Some good news! My first full-length poetry collection has been accepted by Texas Review Press (see the first link in the comments). My book was chosen for their Southern Breakthrough Series, a contest that seeks new works from a different southern state each year. My collection, titled Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers, was chosen to represent WV, my home state. The title refers to something bucks do to harden their antlers in anticipation of the fighting come mating season. This is my first full-length book, a longstanding dream of mine! The book will debut in February 2023. My thanks to TRP, all the editors who first published these poems, and especially the editors at Kestrel, A Journal of Literature and Art, where the title poem first appeared (thanks Donna Long, @Elizabeth Savage, Suzanne Heagy). #poetry
Category Archives: Art
Philly’s Freedom Art Show
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.
New Work at Cerulean Arts Jury Show
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.
Art for Sale page now added to my site!
Visit this link to see new paintings, paintings for sale, and recent commissions.
A Walt Whitman Sampler
Nov. 15, 2019
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.
—Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
City Hall Art Opening, May 15, 2019
“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.
This event is part of Whitman at 200 https://www.whitmanat200.org/
Art Update – Jury Prize Win!
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.
Art Opening Nov. 9, 6-8 pm
Hey, Philly friends–
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!
Barnes Update! Top 20
#LetsConnectPhilly #Art #PhillyArtDepot
Update! Recently I wrote about the Let’s Connect! art show at Philadelphia’s famed Barnes Collection. My hipster postman mixed-media painting, “Mind, Heart, Soul” placed among the top 20 artworks out of over 310 paintings at the show. I was especially happy to see my friend Tim Barton also make the cut with his stellar wooden folk box. As a result, this coming year the other artists and I have been asked to work with the Barnes on a series of talks and lectures geared toward the public and fellow artists. It’s a very special piece to me, and I hope it will find a good home with you. (You can read more in this former post that includes my Artist Statement., which talks about how Van Gogh’s work served as inspiration.)
On this blog I’ve mostly posted about my work as a writer, but it’s true I also do a lot of artwork, which I’m hoping to post more about in the future. Below is my current Artist’s Bio, in case you are curious. My artwork ranges from comics and cartoons to watercolors, acrylic and the occasional oil painting. I often mix media and like to embed details and back-stories within my visual work, things that a viewer has to look twice to discover and that leave a person wanting to know more. For instance, if you look close you can tell Mr. Postman is a major Eagles fan, but perhaps not the most attentive deliveryman. I take the occasional commission and book cover project, but most works start from a strong visual idea and spool out from there, with hopes they find a buyer in the future.
About the Artist
Kelly McQuain is an artist and poet who combines words and pictures in poems, essays, book covers, comics, and large-scale canvases. His collection, Velvet Rodeo, won the Bloom Poetry Prize, and his work appears in numerous journals. He has twice held Fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Recent projects include a series of Poetry Portraits that have appeared on the cover of Fjords Review. The painting series was inspired by Barnes artist Charles Demuth, whose watercolor poster portraits of famous contemporaries included the likes of Georgia O’Keeffe and William Carlos Williams. When he’s not painting, McQuain teaches creative writing, literature, and film studies at Community College of Philadelphia.
Visit the #BarnesCollection for FREE!
#letsconnectPhilly Now through June 4, 2018 get free admission to the Barnes in honor of their Let’s Connect Exhibition. I’m one of 310 Philadelphia artists who have work in the show. Participating artists chose a work in the Barnes Collection that inspired them, and then did their own 8″ x 10″ work inspired by the original. (For me, the hardest part was working that small.) The public gets to visit the Barnes for free and vote for four artists who will each get a three-month studio residency at the Barnes over the next year. Admission is free to encourage public participation in voting. If you’ve never been, the permanent collection is amazing–arguably the best assemblage of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in the county. Barnes created the collection to educate artists about form and technique. My painting is titled Mind, Heart, Soul, which alludes to what Albert Barnes sought to cultivate in the students who studied the masterworks he painstakingly displayed for them. The museum is open 11 am – 5 pm Wednesday through Monday. For FREE admission, you must register in advance at
If you go, please consider voting for #1295, my version of Van Gogh’s The Postman. Why did I choose The Postman? Here’s the Artist Statement I sent along with my project.
