IN THE STUDIO - A Life Immersed in Art
...Unpolished floors, non-plastered ceilings, and little to no furniture make for spare surroundings in contrast to the quantity of art. D.C.’s living space was tucked away on the third floor, as if an afterthought. Even his kitchen table, constructed of used oatmeal canisters and stacked plywood, became a workstation and was devoted to his steadfast lifestyle of art making.
Natural light pours into the home from floor-to-ceiling bay windows and acts as the perfect exhibition space for wooden mobiles, made by his dear friend Reba Stewart. Three-dimensional pieces of his own are carefully placed in quiet nooks. As one scans each room discovering the art work, gilded mirrors, Christmas Cacti and a Frank Gehry chair splattered with paint, one is immediately immersed in what was most precious to D.C.: impeccable aesthetic and artistic merit. His long-time friend, Joe Caruso, shares: “I remember being invited to dinner once and having to stand through the whole meal, as Donald did not see any need for additional chairs.”
Even his demanding job as the director of a major Boston institution did not prove an impediment to his artistic practice. Joseph Taylor describes D.C. in this way: “Behind an unassuming presence lies an astute observer of human folly.” The intense emotion in his work reflects his admiration for the work of Francis Bacon and dark expressive lines are reminiscent of Georges Henri Rouault and Max Beckmann. An exemplary mixed media artist, he worked in a plethora of media: oils, pastels, ink, watercolors, charcoal, acrylics, pencils, gouache, tempera, woodcuts, crayons, canvas and paper. D.C. drew from the figure every day throughout his life. Figures and lips, presented in a variety of orientations, are a common presence in his work. The iconic and recognizable imagery and use of materials reveals an incredible sense of authorship in his art. He was unapologetic in the way he executed his work with rawness of affection. In line with his decisive and spare interior design habits, he began to create sculptures from old cut up paintings, collaging and binding them together. Joe Caruso notes: “Donald was not interested in pretty, his work had to be interesting. He wasn’t into decoration. His art had to stand out as its own force, its own being.”
D.C.’s material crusade was a product of bursts of energetic application and active composing. His bold colors push, pull and scrape through the surface of his paintings. Seemingly chaotic and improvisational, every stroke or mark is deeply emotive and constructed with confidence. Joe Caruso recounts, “He played rough with paper as he would roll, scrape, and even tear it, creating holes in some pieces.” He describes the work as “hand-made and home-made.” In The Studio is not only a celebration of Kelley, but an honest reflection of his artistic spirit and the humble man he was.