Kellar Mahaney Retrospective Virtual Exhibition
Kellar Mahaney: A Retrospective
June 2-22, 2018
Sullivan Munce Cultural Center
Exhibit Essay by Jackson Mahaney
Edie Kellar Mahaney: A Retrospective
Edie Kellar Mahaney’s (1930 – 2017) creative path took divergent roads throughout the seven decades of her professional career. Her constant was a passion for the creative spirit that infused each and every one of her artistic efforts – whether a painting, an exhibit of collectible dolls, or a business sign commissioned by a dress shop. Color, line, design, and originality were critical to every creative endeavor she approached, no matter the time, place, or stage of life she was experiencing.
The Mahaney family and Executive Director Cynthia Young of the SullivanMunce Cultural Center have worked together to create an exhibit that attempts to put into perspective that passion for creativity that drove her not only as an artist, but as a wife, mother, community leader, and most importantly – as an individual. Her passion for art was matched only by her love of family and friends. We hope that as you tour Edie Kellar Mahaney: A Retrospective, you will come to know not only Edie the talented artist, but also the Edie many of us knew and loved: the exquisite woman whose genuine love (and hugs) and creative gifts touched us all.
The Young Artist (1930 – 1959)
Sparked by grade school art classes in Springfield, Ohio, Edith Kellar Mahaney’s career in the arts remained a passion throughout her life. Edie took art classes as part of her curriculum throughout high school, but it was a scholarship to Wittenberg University that fired her creative spirit. Under the tutelage of popular art professor Ralston Thompson, Edie developed a keen interest in Abstract Expressionism – an art movement popularized in the 1940s that emphasized a subjective emotional expression while focusing on the creative spontaneous act rather than the final result itself. An accomplished artist in his own right, Thompson worked with Edie throughout her education at Wittenberg. Edie was also inducted into the national sorority Kappa Delta, where she served as house President for two terms and developed many lifelong friends. Her college works, well-represented by the painting “Boulevard” (1952) are bold, self-assured, and as one critic at the time wrote for a Wittenberg paper, “...imaginative and colorful, representative of her originality and frankness of expression.” She exhibited frequently and received awards for her work, including a first place in 1951 for “Tower Room” presented by the Springfield Art Association (1951) and a second place award for “Boulevard” at the 1952 Ohio State Fair. Despite her hectic sorority schedule, Edie created a large body of work both for exhibit and as commissions for classmates and her KD sisters.
Following her graduation from Wittenberg in 1952 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Edie was accepted into Ohio State University’s Masters program in Columbus, Ohio, where she concentrated on studio painting. She graduated in 1954 with a Masters in Art in studio painting and continued to exhibit work in Springfield and the Columbus area. Upon graduation, however, she was hired by the Ohio State Historical Museum in exhibit design and preparation – a position that would inspire her and serve her well in the years ahead. Paintings such as “Forest Birds” (1954) and the small but striking “Bird’s Eye View” (1954) were completed during this time and demonstrate her continued exploration of Abstract Expressionism and bold color. It was also during her tenure at the Ohio State Historical Museum that she met husband Jack Mahaney – who first noticed her as “a beautiful redhead walking two Siamese cats on a leash.” She and Jack married in August of 1957 and began a partnership that would last all of Edie’s life. A year later, Jack, Edie, infant daughter Lolly – and Edie’s Siamese cats – moved back to Springfield where the young family prepared to settle in.
Creating Art & A Family (1960 – 1980)
A new job opportunity found the young Mahaney family relocating to Lafayette, Indiana, where Edie’s second child, son Jackson, soon arrived. Although the task of raising two small children limited creative time, Edie joined the Women’s League of the Lafayette Art Association and became active as both a member of the group and at the Lafayette Art Center (today the Lafayette Art Museum). At the Lafayette Art Center, she found her niche as both an employee (as Assistant Director and teacher instructing children) and an artist taking classes and painting regularly. By 1963, she had won 1st Prize awards in painting at the 1961 and 1962 Tippecanoe County Art Exhibits and was regularly entering regional exhibitions in Indiana and Ohio. Her paintings during this period, such as “The Red Ball” (1963), begin to show larger scale and an increased interest in pure abstraction, the figure, and bold fields of color with limited delineation.
As the 1960s ushered in a decade of change, the Mahaney family also experienced change in a move to Indianapolis in the spring of 1966, where Edie continued to paint while raising two growing children. Her work furthered her explorations in Abstract Expressionism- with a slight shift. Always a fan of poetry and music, Edie began taking favorite sections of poems and segments of lyrics and working them into her paintings. The majority of these paintings are smaller, highly abstract in subject, but often explore themes that work with the narrative tied to that particular painting. Lines by poets such as Rod McKuen, A.A. Milne, Conrad Aiken and lyrics by one of her favorite contemporary bands, The Beatles, found their way into many of these works with hand-painted brush strokes.
