By Md Rahat Hossen
Edinboro University’s Terry McKelvey introduced his art exhibit at Thiel College by saying that his paintings examine ideas that scare him or show situations whose solutions elude him.
Speaking to a gathering of about 40 Thiel faculty and students on Jan. 18 in the Weyers-Sampson Gallery, McKelvey explained that his paintings and drawings depict both truths and fictions. He called his art observational, both from life and from his imagination, and McKelvey’s paintings are diverse, rich and sophisticated.
His paintings are created primarily in oil paints and drawings in charcoal and graphite. His paintings are all “representational,” painted “from direct observation of the subject,” McKelvey said, explaining that his work is primarily narratives, focusing on the forms of “color, space and light.” McKelvey is associate professor of art at Edinboro.
McKelvey said in his remarks that his exhibited paintings are mostly completed in single sessions, and only the two paintings of his parents required two sittings. Each session takes two and half hours, he said. Some paintings are educational, and some are social observational, he observed.
His paintings process, that examination of scary things or unsolved situations, is something of a confessional act, McKelvey said. But he said intellectualizing his process is “possibly disingenuous,” because it suggests a level of “lucidity that may be over-appraised.” He explained that “emotional distancing” is necessary for him to face images as they emerge on campus, and some of it requires rational thought.
His drawings start with little sketches on paper. Then he transforms his art into later, different versions. He said he has developed a process using different kind of graphite pencils with various degrees of softness or hardness. Typically, he uses a hard graphite pencil to quickly draw and once he establishes the basic form, he uses soft and dark graphite pencils. They allow him to draw heavier lines, McKelvey explained.
After that step is done, his composition of hatching and double hatching makes the drawing more understandable. It is not necessary to finish the drawing by drawing in the entire background or all details, he said.
All drawings and paintings on display at Thiel are three to four years old. The paintings are characterized by very vivid colors, medium to large sizes, and surreal scenes that are not completely realistic but not unrealistic either. The front room of the gallery is fill with different kinds of paintings, while the gallery’s back room displays graphite sketches drawings primarily of female nudes.
One noticeable aspect of his drawings is that they are unfinished. In fact, McKelvey said about that he is not interested in finished drawings. Unfinished drawings make viewers curious, he said.
McKelvey holds a BFA in painting from the Portland School of Art and an MFA in painting from Cornell University. At Edinboro, he teaches painting, drawing and two-dimensional foundations courses in both the undergraduate and graduate programs.