“Fantastic Creatures of the Highlands” – Featuring work by Kelly McQuain
June 27th – August 14th, 2020
Grasshopper Gallery at Lost River Trading Post
295 E. Main Street
Wardensville, WV 26851
About the Artist: Kelly McQuain grew up surrounded by the lush mountains of West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest. This proved a rich source of inspiration for his artistic imagination and his development of a style influenced by folk art and laden with evocative symbolism.
These works in watercolor and acrylic reflect the artist’s practice of layering paint in different ways. “Whether on canvas or paper, I generally start a work with abstract layers of color laid down in soft washes,” McQuain states. “Then I tease out different forms based on how the washes speak to me. I try to let old layers peek through as I add new ones, conjuring figures and tiny details. It’s not my goal to transcribe nature in a realistic way. Rather, I try to find the essence of a thing and use dreamlike imagery to convey its spirit.”
Take a virtual tour below!
The result is a body of work rich with enchanting motifs. In some portraits, for instance, tiny robots appear, hinting at humankind’s need to reconcile life with technology and ever-advancing artificial intelligence. In other works, like “Fox Birds Hiding in the Brush”, a mash-up of birds and animals appear. Floral shapes also abound, evoking the exotica of the imagination as well as the wildflowers of McQuain’s youth. While McQuain is adept at painting human and animal forms, he often uses silhouettes to suggest the iconic power of his subjects. “Shape and pattern are as important to me as the richness of my colors,” McQuain notes. “I like images that pop, that have a sense of mystery and playfulness about them, that hint at stories.”
McQuain’s work hangs in many private collections. He recently displayed works at the Barnes Collection and the William Way Center in Philadelphia, the latter of which awarded him a showcase exhibit. His three-dimensional work celebrating the 200th birthday of poet Walt Whitman is currently on display at the Free Library of Philadelphia. McQuain’s portraits of writers appear regularly on the cover of the literary journal, Fjords Review—reflecting another interest of his: poetry. As a writer, McQuain’s poems have appeared in scores of national journals, and his poetry chapbook, Velvet Rodeo, won the Bloom prize. McQuain works as a professor of creative writing in Philadelphia when he’s not visiting family and friends in his home state.