Scott Kelley was born in Binghamton, New York in 1963. He studied at The Cooper Union School of Art, New York; The Slade School of Art, London; and was a fellow at The Glassell School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He had his first solo exhibition at the age of eighteen with The American Realist Gallery in New York, and has had over 15 solo exhibitions since then.
Kelley’s work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Portland Museum of Art and the Portland Public Library. He was awarded a fellowship to the Edward Albee Foundation in 1993. He also received a grant from the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, which sent him to Palmer Station, Antarctica in 2003.
Scott Kelley lives and works on Peaks Island, Maine, with his wife, Gail, their son, Abbott and their dog, Francis.
Aboard the Whaleship Abbott
Looking through whaling logbooks at the Providence library, my fingers went black from turning the pages. It was as though some small part of whaling had rubbed off on me, the soot from the try pots, fires that burned night and day. Melville called it “the left wing of the day of judgement”. The true history of American whaling is in those logbooks, and hundreds like them, written by the men who went to sea. Those pages hold the excitement of the hunt, the chase, the danger, as well as the boredom and near-constant longing for home, all of it the sum parts of whaling.
They put to sea, and hoped.
I could never have been a whaler, but would love to have been aboard a whaleship in 1856, to see how it was done, meet those men, hear their stories, somehow get it all down in my own sketchbooks and journals, my fingers black from soot, as well as ink.
To have put to sea, and hoped.
Scott Kelley, Peaks Island, Maine
Scott Kelley: Of Birds, Warp and Rock
Over the past dozen years or so, Scott Kelley has distinguished himself as an artist of birds, with a special passion for those winged creatures that frequent the water. He has painted the humble and the grand, from the Guillemot to the Great Blue Heron, as well as several extinct species.
Using watercolor and gouache Kelley depicts the birds with a precision akin to Audubon or Tyson. Yet his avian portraits move beyond natural history to something poetic—and literary: a pair of herons is named Ahab and Ishmael in homage to Melville. All of them convey a sense of wonder worthy of Rachel Carson.
Without overplaying the affinity, Kelley shares the sharp-eyed focus of his favorite bird, the Great Blue Heron. With care he represents their curving necks and pointed beaks, steely eyes and long legs. In a tribute to Albrecht Dürer, he paints a heron wing, alone and glorious—a model for Daedalus.
An obsessive artist, Kelley pursues his vision however daunting or complex it may be. This past winter he completed a remarkable series of watercolors of pot warp, the line used by lobstermen to secure their traps. Taken out of context of dock, deck or fish house, the coils of rope are transformed into lively abstract configurations, exquisite and often ethereal.
Kelley first registered warp as a subject during a stay on Monhegan, a favorite haunt since his first visit there as a teenager. Over the years the remote island has inspired a range of work, including a stunning group of sepia ink drawings of Pulpit Rock. The imposing outcrop is recreated with meticulous crosshatching and other marks as if by an architect infatuated with rock.
Whether he is painting a roseate tern in free fall, “the second of Sherm’s purple warp” or a Monhegan headland, Kelley is a master of the object observed. Simply stated, his art elicits awe.
by Carl Little