By Bonnie Gangelhoff
Adam and Benjamin Kelley recall that, as young children, they loved hanging out in their father’s studio. Ramon Kelley talked and joked with them, but then suddenly he would grow quiet, pick up a paintbrush or pastel stick, and begin to work. “We were always welcome in dad’s studio. We could feel the energy there. Sometimes it was like church—kind of a sacred place—because once he started working and stopped joking, we knew it was time for us to slip out,” Benjamin says.
These days, all three Kelleys live in the Denver area and are fine artists. Ramon says he didn’t try to influence his sons’ career choices when they were young, because he believes that parents shouldn’t push their children. “When they turn 18, they get serious,” he says. That’s not to say Ramon isn’t pleased that sons Adam and Benjamin followed in his footsteps. The three Kelleys go to museums together, attend each other’s openings, sometimes show their works together, and even share a website.
Ramon is a self-taught artist who early on decided that he wanted to focus his talents on figurative art. Today he is known for his award-winning impressionistic portraits and nudes, often depicting Hispanic and Native American women. He also paints other subjects, such as lush still lifes. Adam and Benjamin both took more formal approaches to their art education. Adam studied at the Art Students League of Denver and the Art Students League of New York, while Benjamin earned a degree in English literature from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and took art courses in his spare time. The day he graduated, Benjamin says, he set up a studio in Denver, began to study art with his father, and never looked back.
Generally speaking, the Kelley sons choose to paint more eclectic subject matter than their father. They are equally at home painting landscapes, animals, figures, and, at times, still lifes. Lately Benjamin is exploring sculpting, and, as this story was going to press, he was working on a series of terracotta reliefs. “My father showed us through his actions and deeds that he had a pure love and respect for art,” Benjamin says. “I have that. Sometimes it’s cost me because, instead of rushing through a piece and making a quick sale, I try always to make something right. He taught us that part of the privilege of making art is that when we are deceased, our pieces will live on. He taught us about the pursuit of excellence.”
Abend Gallery, Denver, CO; Midland Gallery, Midland, TX; Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Evergreen Fine Art, Evergreen, CO; InSight Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX; Sunset Art Gallery, Amarillo, TX; Amsterdam Whitney International Fine Art, New York, NY; www.kelleyfamilyfineart.com.
Evergreen Fine Art, Evergreen, CO; Howell Gallery, Oklahoma City, OK; Sunset Art Gallery, Amarillo, TX; Unique Modern Art, Aspen, CO; www.kelleyfamilyfineart.com.
Featured in November 2011.