It’s in the eyes

Ginel Kelly

Ginel Kelly displays a painting she did of the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, in a much less tomboyish mode than usual.

Ginel Kelly displays a painting she did of the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, in a much less tomboyish mode than usual.

Photo By David Robert

Ginel Kelly faces a dilemma familiar to artists. How does she get her work before the public?

“It’s been frustrating,” Kelly says. “I literally took my little book with me and walked the streets of Reno, trying to show them my art. … Most of them would not even look at my book. They wouldn’t even open the pages to see what I had.”

Her book contains photographs of her paintings. Many of Kelly’s pictures over-glamorize women. With full lips and large striking eyes, the females are attractive and sensual. A watercolor painting of Chrissie Hynde, the lead singer of the Pretenders, shows the rock star, not in her typical tomboyish manner, but with large eyes, long hair and an exposed breast. Kelly likes to emphasize the beauty of the female form by painting it nude.

In “The Vampire Lestat,” from Kelly’s Gothic period, a young man stares at the viewer with piercing turquoise eyes. Dressed in Edwardian garb, he raises an arm to his head, and his long tapered fingers touch his wavy, shoulder-length hair.

“Half-Breed” is a self-portrait of the part Cherokee and Irish artist. Kelly’s name, her thick strawberry-colored bangs, her almost waist-length hair and her blue-green eyes evoke her Irish heritage.

However, Kelly’s beliefs and artistic talents come from the Native American side of her family. Her mother does Indian beadwork, and her grandmother painted. Kelly’s belief in Wicca, which is typically seen as a witchcraft faith, comes from her Indian heritage.

“Wicca is how I choose to acknowledge God/Goddess, the male and female aspect in everything,” she says.

The influence of a Native American tradition is witnessed in “War Cry.” Screaming out at the viewer, an anguished warrior with black-and-white hair and matching face paint bares his teeth and the magenta-red tongue behind them. A feathered arrow protrudes from the back of his head. Intensely colored acrylic paints are typical of Kelly’s work.

“The Dann Sisters” was inspired by an article in the Reno News & Review ["Showdown in Crescent Valley,” Jan. 16, 2003] about the Shoshone’s battle to regain land they claim belongs to the tribe. It shows the sisters, one embracing the other, with accentuated wrinkles and wind blowing through their hair. Though it’s unusual for Kelly to display backgrounds, this painting shows both land and sky.

Kelly has drawn people for as long as she can remember. She begins a painting with the eyes, exaggerating them: “They bring out the personality and the soul of a person. The painting itself tells me what to do next.”

Kelly’s own eyes are emphasized with black liner on both the upper and lower lids.

“I’d die if I couldn’t paint,” she says. “When I find an idea that inspires me, I have to get it out while it’s in me.”

Kelly has often gone without sleep to complete a painting. Some pictures, though, take weeks or months. On occasion, she’s thrown a work into a closet and later decided it wasn’t so bad.

Except for a watercolor class, Kelly’s had no formal training. She finds inspiration in pre-Raphaelite artwork, Erte, the father of art deco, and Susan Isome, a California artist who creates fantasy paintings, often representing animals in human-like fashion.

Just recently, Kelly finally found a place that would display her work.

“When the ladies who own La Bussola saw my work, they said, ‘That’s fabulous. Bring us something.'”

It’s a start.