top of page



Eric Kelly III. One of the 20th century’s most accomplished expressionist abstract artists.

What a great way to end the year and start a new year with one of the twentieth century’s entertaining and exuberant artist. On December 11th through January 31st at the Hayti Heritage center, 804 Old Fayetteville Street, Durham North Carolina presents Obama the 44th President Art show. There will be an opening reception on December 11, 2009.

Eric Kelly III expressionistic style and tradition was significantly, rose to the emergence in 1975 with a series of drawings and paintings in the late 19th century. His style and art was recognized during his heightened emotional state at Hillside high school. One of the earliest and most famous examples of his style, expressionism is Kelly’s first show "The Women of Dreams series. A pencil series that brought both excitement and notoriety to his unique style of art. It cannot be denied that a great many artists of the expressionistic period assumed that the chief function of their art was to express their intense feelings to the world. Eric has dedicated his talent and life’s work to the expressionistic style.

When the Hayti heritage center opened its doors he was one of the two artists featured to open the center doors. As the years have passed he has continued to draw and finally he retired from his advertising agency to draw and paint full time. It is ironic the place where he started drawing is also the place where he will show his most recent pieces of art along with some of the great piece of the past. This year’s show titled Obama, the 44th president, THE FACE OF CHANGE! Eric will be presenting portraits from historian Carter G. Woodson to Barack Obama. This promises to be a show that is unique and expressive to those who have yet to experience his brand of artwork.

“Without the guidance and leadership of my mother this show would never have happen, it is totally a show inspired and developed through my mother’s eyes” Eric Kelly III

The Face of change art show is dedicated to Frances Cagle his mother who lives in Durham and is the inspiration for the show. Frances Cagle thought that a show about Barack Obama and history would be a great show to showcase his talents as an artist. Mrs. Cagle worked on the Obama for president campaign and went to the inauguration in Washington DC. During the period after Barack Obama became president elect Mrs. Cagle asked Eric to include the president in his new show for Hayti Heritage center. During the planning of the show Ms. Cagle provided photos and ideas of the drawing that she wanted in the show. Then she exclaimed you have to do forty four pictures because he is the 44th president! And those were the words that lead to this great show of portraits of emotions of Barack Obama. Mrs. Cagle, like many African Americans in this country live through a time when an African American president was not even thought of. And as history has changed she has totally embrace it.

Eric Kelly III moved to Durham at four years old where he first picked up a pencil at ST Joseph AME church which is now the St. Josephs historic foundation or the Hayti heritage center. It is ironic that he returns to the place where his grandmother first utters the words that changed his life forever. Be still! During Sunday service, like many kids he was as restless and always in to something. Lovella Kelly who was the force that fashioned his life encouraged him to draw every day. The relationship would last well into her 80’s when she died of cancer. As a child BIG Momma as she was called, later told him while he was in high school that she was as surprised how the people he drew look like the people in the choir on that day in November 1961. This was the first encounter with art and for that moment Eric has drawn and developed his style of art.

In high school during his senior year he was approached by Mrs. Sandra Dowd his art teacher who was not happy with his production of his art talent. Mrs. Sandra Dowd, Mrs. Lawson his English teacher, Mrs. Cousins his black studies teacher stop him in the hall at hillside and told him that they wanted more art from him in their classes and threatened to fail him in 12th grade. Eric had failed the 5th grade and remembered repeating that grade and how he hated every day of it. It was the first time he realized that his art was view by others as a talent. He took the challenge and drew for all three classes and at the end of the year he won the most prestige’s art award in North Carolina given by the Durham Links organization. Each year the organization gave their annual award to the best artist in the state. This award would propel him to get an art scholarship from schools all over the country. He was going to go to UCLA but choose North Carolina central university because he wanted to go to a historically black college. He graduated from North Carolina Central University with honors in 1982.

As an African American painter and pastelist Eric deals with different fears and emotions that capture his journey and imagination of expressions. Kelly’s expressionism art later gained significance between years 1979 and 1999 during a politically and culturally turbulent era of revelation of the profoundly problematic conditions of America history during the turn-of-the-century.

In the years just around 1980 his expressionistic style pioneered by Mr. Kelly was developed in to a broader range of pieces that include abstract and expression. Abstract expressionism is a specifically African American art movement. It was the first African American movement to achieve worldwide influence and also the one that put New York City at the center of the art world, a role formerly filled by Paris.

Eric began to explore color and shape and to paint an entire canvas orange or blue and brown. These works were produced in an extremely specific setting and revealed a specific attitude. It was the result of the rivalry and dialogue between expression and abstract ideas on canvas. Eric first works had an image of being rebellious and historic motivated.

It is seen as his works combined the emotional intensity and self-expression of the African American northern Expressionists with the anti-figurative aesthetic of the Southern African American abstract schools. Eric’s art reflected the movement describes the formal trend in African American abstraction faces at the time. His work can be broadly divided into two groups: Action Painting and Color Field and Hard-Edge Painting. Mr. Kelly enjoyed and embraced this form and created his own relationship with this sensitive yet explosive art form

He continued to draw and do art shows after he graduated, He began to do motivational speeches to high school and for college students about art and self esteem. Later he took a job at the Edgemont community center where he taught art and life skills to underprivileged kids in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Durham, Few gardens.

After years at the Edgemont community center he decides to start an advertising agency. He named it Kelly worldwide and opens his office on (black Wall Street) 107 East Parrish Street in Durham North Carolina for over 10 years. His agency would create the Black business expo, a statewide trade show that lasted for nine years and broke countless records in business and economic development. The show was listed as “the largest business show in the history of North Carolina. It was listed in Raleigh and Durham chamber of commerce as one of the destination shows in the state. Kelly Worldwide agency would get the key to the city and awarded black business week in Durham North Carolina. Kelly worldwide agency received The Minority Business of the year award by the state of North Carolina along with the Durham business and professional chain awards. All these awards were fine yet he Eric hungered for doing art full time.

In spite of his advertising agency work load he continued to draw and hold art shows. Completing The Ron Brown portrait for the Durham business and professional chain, the Fannie Lue hammer portrait for US congress and several Martin Luther King portraits’ for celebrations around the state, One of his favorite show was The black history show where he lectured about black history to high schools and colleges. He also was one of the featured artist during the Durham arts council kwanza project. His first statewide exhibit “The Etuque exhibit for Jefferson county commission of economic opportunity Birmingham Alabama gave him a chance to venture out and to continue to follow his heart, He has also shown his work at Madame D Day in los Angeles California, Atlanta Black Expo, Chicago art expo, Black expo USA, The Jacob Javits center New York city, Dallas Expo and Washington Dc expo He toured 12 cities after his released his first ART DVD, LINES, and SHAPES AND COLORS.


Featured Posts
Check back soon
Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page