Albert C. Barnes didn’t collect work based on historical or social context; he assembled his works as a testament to the pleasure of form. Barnes’ method, however, poses a dilemma for contemporary artists: in this Age of (overwhelming) Information, is it possible to create work apart from the context from which it rises?
I’m drawn to a painting like Van Gogh’s The Postman not only because of its virtuoso brushwork but also because of its unintentional commentary on so many things: the bearded hipsters of my Philly neighborhood; the fact that few people write letters anymore; the way internet businesses have staved off the Postal Service’s obsolescence; that Philadelphia has offered massive tax incentives to lure Amazon.com’s new headquarters here—a bid that could turn life here on its head.
I like art that talks to me and keeps the conversation moving forward. The Barnes Collection does this, whether its founder intended it to or not. When Albert Barnes paired paintings with old hinges and primitive sculptures, he created a series of “eye rhymes”–visual pairings that call to each other and echo back. In doing so he created a living conversation about art, one that surmounts time. I’m inspired by the collection’s interplay of forms as well as its interplay of ideas. I believe that Barnes’ singular arrangement is a conceptual artwork itself. It teaches me to see the times I’m living through in new ways and to curate my life carefully. Barnes’ collection teaches me to honor the old, reflect my now, and imagine a future. That feels like a fragile message, but it’s one that needs delivering.
–Kelly McQuain, Artist Statement, May 2018
#vangogh @the_barnes @kellymcquain
#WritersResistPHL this Sunday! Update!
Update from the organizers: Dear friend:When we fill the Dell Auditorium of the National Museum of American Jewish History on Sunday we’ll be part of a national chorus of resistance: in more than 50 cities in the U.S. and around the world writers will stand up for free expression, truth, and dignity. The President-elect has already made clear he will violate these central tenants of American life.
Philly Writers Resist!
#writersresist January 15 is the date for Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty. The event is part of PEN America’s country-wide mobilization to let the Trump administration know that we writers will not back down or backtrack when it comes to human rights and civil liberties. I’ll be reading alongside many Philly friends from works that speak to empathy and justice. Nathaniel Popkin, one of the organizers, writes, “We chose the word united because this event is meant to bring us together as a literary community with abundant shared interests. We are poets, novelists, filmmakers, artists, publishers, readers, promoters, journalists, essayists, narrative non-fiction and experimental writers, editors, scholars, and translators, all to say, loudly, that we will stand for the freedoms written right here.”
Nice Mention in The Oberlin Review
A while back I posted about the book cover I drew for Kazim Ali’s Uncle Sharif’s Life in Music. Today I saw an interview with Kazim in which he gives a nice shout-out about the cover. The book is a fun, experimental mixture of stories both innocent and adult. Read the interview here.
Current projects, which are keeping me from posting much these days, include a short satirical comic about Trump’s election, some new poems, and a series of paintings I hope to blog about soon.
If you are looking for small press items or handmade goods, check out the Small Press Faire in Philadelphia coming up Dec. 3rd. I’ll be there, unofficially. Info here.
