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Donald Kelley


I was born in the middle of the Second World War.


I received my education at the Museum School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Where I majored in painting.  I won the Bartlett Traveling Scholarship from the Museum School and traveled and painted in Europe for three years.  My fascination with travel began during this period, and I’ve traveled extensively ever since – to most countries in Western and Eastern Europe, to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, India, Thailand, Japan, Mexico and the Caribbean.  Upon my return from Europe, I went to Yale, where I earned the M.F.A.


I then began my career as Gallery Director of the Boston Athenaeum, Where I created a gallery devoted to many-faceted series of changing exhibitions, each usually lasting about two months.  For example, I mounted an exhibition of Christo’s work, a very ambitious undertaking in view of the Athenaeum’s limited gallery space and modest budget.  The exhibition proved extremely popular and drew in many of Boston’s citizens who had never before been acquainted with the Athenaeum.


My aim was to present to the community a variety of works which they would not under ordinary circumstances have the opportunity to see.  Thus the exhibition of the paintings and watercolors of Charles Burchfield in 1986 brought together that artist’s works from all over the country; it was accompanied by a catalogue and a series of lectures.  This exhibition, with the support of the New England Foundation for the Arts, traveled to three other museums in New England, thus expanding greatly the number of its viewers.  Another exhibition, The Art of the Contemporary Book, was also a traveling project under the same foundation’s auspices.  It displayed a whole range of works, including examples of fine printing, binding, hand-made papers and illustrations.  It also challenged the conventional definition of what constitutes a book.


Another of my projects at the Athenaeum was to increase the audience who came to the gallery and who became members of that rather august institution.  I sought to produce shows that would appeal to new groups of Boston’s citizens.  One such exhibition was Four Boston Architects.  Another was The History of Blacks in Boston, with accompanying lectures.


All the time that I worked at the Athenaeum, I continued with my own painting.  My exhibition career began at the Swetzoff Gallery in Boston.  My work is in the collections of the Boston Athenaeum, the Print Department of the Boston Public Library, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston  and in private hands.  Recently, however, I have moved away from the painted image and have become interested in printmaking.  Since I made very few prints before I began attending Massachusetts College of Art, this is a new field for me and it represents an intriguing challenge.


Empathy lies at the heart of my figure drawings; I try to communicate directly through feeling.  For example, when I am drawing or painting a representation of the body, I imagine myself within that body.  The process of creating a painting is very different, obviously, from making a print.  In creating a painting, you can erase of change color with the swish of a brush.  This does not work for me in developing a print, which requires exact planning in laying out a design – a design that must then be followed carefully.



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