Interview by Julie Mann
Lisa Kelley is a mixed-media artist, outreach coordinator at Abington Art Center, director and graphic designer of Angels in Motion, and member of local artists’ cooperative MamaCITA. She earned her BFA at Moore College of Art and Design, with a concentration in graphic design. Lisa lives in Elkins Park, PA, with her husband and daughter. I asked Lisa a few questions about her work and her career as an artist. Here are her responses…
Julie: When did you first identify yourself as an artist?
Lisa: I’ve always considered myself an artist. I can remember sitting in my mom-mom’s living room and knowing that I was an artist; I must’ve been around five. My mom-mom always encouraged me to be creative. We would go to the neighborhood “junk” store on Front Street in Kensington and gather supplies for our projects.
J: Your multimedia technique seems rather unique (at least I’m not familiar with anything like it). What can you tell us about the multi-step process you have developed to create, say, one of your clocks?
I used to have a business called milkshake crafts. I sold my work online and at craft shows for seven years. I would draw each image by hand, then scan and edit in Photoshop & Illustrator. After I got it to a point that I was happy with, I printed it out, then wrapped and adhered the printout around a block of wood that I had cut. A few layers of sealant would be the final step. I put milkshake aside a few years ago because I found it was taking up every minute of my time and I was no longer enjoying the process of making something. I struggled with my decision for a while, but as soon as I committed to taking a break, I felt so much freedom to try new things.
J: Have you always incorporated words into your art, and how is doing so meaningful to you?
L: I’ve always loved working with type (I have a BFA in graphic design from Moore). To me, adding words makes it more personal and accessible. People connect with words, they understand that part of art-making. I find that adding words to my art opens up conversations and connections that may have otherwise not happened. Lately, the art I’m making is about connection and community.
J: Some of your more recent work has been associated with social causes like homelessness and addiction. Could you tell us a little about that, and is it something you hope to do more of in the future?
L: I am one of the directors (and the graphic designer) of Angels in Motion, a non-profit that chooses to meet those suffering with addiction where they are. We go out on the streets to offer love, support, education and resources to those affected by the disease of addiction. It’s a cause close to my heart – my godson, who I raised and who I love like my son, is in recovery. The neighborhood AIM serves is Kensington, where I grew up. The people we help on the streets are some of the kindest, loving men and women I’ve ever met. No one wants to be an addict. Those suffering in active addiction hate that their disease has brought them to this place. If we can offer them love, compassion, a listening ear and the belief that the are worth it, then hopefully they will move towards recovery. We have helped many people get to treatment, and maintain sobriety.
J: Do you have a favorite medium, and is there another you’ve been itching to try?
L: I’m currently obsessed with weaving. The project I’m working on now is called “Epidemic,” about the rise in heroin addiction, overdoses and deaths. I have people write something related to addiction on strips of white fabric – it could be a hope, a prayer, a memory. I take those strips and weave them all together. Those of us affected by addiction are in this together. We are all connected. I am creating multiple woven panels of different sizes. One panel is all white, no woven words. Hanging from the weaving are strips that I have written on. They are things our “angels on the streets” have said. Things like “I haven’t had a hug in like five years.”
J: Is an art career something you would wish for your daughter?
Yes! She is a super-creative kid, and always has been. Art isn’t just about making something pretty – it’s problem-solving, reaching out to your community, making connections. There’s nothing like seeing your child find something that makes her heart sing.