John Woodrow Kelley
JOHN WOODROW KELLEY is an artist whose entire life’s work is devoted to creating a contemporary interpretation of the classical tradition in western civilization. This ambition is expressed through a series of paintings inspired by Greek mythology, as well as a study of the uniqueness of the human individual through the genre of portraiture. Mr. Kelley’s attraction to Greek mythology is born of the belief that it embodies everything that is timeless about the human experience, and therefore is worthy of an interpretation expressing our own age.
Mr. Kelley was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1952. He dates the beginning of his interest in classicism to the time when, at age six, his parents took him to the
world’s only full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon in the capitol of his home state, Nashville. The proportions of the building, directly relating to those of the human body, and the plaster casts of the sculpture of Phidias inside, representing the fifth-century B.C. Greek canon of beauty, began his lifelong ambition to express the classical tradition in his work. Mr. Kelley took a degree in art history from the University of Tennessee and a degree in architecture from Pratt Institute in New York City before turning to the study of painting and drawing at the Art Students League of New York and the New York Academy of Art. His principal teacher was Mr. Ted Seth Jacobs, who teaches the precepts of the academic tradition, with its emphasis on accurate drawing and the study of anatomy.
During the course of his career, Mr. Kelley has received commissions from such institutions as The Morgan Library, The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The New York Public Library, and Yale University. Mr. Kelley has shown his work at the Fischbach Gallery and
STATEMENT OF INTENT
The Greek Myths embody everything that is timeless about the human experience. They reveal truths and acknowledge mysteries. They survive in the subconscious of western man to the point that to learn about them is to experience a shock of recognition. They have been a successful vehicle for man’s pursuit of self-knowledge for countless generations, which is the reason I have chosen to make yet another interpretation of them through my paintings.
Each generation has been inspired to a unique interpretation, and I have tried to present the old myths in a new way, showing all the irony and conflict of the modern world. The figures are contemporary, but the situations are ancient. It is a way of saying, "we are new, but we are old," "we are young, but we must die." History continually humbles the arrogance of man. The Greek myths tell us that this is our fate as well as our redemption.
John Woodrow Kelley
The National Arts Club in New York City, the John Pence Gallery in San Francisco, and the Pandora Old Masters Gallery in Milan, Italy, among others. His work is in the permanent collection of the Parthenon Museum, The Tennessee State Museum, the Knoxville Museum of Art, and the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. Mr. Kelley has taught drawing for students in New York City and Rome. In a coming round of the full circle, in 2004 the Parthenon Museum in Nashville gave Mr. Kelley a major retrospective of his work in the home of his early inspiration. The catalogue from that show inspired the creation of this book. Mr. Kelley divides his time between his studios in New York City and Knoxville. Tennessee.