John Patrick Kelly of Pompano Beach is a sculptor of realistic bronze figures and a painter of lovely, weird, fantastic subjects. The fact that he excels in both media makes him something quite rare in the art world -- a classicist in sculpture and a wholly unique story teller in painting. And his style?
Kelly’s work was so good, even in childhood, that accomplished adults found it hard to believe. When he entered his first sculpture of a girl lying on a stone in a school contest, he won first prize. But it almost got taken away from him when some doubting Thomases wondered how anyone so young could create art so beautiful.
If you see Kelly‘s paintings in a gallery, you stop cold to study every detail. Pondering the meaning of his characters on windswept landscapes is part of the magic and fun of his work.
“They’re sort of haunted,” he says with a laugh, crediting his own life experiences for the wellspring of ideas he translates into art. “My mother and brother were schizophrenic and I would spend time with them at the nut house, or when they were coming out of doctors’ appointments or occupational therapy. That experience feeds the insecurity of life. I was a loner growing up. I don’t need people around. Even for my own exhibitions, I find it hard to stay the whole night. I’m not really good at being social. I have very few friends. I’m okay with that.”
With works currently on view at Rossetti Fine Art in Pompano Beach, Kelly has a foothold on the local art scene since moving here 11 years ago from Colorado. When Kelly entered the “Starving Artists” group show in Fort Lauderdale roughly a decade ago, Tom Rossetti, owner of Rossetti Fine Art, was the judge. Kelly won first prize, which was a chance to show his work on Las Olas Boulevard, at a gallery Rossetti managed at that time. The two men became friends. “I totally believe in him,” Kelly says of Rossetti.
Surrounded by brushes, canvases and paint, the artist is compelled to create. “I’m working on ‘Ophelia’s Dream’ with a woman standing on a broken pomegranate,” says Kelly.
What have been the challenges of his career? “To stay alive and keep affording me to be here,” he says frankly. “I had a lot of clients in the 1980s and 1990s and thought it would never end. But it did. The art scene here is growing and becoming more professional. ...I’m really dedicated to what I do and hope it works out again. I’d like to go out in my old age as an artist.”
An ardent supporter of Kelly is Terry Kost, who owned RaZoo Folk Art Gallery in Fort Lauderdale before moving to North Carolina. “I worked with two intuitive geniuses -- Patrick Kelly and Purvis Young,” he says. “Both are completely different yet both create with a lot of heart. Kelly has a unique, recognizable style. Even in his humorous paintings, he pulls you in. There is quite a narrative going on in his work. I hope he finds his mark.”