Talk of the Town - Living in an exhibit March 19 2003

Converted Grant Park warehouse

Kelly is leaning on a wall outside his warehouse. He's smoking a Winston while talking to his girlfriend, Meredith. He's dressed in his work clothes — a torn cap, paint-stained overalls and wrinkled, black boots.

Kelly, a 26-year-old artist, paints, carves and works with metals. His slightly freckled face is seen in his many multihued, large, abstract paintings scattered throughout his workspace.

Kelly uses his warehouse as his studio and home. Heavy wood and metalworking machinery neighbor his bedroom. His 20-foot-high, 3,500-square-foot concrete cell lacks air conditioning or central heat. For Valentine's Day, he built windows for his girlfriend in their disjointed bedroom, enabling air to enter the room. Kelly's closet is a mere rack fixed to a wall, stocked with a pair of overalls for each day of the week. An antique yellow dresser sits in the room's corner. A diptych painting by Meredith garnishes the room's northern wall.

The kitchen area is like a gallery exhibit. A Hindu dragon, a Jamaican Rasta man and other sculpted pieces decorate the countertop. An old, wood stove, which Clark uses as a heater, is in the center.

A makeshift bedroom lies behind Kelly's studio, where his other roommate, Gilbert, a landscaper, lives.

Creative Loafing: This is definitely not a conventional way to live. What attracted you to this place?

Kelly: Well, I'm an artist and I do a lot of metal and woodwork. I can't afford to live and work in two separate places. So, I combined both.

When did you meet Meredith?

We met in art school.

Meredith: I was actually married when I was in art school. I didn't know Kelly very well in school. I got divorced after I graduated. That was about two years ago.

So, you practice the same type of art?

Meredith: No. I focus on print- making and painting.

Describe your relationship.

Kelly: I always told myself that I wasn't going to get married and have children until I'm 30. I have three more years to go. She's just waiting around.

Meredith: [giggling] We're just living together.

What's your favorite part of this place?

Kelly: I guess my shop. It's where everything happens.

Is there a piece that your particularly fond of?

(He gets up and walks away. He returns with a large painting, an abstract self-portrait with the American flag faded across the work.)

Kelly: It's a self-portrait. I was born on the 4th of July 1976 and I'm a Cancer. I'm also infatuated with infinity. This painting captures all of that.

I'm sure you visit a lot of museums for inspiration. Is there a museum around here that you like?

Kelly: I appreciate the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory. The presentations there are very thorough.

Meredith: That place sucks! The best art I've seen in Atlanta is at small independent shows. Eyedrum is pretty good.

What's difficult about being a local artist?

Kelly: Niches. Atlanta has a whole lot of niches. Those circles are bad for business. Plus, most people here are not into art.

Let's get a bit personal. You know the stereotypes about artists and drugs.

Kelly: Yes, I smoke pot and drink beer. And, no, I don't get inspired after smoking.