FALMOUTH — Jeff Kellar is nothing if not persistent. His focus and determination shows in his minimalist paintings, which are precise, rigid and meticulous in detail and execution. He doesn’t waste a brush stroke or leave excess pigment on his surface.
It also shows in furniture in the home that he shares with his wife, photographer Judy LaBrasca. Kellar made most of the tables, chairs and desks with sturdy wood, elegant lines, fair curves and an engineer’s eye for perfection.
The artist’s stick-to-it sensibilities also came into play when he received a $25,000 grant from the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation.
Created by the late New York artist Adolph Gottlieb, the grant supports “mature, creative painters and sculptors.” The foundation awards a dozen Individual Support Grants annually.
Gottlieb left money for the foundation in his will, motivated by witnessing several friends and colleagues who, despite their artistic accomplishments, did not enjoy financial success. The grants reward artists who have worked hard for a long time and remained true to their calling and exhibited consistently.
Kellar has applied many times and was a finalist once a couple of years ago. This year, he figured he’d give it one more effort, which he characterized as “a big hope.”
He and his wife were away when the certified letter arrived at his house in mid-April. A neighbor who was collecting the mail signed for it and left it among a stack of bills and junk mail.
“We came home and the check was in the mail,” Kellar said. “Instead of saying, ‘I regret to inform you,’ as it has in the past, this one said, ‘I am pleased to inform you …’ and it included a check for $25,000.”
Kellar will use it to buy materials and explore new work, maybe improve his studio. More important than any of that is the encouragement it brings.
“It means a lot, because it recognizes dedication to the work,” Kellar said. “No matter how much you show, you can get discouraged if your works keeps coming back (unsold).”
Kellar grew up in the Philadelphia area and has lived in Maine 35 years. He’s been making and showing art that whole time, exhibiting work in Maine and across the country. His paintings are in the collections of the Portland Museum of Art, the Farnsworth Museum of Art in Rockland and schools and public spaces across the state.
He’s known mostly as a minimalist painter who creates subtle, flat abstract work that explores space, light and the relationships between illusion and materiality.
He works on a surface of an aluminum composite material, which offers a thin, flat panel. He layers paint on top of the surface, and incises precise lines that bisect the surface and hold thin strips of paint, often in colors other than the larger surface. The effect is a textured plane that creates the illusion of depth.
“I’m trying to achieve surfaces that have depth, warmth and intensity,” he wrote in his grant application to Gottlieb.
As has been the norm, Kellar will stay busy in 2014. This weekend, he opens an exhibition of paintings and sculpture at Corey Daniels Gallery in Wells, where he will show with two friends, Frederick Lynch and Duane Paluska.
In September, he will show a range of work at ICON Contemporary Art in Brunswick. He also is in a group show at a gallery in New Mexico and has work at galleries in Texas and Oklahoma.
He has never not made art on his own terms, once he dedicated himself to art. And he’s always had other jobs to help support his family. Presently, he works at the Apple Store in the Maine Mall.
“I’ve managed to keep up an exhibition schedule while working full time, and I’m grateful to the artist friends, gallery directors and museum curators who have encouraged me to keep going,” he said.
The Gottlieb grant validates their support and his efforts, he said.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: