Two of my paintings are featured in a new show at the Philadelphia National Liberty Museum. See the details below.
On view October 16, 2020 – February 13, 2021 10:00AM – 7:00PM (Special priority access for seniors and immunocompromised individuals from 10-11AM each day.) Click here for location and details.
Diverse Voices. One City.
How do we define “liberty”? What does it mean to be “free”? These are questions and concepts that we have grappled with at the National Liberty Museum for more than 20 years and ones we posed to a group of talented artists from across Philadelphia in our newest exhibition, Philly’s Freedom.
Through more than 75 works of art, Philly’s Freedom invites you on a journey to explore what freedom means to 50+ artists as they use stories, reflections, and images to inspire us to see freedom and liberty as an ongoing human quest we all share.
This month I had some wonderful poetry news. A poem of mine, “The Moon in Drag” will appear in the anthology series Best New Poets 2020. I’ll post more about it when the anthology comes out. Also, another poem, “The Walk” was recently featured in the online journal Trampset. You can read it here.
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.
Artist Ying Lee has chosen one of my works for the 8th Annual Juried Exhibition at Cerulean Arts Gallery in Philadelphia, July 1-Aug. 9th. During Covid-19 times, to schedule a visit with the gallery, contact them here. For more information about my artwork, visit Art for Sale.
UPDATE: 6/29/2020 — Juror Ying Lee awarded my painting an Honorable Mention. It’s pictured at the end of the second row in the image below.
Join Voyages by Road and Sea featured artist Kelly McQuain in the West Gallery for an up-close look at his Whitman Sampler. McQuain will share the origin of this unique sculpture and explain the significance of its hidden parts.
The Whitman Sampler is a box designed to delight and surprise. It became a way for me to slip inside Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and grapple anew with the good gray poet’s famous life’s work. I think of it as a visual poem, an homage to Whitman’s opus and an educational tool.
Based on an advent calendar, each box of the Sampler opens to reveal excerpts of Whitman’s verse as well as found objects repurposed to reflect and critique his text. My hope is that curious viewers will use the Sampler as a springboard for investigating Whitman’s poetry more fully. Think of it as play, a means to see how Whitman’s myriad ideas echo and resonate against each other in a visual way.
My art project on Walt Whitman, “A Whitman Sampler” is now on display at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s exhibition, Voyages by Road and Sea: Philadelphia Perspectives on Walt Whitman and Herman Melville. The artwork is now installed in the West Gallery at the Parkway Central Library, Free Library of Philadelphia, located on the Ben Franklin Parkway. This project is a collaboration of the Free Library and the Rosenbach Center and features historical context on the authors as well as newly commissioned artwork related to the works of Melville and Whitman.
That’s where I come in. The Library commissioned artwork from me that consists of a box similar to an advent calendar. Each box contains pictures and text that correspond with Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Part puzzle, part Whitman fortune-telling device, the box is designed as an interactive tool to help readers engage with the Great Gray Bard in a new and compelling way. In the spring I will be participating in an event where I take the box out of its display case to show off its possibilities. Time and date to be announced.
Special thanks to the team that created the exhibition: graphic designer Nathanael Roesch, writer/editor Clare Fentress, registrar Jobi Zink, FLP Deputy Director Andrew Nurkin, the Rosenbach’s Alexander Ames, and co-curator Professor Ed Whitley. In the coming year, a series of related events and programs in support of the exhibition will be held. Watch for details!
Update: On the back of the sampler there is an illustration of Walt for the 21st century, departing as air, waiting for us along life’s path in the grass beneath our soles/souls:
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags. I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
The next William Way LGBTQ Community Center art exhibition will be “Queer-Americans: Who We Are” with art from Kelly McQuain, Amy Martin, and the artist known as alkotó. The opening reception will be Friday July 12th, 6-8 pm and the show runs through August 30th at 1315 Spruce Street, Phila. PA 19107. Amy Martin’s paintings and drawings unapologetically declare her Queer femme vision. alkotó creates multi-layer abstract paintings arising out of an inclusive process of discovery and invention. Kelly McQuain presents painted narratives addressing our hopes and despair about our relationships with technology, nature, and each other. McQuain, Martin, and alkotó were awarded this July’s exhibition as well as a cash jury prize last fall for their submissions to the LGBT center’s annual community group show.
Dear Friends: Free art opening at City Hall this week! I have a piece in the show. Wednesday evening May 15th. Please come if you can after work. Here are the details on the show, called Visual Democracy, with the theme inspired by Walt Whitman as part of Literary Arts Week in Philadelphia.
“Join us in celebrating Literary Arts Week in Philadelphia by recognizing the Rittenhouse Writers Group, Mighty Writers, Philadelphia Young Playwrights and Blue Stoop – Philadelphia organizations supporting local emerging writers. Festivities will include a reception, a poetry reading by a special guest, and the opening of Visual Democracy, an Art in City Hall exhibit that celebrates the connection between the literary and visual arts as part of Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy.”
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
City Hall Philadelphia
Mayor’s Reception Room, 202
Conversation Hall, Room 201
Visual Democracy Exhibit Opening
This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.
12/7/2018 – UPDATE! My painting, “Well, hello there!” won the jury prize at the William Way LGBTQ Center group show. This means that I and two other winners will have a combined show during summer 2019. We each get a wall in the giant parlor that greets visitors to the center, and I plan to fill mine up with new paintings that combine images and text! There is still time to see the piece below in the current group show, which is up until December 28th. There are numerous works for sale at the Center, so why not give someone a little queer art this holiday season? Stop by. Entry is FREE. William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107.
“Well, hello there!” by Kelly McQuain, 2018.Watercolor and mixed media.
Did you ever play that game Lifeboat, where you have one lifeboat and you have to decide who gets to jump into it? You know, priest vs. pregnant mother vs. sailor vs. rich banker vs. yadda, yadda, yadda?
There’s a similar thing called the trolley problem in situational ethics. Well, MIT is working on a database to help self-driving cars play their own version of the who-to-save game. It makes one wonder how we’ll program (teach?) all sorts of machines we will come to rely on, and how those machines in turn will have to program (teach?) ethics to that which they create. On and on… Our ethical codes are handed down to us via our myths and stories, philosophies and laws, traditions and taboos. However, the idealism they aspire toward is often left unexercised in everyday practice. Will AI face that same conundrum? In the article on the project at The Economist we learn that, sadly, cats don’t so well in this process. Not sure about kittens.
Hitchcock made a movie called Lifeboat based on a script by John Steinbeck and featuring the lovely Tallaullah Bankhead. Maybe we need a new version of Lifeboat now that we have ruined the planet. A movie featuring the Terminator, C3PO, The Jetsons’ Rosie, a Dalek and the Lost in Space robot. Maybe they should decide if we humans are worthy of shooting into the stars.
I have new artwork in a group show at the William Way Center. Come if you can to the opening Friday, Nov. 9th around happy hour. Here are the details:
November 9, 6-8pm: Art Opening – 13th ANNUAL JURIED ART EXHIBITION. William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107. You’re invited to the opening reception of the I hope you can make it to see the latest edition of dynamic Queer-American art in Philadelphia. Plenty of food & drinks. Lots of fun. Support the LGBTQ Community Center!