" ... and you are not even dead yet." (American-Japanese artist Sarah Brayer to Daniel Kelly after his first great success with the CWAJ Show in Tokyo)
Daniel Kelly is an American artist who was born and educated in the U.S.A.. He came to Japan in 1977, learned woodblock printmaking from Tomikichiro Tokuriki from 1977 until 1979 and has stayed in Kyoto since then.
His art works decorate all major museums worldwide like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, the Museum of Modern Art in NY, the Freer Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C., the British Museum in London or the Museum of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. What more can you say about an artist with such an impressive resume? Yes - there is one thing: He is a nice, friendly and helpful guy.
Daniel Kelly was born in 1947 in Idaho Falls. Now he lives and works in Kyoto, Japan. How he got there and how he became an artist, is a long story. Daniel remembers that he has loved art from his early childhood. But where he grew up, he had no chance of undergoing art training. He studied psychology instead.
After he had moved to San Francisco, Daniel attended art classes at Morton Levin's Graphic Arts Workshop. Then he met a woman from Kyoto and went with her to Japan. Before he left, he bought a cheap book written by famous printmaker Tomikichiro Tokuriki. With the book in his pocket, Daniel visited Tokuriki in Kyoto and was accepted as a student in woodblock printmaking.
In 1981 he applied for admission to the juried, annual CWAJ (College Women of Japan) print show. He was accepted. The woodblock print he had submitted shows three women on bicycles riding towards a misty landscape of old Japanese houses in the countryside. The print is titled "Rolling In" and beautiful. You can see a variation of this design Verne Collection. The print on the Verne site is titled "Rolling Out".
Daniel Kelly had created this woodblock in an edition of one hundred. The complete edition was sold out over the weekend while the print show was going on, and immediately after the exhibition the print was hammered five times higher at Tokyo auction houses.
In 2006 Daniel Kelly was represented in the 51st CWAJ Print Show with two works, "Madoka" and "Yellow Hat". It was his 22nd year with the annual CWAJ exhibitions. Both works are mixed media - described as 'lithograph, woodblock, hand-coloring and chine coll�'.
A long time has passed since Daniel's first participation at the CWAJ in 1981. Afterwards he made more woodblocks. But he also turned towards other media and techniques. With Brian Williams, another American artist who had settled in the Kyoto area he began to paint Japanese landscapes. Daniel began to explore more techniques like lithography.
Today Daniel Kelly creates in his Kyoto studio mostly very large paper art works in techniques that he has developed himself over years and decades. He does not rely on existing printmaking conventions, and he even imports his own paper from Nepal.
We at artelino knew Daniel Kelly's works from the CWAJ catalogs. But we had never seen one of his works in real until autumn of 2006 when we received an exquisite collection of contemporary Japanese art that contained also three works by Daniel Kelly.
When we unpacked them, we were surprised. They did not look like prints and they did not feel like prints. Calling them paper works is a better way to describe them. And when viewing them from short distance, we could hardly recognize any subject. The first impression was that of a more abstract work of art. Then our helpers began the usual procedure to enter such large-sized art works by photographing them.
After we had uploaded the images to our computer screens, everybody was completely surprised. We could suddenly see stunning, nearly photorealistic images that we had not seen before. We even remembered all three subjects from the CWAJ catalogs.
We think it makes no sense for us to go into any details of how Daniel makes his astonishing mixed media paper creations. We would probably never figure it out completely unless we watched the artist in his Kyoto art studio at work for days and weeks. We are absolutely content to enjoy the amazing result.
Daniel Kelly has explored into many new ways and techniques. But one thing has remained constantly with him since his first CWAJ show in 1981 and his now legendary woodblock print "Rolling In" - and that is success. Whatever Daniel has created since then, he is always "rolling in" - into open doors, into hearts of art friends, and last but not least into the wallets of international art collectors.
The latest news that we have heard from art fairs in the U.S.A. and in Japan is that Daniel's art creations are selling like hot potatoes and for high prices. Sarah Brayer, another famous American paper work artist from Kyoto and friend of Daniel had brought it to the point in 1981 after Daniel's first CWAJ show when she remarked to him:
"And you are not even dead yet!"
One of the artist's latest work's titled "Yellow Hat" is a self-portrait showing him with a big, whimsical and somewhat cryptic smile on his face puffing a huge cigar (see on page 45 of the 51st CWAJ catalog of 2006).
He looks like being in the best of conditions for at least another four decades of creating art. Daniel Kelly's art works are in the collections of the MOMA in New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York and in the British Museum - what more can an artist achieve? In terms of fame and success, Daniel has achieved everything. The only thing that we can spontaneously think of that Daniel could still strive for: to quit smoking! (sorry - Daniel!)
The following citations were taken from the book "Quiet Elegance - Japan through the Eyes of Nine American Artists" by Betsy Franco and Michael Verne.
"Daniel is definitely a real artist. He has vision, knowledge and skill, and very few artists have all three. He really enjoys what he does - he gets his shit-eating grin on his face. His stuff's alive!"
(Joshua Rome, famous woodblock artist and friend of Daniel)
"When Daniel showed his print "Junko" to his woodblock teacher, Tokuriki brought out prints of Japanese bijin (beauties) by such artists as Onchi, Goyo, and Shinsui. He said he felt Daniel should compare his creation to these masterpieces."
"Over the ten years we've known each other, I have watched Daniel's images go through numerous transformations. I've come to realize that Daniel is a risk taker, both in his art and his life, and that he has seized many opportunities along the way to success."
(written in 1997 by Michael Verne, art dealer and owner of the Verne Collection gallery)
"Dame" (which means bad)
(An unknown Japanese woman when she saw that Daniel, on his first day with Tomikichiro Tokuriki, had rearranged the position of the carving tools in front of him to be more comfortable with his long arms.)
Apart from the artist's home page, we used ample information from the chapter about Daniel Kelly in the following book.
Author: Dieter Wanczura