In his mixed media pieces Jay Kelly combines painting, collage, reclaimed wood, stencils, and his own photography and then finishes them with a silky gloss of resin. His collages incorporate images from found vintage magazines, old letters, bits of text, and the world around him. The resulting piece becomes an intriguing whole, beautiful as a complete composition, but interesting also as a collection of individual images and bits of text. Kellys says that he thinks of his collage form as similar to dj’s process of sampling parts of music and bits of sound to create a new song. The natural and urban worlds fuse, and time starts to overlap as images from different eras co-exist and create new meaning in the juxtaposition of elements. A classic American car may park next to sheet music, chicadees, and mid-century motel signage, while in another piece vintage Vogue models may be paired with aspen trees, and found love letters. Biography
A Northern California native, Jay Kelly settled in Venice, California after graduating from UCLA. He began his career in graphic design, yet quickly emerged as a notable fine artist with his unique figurative collages created from books, photos and magazines.
Kelly has attracted the attention of collectors worldwide with solo exhibitions in Los Angeles, New York, Aspen, Park City and Miami, and is represented by galleries in Los Angeles, Boston, Maui, Mill Valley (San Francisco), Park City, Seattle, Whistler, B.C. and throughout Germany. His work has been featured in television shows and feature films, including the cult classic Donnie Darko, as well as in hotels, restaurants and bars in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. In addition to his exhibitions, Kelly creates a steady stream of commissioned work for private and corporate clients.
“In the late ’90s, I started experimenting with figurative collage. As a self taught artist, I picked up second hand books to learn about art history. While creating my own work, I found myself clipping meaningful images and bits of text and attaching them directly to the canvases. I layered darker images and lighter clips of text with paint to create shadows and highlights. Eventually I dropped the paint all together and began creating images entirely out of found material.
After exploring a variety of media and techniques over the years, tapping into my love of photography and background in graphic design, I have most recently found myself drawn back to the creation of life-like, almost photorealistic imagery using old discarded paper – primarily vintage magazines and books. It is gratifying to create something tangible in such a digital world. My work nods at that nostalgia, while hopefully bringing a hint of mystery and classic beauty from a lost moment in time into present day.”
Process and Media
“I start with a source image that catches my eye for its balance, depth, beauty, romance and overall visual intrigue. Sometimes I find these images in books or magazines, other times the source will be one of my own photographs. Once I have chosen a particular image, I explore different sizing and crops. I then proceed to the formidable task of recreating it out of various bits of paper.
I use a range of collage material for their varied tones and content. For printed material, I use vintage magazines, novels (both classics and the more obscure) and art history books. Depending on the age, condition and yellowing of the old book pages, I am able to get various shades of whites and tans. I also use a selection of different shades of black paper stock along with a range of hand dyed paper to round out my color palette. The process is labor intensive as I hand tear and glue each piece to slowly build shadows and highlights. Eventually when the overall image takes shape, I take several trips across the studio to view the collage through squinted eyes to check proportions and make sure the shading all feels right. The bits of paper tend to get smaller and smaller as the piece nears completion.
Once the collage is complete, I seal everything in a coat of gel medium and then under a thick coat of glossy resin adding a visual polish and uniting the varied elements into one cohesive work. Each of their titles comes from text that has found its way into the finished piece.”
“I chose to paint with paper and various printed materials in order to achieve a unique depth to my work. By allowing the viewer to first see a complete, near photorealistic image from a distance, then at a closer look to explore the many individual textures and bits of text, I am able to add layers of meaning to each piece. I love the effect that thousands of little bits of paper, all taken out of context, come together to create something new. I feel art should inspire, transport and hopefully awe the viewer, that is certainly my intention with this series of collage.”