Emigrant artist Marie Antoinette Kelley is making her gallery debut in a holiday show at the Frame Hut & Gallery, 1430 Grand Ave., in Billings on Thursday, Nov. 9.
More than 30 artists will be part of the Frame Hut's annual Holiday Open House from 5 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 9.
Kelley began sketching portraits in 2000 after a friend sent her a video, “Yes, You Can Draw.” Her friend intended for Kelley to use the video to teach her daughters, who she was homeschooling. Without watching the video, just the idea that she could draw prompted Kelley to began sketching. Her first portrait was of Mother Teresa, showing her weathered hands next to her gentle face with eyes you can’t turn away from.
“Eyes are the window to the soul. I try to capture that,” Kelley said. “I’m learning to see.”
Kelley came to the U.S. from the Netherlands and most of her family is still there. She studied science at Montana State University, earning a Goldwater Scholarship to continue pursuing science, but she felt more connected to her spiritual side.
“I wanted to find out what was in here,” Kelley said, pointing to her heart. “I kept going deeper and deeper. I realized that learning to draw was learning to see people.”
For her first gallery exhibit, Kelley will show Santa paintings and her Santa image on a blanket with a matching cup. Two of her pieces have been featured in Rural Montana Magazine and she donated one portrait to the Livingston Hospital.
“My mom said, ‘You draw a person and it looks like you have them happier.’ I like people to be happier. It’s healing to see yourself as happy,” Kelley said.
Some portraits take as long as her first one, 20 hours, to get the details right. Others are done much quicker.
“I am realizing how powerful it is to draw a person. They say, ‘You really got me,’” Kelly said.