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Bob’s Art Blog: Methods & Meanings

Artist Kelly McGee in her Millworks studio

I first became aware of Kelly McGee’s art on “the Gram,” the only social media we use. Her art intrigued me from the first…and the stories behind the paintings, even more.

Her website said to call to schedule an appointment to meet and see her work up close at the Millworks. Studio #216 houses the one and only Kelly McGee (Curran), chronologically 33 years of age but an “old soul” at heart in the best way. Within her, she holds generations of tradition and customs shared through her “dream state” paintings. For more, read “The Methods and Meaning of McGee” that follows. Part 2 is titled “Art for a Worthy Cause,” showing that small but mighty makes a difference to Gail Walden Coleman.

Part I The Methods and Meaning of McGee

The card reads, “Kelly McGee Curran, Expressionist Painter,” but that merely scratches the surface. Truth be told, Kelly McGee is an interpretive painter of her own dreams and visions. Proudly claiming Native heritage, something we share, she is able to walk between worlds, the temporal one we live in and the transitory state we dream in. In doing so, she interprets those “remembrances” from past generations and portrays them in her paintings, vivid and with profound meaning. Everything connected to indigenous culture incorporates wisdom, warmth and a vitality that transcends all else.

Her dreams part the veil as she enters a portal between two worlds. Her visitations come in the form of elders inhabiting her subconscious state, leading her to the path that follows nature. It often reveals ritual and customs from the past. In her painting, “I Learned to Listen to the Stars,” the guide is her father portrayed as a medicine man of eternity showing her the way. He takes her out to convene with the night sky, the stars and the moon. Even a beloved donkey exists in the dream and is present. She executes the painting as if she is there on the hill marveling at the wonders of the universe—in rapt attention to her father’s words of wisdom. The colors capture the elements of the nocturnal narration in their simplicity. The stars reveal the underlying nature of the canvas as they are the natural knots found in the pinewood that McGee uses to illustrate many of her paintings. Those knots, portals with smoke emanating from them, represent ancestral spirits. The dualistic nature of her divinations comes full cycle as she is both the seer of dreams and the conduit to the canvas. Another work depicts a scene of trees, which is also 2 feet-by-2 feet of an oil on wood and highlights “Trees in a Storm,” which she was inspired to create by an abrupt summer storm, reflected in the swaying trees natural beauty.

As a child, McGee fell in love with painting as her means of self-expression. Early on and out of necessity, she happened upon pine board to paint when serendipitously she ran out of canvas. Today, her works, more often than not, can be found incorporating those knots of imperfection as an integral element of the paintings. They become crucial to the tale the paintings reveal. The knots enhance and inform the narrative nature of the story or dream. When all those elements come together as one, it is kismet—destiny divined in the stars and heavens. And yet Kelly McGee is as down to earth as any artist or person can get. Genuinely generous, she is able to impart her worlds, the here and now, as well as the shadow sanctuaries, to all people who express interest and are looking to learn the story behind the paintings. Kelly weaves all the elements in her unique take on painting with richly textured oils on wood or on traditional canvas. The worlds she inhabits embrace the elements of earth, wind and fire. Her wisdom is of the ages and for the ages. And the knots that swirl throughout the pine boards serve as a visual guide. In the end, Kelly McGee’s art helps to make the “whorl” go round.

Part II Art for a Worthy Cause

The paintings measure just 2.5 inches-by-6.5 inches, but what an impact and difference they have made. Taking the current state of affairs to heart, Artist Gail Walden Coleman felt compelled to create art that would raise funds to help feed those in need. She has taken a “page,” marking it with her own personal stamp of painting from the timeless motto—charity begins at home.

Coleman has spent a great deal of time over the past three months painting artful works on paper that she then cuts and laminates to become exceptionally beautiful bookmarks all in an effort to raise money for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. To date she has enabled the organization to purchase and provide 6,200 meals, with no end in sight. She is now starting phase two of this project and has been aided by a local art gallery and frame shop in nearby Arcona, the Pure Gallery. Owner Rose Anderson sells Coleman’s labor-of-love bookmarks in her shop for the asking “donation fee” of $15, with all proceeds going to the food bank. Coleman’s intuitive paintings have been featured at Pure Gallery as well as the Art Association of Harrisburg, Carlisle Arts Learning Center and various local businesses. For more information, please contact

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