With representation by the well-established Red Barn Gallery in Indianapolis, Edie continued to paint even as the family made its final move to Zionsville in February of 1970. Paintings such as “The Night Comes On” with text by Conrad Aiken and “Blackbird” (1971) with lyrics by the Beatles, as well as many others were completed during this time. However, with two children reaching middle-school, time to paint was at a premium. Edie’s mother, Beatrice Beals, also came to live with the family at the home on Hawthorne Street, and hours for creating studio time were few and far between. Edie established The Kellar Mahaney Studio and turned her attention to successful forays into commercial art, including the logo work and sign for the long-popular Zionsville restaurant Adam’s Rib, and hand-painted sign work for local businesses such as Stacey La Bolts, The Pot Shop, Zionsville’s Chamber of Commerce, and many others.
However, it was the Patrick Henry Sullivan Museum – just a quick walk up the street (as Edie never learned to drive a car – one of the family’s interests in moving to the “walkable” town of Zionsville) – that also drew her interest. A charter membership in the Sullivan Museum Guild offered access to not only the new historical museum (dedicated in 1973) but its vibrant group of women who volunteered for the museum as well. In the mid-70s, the town received a $100,000 grant given by former Zionsville resident Elizabeth Hopkins Munce for the establishment of an art center. With her background in curatorial work and art center direction, not to mention her own creative spirit, Edie saw the new community center as a perfect fit. The trust was placed under the direction of the Sullivan Museum Board, who hired Edie to spearhead the art center’s development. Her studio – her painting – would have to wait as Edie threw all of her creative energies into the establishment of the The Munce Art Center.
A Creative Passion for the Community (1980 – 2000)
Part of the stipulation for The Munce Art Center was that the facility provide not only a gallery for showcasing artists, but that it also serve as a community art center with classes for both children and adults. Edie’s experience in both exhibit design and curatorial work from Ohio State, and art instruction as well as art center administration from the Lafayette Art Center played a key role in helping her plan a vibrant, inviting space for both professional artists and new students and children. After more than four years of planning, rehab work on the 1929 house next door to the Sullivan Museum that would house the center, and enthusiastic volunteer work, The Munce Art Center opened to the public in October of 1981.
Her commitment to make the center fully available to all – children and adults; beginning students and professionals – is most vividly expressed in the first community exhibit she planned, the “First Come, First Hung” Exhibit. True to its name, the exhibit accepted any work brought to the center (the inaugural exhibit even allowed participants to bring a “favorite” piece of art) and entries would be hung in the order they were received. The exhibit quickly gained local and regional attention, but most importantly to Edie – it opened a path for children to see their artwork on display alongside professional adult artists. The annual “First Come, First Hung” Exhibit remains a favorite Munce Art Center exhibit today. In addition to “First Come, First Hung,” Edie reached out to many artists and arts organizations and scheduled exhibits that included nationally known artists such as James Cunningham, regional works from the Boone County Artist’s League and the Hoosier Salon, and many local and regional artists across all disciplines.
With the help of her son, Jackson Mahaney, a DePauw University graduate in Art who was brought on staff in 1981 to install a ceramics lab and establish classes in ceramics for adults and children, Edie organized classes almost immediately, creating a schedule of that included pottery, silk screen techniques, painting, drawing for teens, and others. Classes caught on quickly, both with children and adults, and Edie took great joy in greeting new students and assisting teachers as they set up and prepared for classes.
In 1984, after several years of success in creating a vital arts organization in the Munce Art Center, as well as continued involvement with the Sullivan Museum Guild, Edie was promoted by the Sullivan Museum Board to the position of Executive Director of both the P.H. Sullivan Museum and the Munce Art Center. This new position allowed her creative and administrative control over both, truly tapping into all her creative energies. With Jackson promoted to Director of the Munce Art Center, Edie
began to focus on organizing and cataloging the museum’s many historical artifacts (and bringing many into the public eye for the first time through temporary exhibits), expanding the popular genealogy library and bringing it into the computer age, and most importantly – generating additional donations and income to secure the future of both the museum and the art center. Her tenure at the helm succeeded in all of these and more, and included securing the funding for the Brunes Moore Family Addition that effectively doubled the size of the Sullivan Museum. At this same time, she worked closely with Jackson in maintaining the Munce Art Center’s exhibition schedule and classes – never losing her deep commitment to the center’s community outreach and mission to promote the arts. On the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Sullivan Museum in June of 1998, Edie was presented with the Distinguished Hoosier Award given by Gov. Frank O’Bannon to recognize her outstanding service to the community and Indiana. Proud of the award, Edie was equally proud of the continued success of the Sullivan Museum and Munce Art Center and the potential for their futures.
As far as her own studio work, Edie’s devotion to both the Munce Art Center and the Sullivan Museum prohibited almost any personal studio time and painting. However, the physical expression of Edie’s creative expertise remains evident yet today in the continuing programs she instituted, the expansion of the buildings, and the continued success of and community appreciation for the SullivanMunce Cultural Center. However, as a new century dawned, the studio beckoned - and as one door closed, another opened into one of Edie’s most vibrant – and prolific – creative periods yet.
