August 2016

by Jane R. Snyder

If you were to observe hundreds of abstract paintings, you would see many that look half-hearted or offhand in their intention. Not so the work of Lorri Kelly. Her self-assured panels stand out and reflect the same deliberate energy the artist manifests as she welcomes art lovers into her booth in Centennial Park.


Untitled, 2016, Acrylic and pencil, 48” x 48”

“I’m an introvert, not very talkative—yet I have much to communicate—so I do it with paint and line. People who see my work would assume that I’m quite extroverted. I do talk to virtually every person who enters my display; but I’m totally tapped out when the exhibition is over. I may not utter a word the day after an exhibition.”

Lorri’s impressive talent has been recognized by juries all over the country. At the Spring Tennessee Craft Fair, Lorri won the Nashville Arts Magazine Honorable Mention award—not surprising for a woman whose paintings are appreciated from their initial installation and then every day thereafter.

Her paintings await collectors in ordered rows like schoolchildren getting ready to run through swinging doors onto an empty playground. More than two decades ago, after the death of her young daughter, Lorri withdrew from a pre-med program and began to paint full time. Gradually, as her grief slowly transformed into the striking abstracts she is known for, “conversations between colors” began to overflow her imagination. Luckily, those conversations have never stopped.

” I’m an introvert, not very talkative—yet I have much to communicate—so I do it with paint and line.”


Untitled, 2015, Acrylic and pencil, 26” x 15”

“My work is primarily about two things: color and emotion. I look for color inspiration in nature, as well as color combos I see in textiles, books, and architecture. What actually inspires me is the paint itself: I dollop some colors onto the paint panel, then watch to see how they interact with one another and let that inform me. I don’t use a brush; I blend the colors with my hands. As for emotion, the things I’m feeling inspire and inform my abstracts, or sometimes I try to express what I think other people are feeling.”

Lorri’s canvases are actually thick wooden panels, often recycled segments, which run from eight-inch squares to massive corporate pieces measuring more than 14 feet across. One piece, six feet high by one foot across, is a perfect example of her ability to shape shift while remaining true to a vigorous technique that combines color and line playfully bleeding around the edges of every composition. The artist realizes that if you walk down a hallway toward a painting you either see frame or art. Using her approach, Lorri is able to extend the experience of her work for each viewer.


Untitled, 2015, Acrylic and pencil, 28” x 13”

“I really have an ongoing relationship with my collectors. I always give a piece of myself in each of my paintings, so I feel very connected to people who want to own my work.”

Her husband, gifted mosaic artist Steve Terlizzese, prepares each panel to make sure they are smooth enough so Lorri won’t get any splinters while painting. He also drills holes in the 8” x 8” works to enable them to be displayed in four directions—a pleasant way for any collector to interact with the paintings. Lorri has one fan who likes to rotate a piece that she owns at least once a day! Larger abstracts all come with wire for easy installation.


Untitled, 2015, Acrylic and pencil, 18” x 18”

Using Liquitex® or Grumbacher® acrylics, she selects a new color palette each day and then applies it to multiple panels simultaneously. Her line work is accomplished by “scraping away layers of paint using an old gift or credit card or, on lighter colors, black soft-core Prismacolor® pencils.” Whether Lorri paints at home or in her “mobile studio” traveling between 25 to 30 exhibitions every year, music is another valuable tool.

“One day I’m listening to the blues, the next jazz, the next maybe symphony or piano concertos. The music often has a profound effect on my work; some paintings have noticeable reference to rhythm, movement, and sensuality. My husband can come home at the end of the day, look at a painting, and say, ‘You’ve been listening to jazz, haven’t you?’”

Lorri’s abstracts hang worldwide in private and corporate collections including at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Many of her devotees purchase new paintings each time Lorri exhibits in their region. In her hometown of Chattanooga, she has also participated in public art projects including her playful musical tribute The Piano for Masonry Works in Public Places, a mural for the McCallie Walls Mural Project, and elsewhere.


Untitled, 2016, Acrylic and pencil, 48”x 48”

In Nashville, her paintings can be viewed at Art & Invention Gallery, 106 Woodland Street, and Shimai Gallery of Contemporary Craft, 8400 Highway 100 at the Loveless Cafe. Lorri will return to Nashville for the 45th Annual Fall Tennessee Craft Fair, September 23–25, 2016. Don’t miss an opportunity to meet her and discover a “conversation” to brighten your home or office, and, definitely, your spirit!

Lorri Kelly is represented by Art & Invention Gallery. For more information, please visit or

lorri kelly photo 1

Lorri Kelly; Photograph by Steve Terlizzese

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