Peggy R. Kelley considered herself an outsider and an observer. She began studying art in 1954 as she traveled through West Virginia, Arizona, and North Carolina, finally earning her B.F.A in 1970 from Florida Atlantic University. A decade later, she earned a BS in Industrial Engineering and began working in the Aerospace Industry.
Influenced by her work with machines, as well as artists such as Chuck Close, Kelley became interested in Photorealism. She mastered challenging subjects, painting reflections, hands, hair, and aging skin. In her words, “My goal is to continue to grow through experiences, and to produce a body of increasingly higher-quality artwork.”
Before digital photography, a roll of film came back from the processor a few days or weeks later. In between the “good” pictures, were the photographs with blinking eyes, open mouths, turned backs, and not-quite-right exposures. These are the photos that inspired Kelley’s work. She maintained the awkward qualities of the source material even as she experimented with backgrounds, media, and groupings.
Peggy Kelley’s travels ended in Billings in December, 2018 and she bequeathed her paintings and drawings to the Yellowstone Art Museum. In December, 2019 the YAM Collections and Exhibitions Committee voted to recommend over 30 works of Peggy Kelley to be accessioned into the YAM’s permanent collection.