What could be
sweeter than knowing that some of your former Fine Arts professors
now count your work in their personal collections? Local artist
Thomas Kelly has had that affirmation - and so many more - as he
continues to produce paintings that are both critically admired
and widely popular. In a realist style that is both accessible and
slightly askew, his subject matter provides a tension that draws
the viewer in and suggests a thickened plot in even the simplest
it may sound corny, but I love every single painting," says
Kelly, who completed his associate degree in Fine Arts at MCCC in
1997. "When it is done, at that moment, it is my very favorite
painting." Occasionally he sees his paintings again - at someone's
home or business. "When I see them again, it's like seeing
an old friend," he says.
day Kelly is a manager for KNF Neuberger, an international company
that manufactures environmental monitors, medical devices and lab
equipment. But at other times, he is living the joyful life of an
artist and relishing the positive reactions he gets from collectors.
"It's so encouraging," he says. Thirty or forty collectors
currently own more than one of Kelly's paintings, with some owning
five or six. Former mentors and teachers often attend exhibit openings.
has been represented from the start by The Artful Deposit Gallery
in Bordentown. To date, more than 150 of his paintings have been
purchased, numbering three-quarters of his total work. In May, 2008,
he exhibited in a group show at the Walter Wickiser Gallery in New
York City. He has completed 20 commissioned pieces, including paintings
for Marriott Hotels, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Edison
State College and private collectors.
a young adult, Kelly didn't contemplate a career as a painter. In
the 1980s, he studied business at MCCC, but found the subject matter
dry. Then, in 1991, he took a basic drawing class, followed by a
class in printmaking. From that point on, he was hooked, taking
practically every art class the college offered. He graduated with
a 4.0 GPA and won the college's Achievement Award in Fine Arts.
as a student, Kelly began to receive recognition. With his professors'
encouragement, he entered his work in a juried art show hosted by
the Trenton Artists Workshop Association in 1993 and several paintings
were accepted. Then he was selected for a show at the Ellarslie
Gallery at the Trenton City Museum. Post-graduation, MCCC Gallery
Curator Tricia Fagan invited him back to exhibit 14 of his works
as part of a two-person show with Loring Hughes.
notes that the solid reputation of Mercer's Fine Arts program is
fully justified. "There's a good feeling there. My instructors
were very nurturing. They didn't tell me that I had to paint in
a certain style. They encouraged me to go my own way." Kelly
says the region's arts community is very supportive and close knit.
He still keeps in touch with many of his MCCC instructors including
Anne Bobo, Tina Laplaca, Mel Leipzig, Terri McNichol, Paul Mordetsky,
Frank Rivera, Michael Welliver, Aundreta Wright, and Nancy Zamboni.