Cheryl Kelley


Cheryl Kelley was born on December 23, 1968—two days before Christmas and a few months before the moon landing. As a child, Cheryl played outside with toy cars, making designs in the dirt near her home in Houston, Texas. Already she embodied the possibilities and contradictions of growing up as a girl in the midst of the sexual revolution: a tomboy who liked pink, independent but with close family ties, a determined do-er whose first love was reading. 

In school, Cheryl’s artistic gifts were apparent—not only in her technique but also in the way she saw the world. Encouraged by one of her teachers, Cheryl entered Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. There she gained not only studio experience, but also a profound love for literature and the unique ways that art and life interact.

After graduating, Cheryl chose to stay in Houston, building her own home on the outskirts of town and continuing to study at the University of Houston. Artistically, she gravitated toward abstract expressionism. She was especially drawn to the sensual qualities of art—the texture of brush on canvas, the visceral impact of color and curves. She first painted cars in order to capture the abstract play of light off their curved, reflective surfaces. Quickly she found her artistic voice in photorealism. Her paintings of classic cars, muscle cars, and race cars have been hailed for offering a feminine perspective on a traditionally masculine subject, highlighting the sensuality of the vehicles and their surroundings, which appear in reflection in their glossy surfaces. 

Cheryl is a recipient of a 2012 Pollack Krasner Foundation Grant. She now resides on a farm in Northern California, where she not only paints, but also gardens, raises goats, and sings in a local rock band.