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Artist Statement & Explanation of Body of work

Since the early 1970s, my work has involved into the creation of historical drawing and painting based on portraits of historical moments in time. In 1980’s I began creating abstract and expressionist pieces on wood, canvas and cloth by hand. Abstract and Expression has now become a very prominent feature in my work and I continue to use deep bold lines that I used in early 1970’s. In my work, I deconstruct the American expression, its history, its ordinary lines, and its bonders that are part of our every day culture. My work addresses space assignment, the fragility of line dynamics, space relations to subject matter and the underlying threads of form and shape that is expected. Often times these themes are combined into art that feature strong facial expressions and objects. The black line establishes a dynamic surreal quality, suggests notions of excitement and freedom, and formally unifies the objects in each image; the lines provide clues to content and interpretation.

The aim of this pastel project is to paint expressionistic portraits in an abstract style, and with non-realistic colors and shapes. I set out to paint portraits that convey personality, imagination and emotion through the use of paints and pastels. I picked up my first pencil when I was 4. That’s when my passion for art began. I immediately fell in love with all the details that go into creating a portrait: composition, lighting, contrast between my subjects and the background. Portraiture has always been my specialty, especially historical moments and personalities. It is truly a pleasure to capture the bond between bold lines, the love between colors and shapes, and the excitement of expression.

My images are fundamentally about form and revealing the visual eloquence that I see in all things. This eloquence is often expressed in the expressions and abstractions of the object. For this reason I have taken the name abstract expressionist because it characterizes my work so perfectly – taking the emotion to represent the whole, finding the spiritual connection through forms and objects.

Forms manifest in the resonance of a curve, the rhythm of a pattern, the dichotomy of light and shadow. They abound everywhere in abstract and expression: the boldness of the line, the overlap of color chasing the shape, the symmetry of a tranquil thought. We emulate them in everyday living: the arch of an eye brow, the movement of sternness. These innate forms, expressions from the larger world, connect with us at a basic level and help us to organize and understand our world. I have explored and continue to explore this innate art form across a variety of subjects and in many different processes.

The work you will see in this series “Obama, the face of change” spans five months during president Barack Obama’s run for office commemorating with his victory and his daily service. It is united because it all starts with my very basic reaction to, then senator Barack Obama running for president and the exploration of my impressions and expressions after he won.

These paintings are a part of a solo show I had entitled, “Obama the face of change” at Lyda Merrick Gallery in the Hayti Heritage center. The show ran from December 11, 2009 through February 8, 2010. The show consisted of forty four pastel paintings and several prints. My paintings are about looking at the expressions of a president as he ran for office. I started these current paintings in 2008 and I thought to myself that I am at a point in my life of letting go of space and time and entering a world of dynamic lines and bold images with borderless bounders. To create inner expressions of a person’s character while a subject attempts to change history. Every time I pick up a paintbrush or a pastel, I am bombarded with nostalgia of abstract emotions and expressions that are hidden deep within the thoughts of how people feel in frozen moments of their time.

To create my paintings I mix realism, expressionism and abstract art in a combined form using colors to give my art a sense of vibrancy and movement. Some of my pastels have more apparent strokes than others, which I really enjoy to show a sort of texture of surface of an object. I choose to use large-scale paintings to overwhelm an audience just as an expression overwhelms a person when emotion takes over. The approach I took for the first several paintings was that I painted the subject in random thought sequences and placed them in an order that followed the president’s race. I would draw certain likeness of portraits and place an overriding theme so that there was balance throughout my show and composition.

My work is inspired by life its’ ever changing moments, growth and the imagination of inner thoughts. I create large-scale paintings with imagery that overwhelms the audiences to the point of the exhaustion. Many of my paintings deal with expression and abstract emotions and they give the viewer much to think about. This I enjoy, I want my audience to think beyond my imagery and imagine the image that is crop with my mats. The mats themselves are a part of my art as they represent the borders of a snapshot that has just been taken by a camera.

My paintings are about history, pride, gratefulness and ultimately happiness. It is evident that these paintings speak volumes about who I am. When my artwork is viewed, I would like to give the viewer a sense of created energy. I would like them to investigate, explore, struggle with, and enjoy my creation. From these paintings I want my audience to appreciate and capture the joy of their inner emotions while viewing the inner thought of the paintings. Every line or shape does not need to represent some specific thing. Instead, the line or shape is merely something that belongs to a greater cause, something that enhances or disrupts the end result of my expression. These forms I discover through drawing and painting abstract and expression of the human drama.

“My passion is the exploration of abstract and expressionism techniques to combine them, which have led to vast amounts of knowledge and continue to direct me towards my art solutions.” Eric Kelly III


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