Illustration for Kazim Ali’s story collection
Summer 2015 was a busy one in terms of new visual projects, including a poetry portrait series for Fjords Review and this new wraparound cover I illustrated for poet Kazim Ali’s new book of short stories, UNCLE SHARIF’S LIFE IN MUSIC. @KazimAliPoet #KazimAli @SRP_Bryan
The wraparound cover features images of the nephew and uncle from the title story as well as tarot cards and allusions to other stories in the collection. Pen and ink and watercolor. You can order the book here: http://siblingrivalrypress.bigcartel.com/
Here’s the cover with the title added by the boys at Sibling Rivalry Press:
Uncle Sharif’s Life in Music
Stories by Kazim Ali
About the Book: On the eve of war, a group of artists try to stage a performance. An ill-thought-through deception to protect a friend threatens to unravel several relationships in a circle. A young man wakes up in a church graveyard with complete amnesia except for scraps of memories that appear to be from several different peoples’ lives. Two friends, haunted by the ghost of failed intimacy and the shadow of disease, wander the rainy streets of Paris. A musician makes a clumsy last-ditch effort at seducing a lost love. At Niagara Falls a neglected boy discovers his relationship to God. In a contemporary re-telling of the Majnoon and Laila myth, an astronomer falls in love with the sky. These six stories and novella from the author of the novels Quinn’s Passage, The Disappearance of Seth and Wind Instrument intertwine their concerns for the artistic life and the importance of the creative impulse with their belief in timelessness and the universal need for human empathy. Kazim Ali brings a poet’s attention to language, a musician’s sense of structure and a choreographer’s sense of character and movement to these dynamic and genre-blurring pieces which range in form from coming-of-age story, speculative fiction, ekphrasis, epistolary fiction and tarot deck.
The Hot Hands of Summer: Ric McCauley
The Hot Hands of Summer: New Paintings by Ric McCauley
Opening Reception July 16, 2016 Gallery 209, Cape Charles, VA
Gallery 209 welcomes new work by painter Ric McCauley following his near sell-out show of May 2015. Whales and sea life make return appearances, as does the artist’s sly, understated commentary on the way the natural world is affected by technology. After Hurricane Sandy, surely no one in Cape Charles can underestimate the impact Mother Nature has on humans. McCauley looks at such things from the animal world’s point of view, as in his acrylic painting “Forgotten Floods”, in which an elephant makes an escape by boat. Other paintings question mankind’s impact on nature, such as “Autocorrect”, which depicts a whale turning into metal to ward off human hunters.
Mostly McCauley’ work is full of joy and humor. His is a world where dogs are as likely to be found on telephone lines as birds are… and usually those dogs are Labrador retrievers. McCauley and his partner have owned two such dogs. Their current pet, Ellie, models for several of these paintings. Most notably is “Ground Control to Major Tom”, which reworks recently departed musician David Bowie’s 1969 song “Space Oddity” into a lament between a satellite and a blond canine wearing a cone collar that doubles as a radio dish. When Ellie is not modeling, she can be found rolling in the castoff paint covering her master’s drop cloth. McCauley employs a splatter and scrubbing technique for many of his backgrounds and textures, and sometimes the price for such work is a yellow Lab with a blue tail.
In Cape Charles, you just might spot McCauley painting in his back yard. He typically starts a canvas by first layering broad washes of acrylic color down on canvases that sometimes reach 4 feet by 6 feet. He scrubs at the surface or sprays it with water to remove excess paint and achieve texture, a process that allows random images to emerge and helps him intuit the detail work that comes next as he brings each painting to its final resolution.
McCauley’s current show consists of fourteen large-scale new works as well as a small suite of miniature paintings. His whales, jellyfish and other sea life ground him as a thoroughly Eastern Shore artist, and his large-scale painting “Midnight on Mason” is an homage to the home he’s found here.
McCauley grew up in rural West Virginia, and the traces of his early country living–exploring wildlife, growing his own food in the family garden–can be found in the foxes and plants that sneak into his other paintings. He graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a BA in Fine Arts in 1993. There he studied printmaking, photography, and oil and acrylic painting. Recently McCauley recently won Best in Show at the St. Mary’s alumni exhibition (Boyden Gallery, 2014). His work is part of several private collections and his commercial clients include the Cape Charles Hotel. Recently his art was featured in Sports Business Daily’s write-up on Billy Casper Golf, whose Reston, VA, corporate office features one of McCauley’s buffalo paintings.
To contact the Artist: RicMcCauley [at] yahoo.com
or contact Gallery 209 (ask for Sandy) 209 Mason Ave, Cape Charles, VA 23310 (757) 331-2433