A Return to the Studio (2000 – 2015)
The word “retire” was never in Edie Kellar Mahaney’s vocabulary. The painting studio was, however, never far from her thoughts, and as the year 2000 ushered in a new century, for Edie, it signaled a return to her first passion – painting. With both the Munce Art Center and the Sullivan Museum secure and in capable hands for the future, Edie stepped away from both to return to her career as a painter.
Her endeavor was given a huge assist by husband Jack, who had a spacious, new painting studio constructed in the fall of 2001 that offered skylights and windows for excellent painting light, storage for Edie’s vast collection of art books and files, and most importantly – it was a mere steps away from her home at 480 Hawthorne Street. Returning to her roots in Abstract Expressionism, Edie was able to paint when the mood struck her – and it did, frequently. She painted almost exclusively in acrylics (which enabled brush work that had the feel of oil paints, yet allowed for fast layering and drying). Edie also made a decision that would fundamentally change the look of her work – she removed black from her palette. As a delineating color, black – to Edie – was an assist that she felt constricted an artist’s work. Using the canvas as a “color” and a vibrant and an often pure palette, Edie constructed paintings of energetic space, form, and movement that echoed her early works, but as a new direction were their own contemporary experience.
Subject matter also varied according to her experiences and interests, and she took great joy in exploring new themes. Flowers figure early into her return to the easel, from flowers received as gifts, to flowers grown by her husband Jack, or flowers she observed waving in a summer breeze. The lilies presented to her by a dear friend at the dedication of the Edie Kellar- Mahaney Gallery, named in her
honor at the Munce Art Center in May of 2003, found themselves the subject of her brush in “Dedication Lilies”(2004). A stand of cosmos planted outside her Zionsville home inspired “Wayside Bouquet” (2003). Flowers and their vivid colors and structures became a constant exercise and remained a favorite subject.
Edie also explored structures and landscapes she observed during trips with Jack – a journey to Savannah, GA, where the famous bridge leading into the city caught her eye. An extended trip to California yielded fertile material including the Golden Gate Bridge (“On The Golden Gate,” 2002), landscapes in the Park City, Utah area, the South Dakota Badlands, as well as the lake views of Lake Monroe (“Dusk At Lake Monroe,” 2005) closer to home. During this period, many of her paintings started with either an item or a view that interested her and had a personal connection or a special place in her heart and needed expression in paint. She documented almost every painting and added comments regarding its inception and progress.
With a growing body of new works, Edie began to actively submit her favorites for group exhibitions and also plan exhibits of her own. 2004 was a particularly busy year, with successful exhibits at the Corner Vise in Zionsville, an exhibit of works as part of the first annual Miller Beach Art Fair in Gary, Indiana, and entries in the 80th Annual Hoosier Salon Exhibit, where her painting “Hidden Treasure,”(2003), garnered a Best of Show Merit Award. As Edie found herself spending more time administrating entries and exhibits, she soon found a partner in daughter Lolly Mahaney, whose expertise in arts marketing and administration helped Edie balance studio painting with marketing and submitting her work for exhibition. With credentials that included Marketing Director for The Indianapolis Art League (now The Indianapolis Art Center), the founding Director and creative force behind the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts in Seymour, Indiana, as well as the marketing representative for several professional artists, Lolly was a natural to bring Edie’s work to a wider market.
In June of 2008, Lolly and Edie launched the KellarMahaney Gallery, a gallery owned and directed by Lolly that featured Edie’s work as well as a carefully curated collection of regional artists. From its Zionsville Main Street location, KellarMahaney Gallery offered Edie a regular outlet to exhibit and sell new paintings and meet art patrons at openings and local art events. In addition to the gallery, Lolly worked with Edie to develop an affordable line of prints and giclées that bring to a wider public some of Edie’s most popular works. A national licensing agreement with Poems Publishing in 2011 put selected Kellar Mahaney prints in outlets – including World Market and Z Gallerie locations – across the country, giving Edie’s work an even wider-ranging audience. Although the physical gallery moved and eventually closed in 2015, Lolly continues to market and represent Edie’s work to the public through the KellarMahaney Gallery Web site. Most recently, Edie entered two paintings into the Hoosier Salon New Harmony Gallery 2017 Summer Members Exhibition. Both were accepted and Edie was delighted to win an Award of Merit for her abstract floral, "Reaching Toward the Sun.”
After more than a decade of vibrant, creative work, Edie’s forays into the studio became less frequent and by 2014, ill health effectively ended her gifted painting. Edie passed on November 8, 2017. Her studio, silent and waiting just as she had left it during one last visit - perhaps working through a technical issue, or just enjoying some music by Bill Evans and a few moments lost in painting – remains, along with a stunning body of paintings. Paintings that represent an amazingly gifted creative spirit. Paintings that soar with color and technical expertise. Paintings that will continue to inspire and touch us in so many different ways. But perhaps most importantly, paintings that will continue to bring us joy and spark the creative spirit in all of us. And that’s just the way Edie would have wanted it.