weather to finish the backs of the panels.
I wanted each individual canvas to have the critical information on it, which is that this large piece, my vision of the tree of life at the center of God's Garden, is painted in memory of my mom. I had done layers of gesso on the supports of each canvas earlier, and today I got all the lettering done. Lettering is not my strong suit, but fortunately it will be facing the wall anyway. I just want the information on there for posterity, and also to have Mom's name, even hidden, present in worship each week, as my own sort of permanent prayer for her.
These two photos show the information on the diagonal struts of each larger panel (there are two that are 36x72"). The first photo is the three smaller panels, each just 12" wide and six feet high. I've got a date with my photographer for next week, and I'll post the front when I have good photos of the finished work to show.
"Water and Sky", an exhibition of Martha's river and ocean paintings was recently at Playhouse on the Square. It hung during the May-June run of Into the Woods.
Hanson Gallery in Knoxville and Seven Sisters Gallery in Black Mountain, NC are now showing Martha's work. Martha is thrilled to join two beautiful galleries with talented groups of artists. Please drop in to look if you're visiting the Appalachians region.
Idlewild Presbyterian Church has named Martha the Artist-in-Residence for 2009. She is creating artwork weekly for bulletin covers, has curated a show spirit-led artwork, and is continuing to work on special projects and permanent installations through the course of the year.
The home gallery is open by appointment in Midtown Memphis. On display are Martha's paintings and Elmore Holmes's furniture and bowls. Visit holmeswoodwork.com to find out more about Elmore's windsor chairs, tables, carved bowls, and other furniture. Call 278-1216 for directions.
More paintings can be seen at the English Major Bookstore on Madison between Zinnie's and Zinnie's East. Stop by and support our new midtown bookstore.
Martha gave a lecture at Dixon Gallery and Gardens on Wednesday, December 3rd. The subject was "Plein Air Painting Then and Now", in conjunction with their exhibition of the French Barbizon landscape painters.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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