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Jackson artist Kelly Hughes conceives a collection

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Kelly Hughes
(Fred Lynch)
Kelly Hughes has finally come out of her shell.

The artist, who lives in Jackson and has taught workshops and given art lessons there for more than a decade, will debut her second show in two months Friday.

Her August show in the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri featured pencil drawings of caterpillars. The current show, "Quickening" at the Black Door Gallery, features paintings, drawings and sculptures that reflect on the female perspective, motherhood and the concept of birthing an idea.

"It's very different," she said. "This is a more personal body of work."

Hughes said she had to build up the courage to display her artwork, much of which she said "relates to the time in my life when I had to overcome fears."

She can tell a story about each piece she has in the show -- where she found the inspiration and what she interpreted about it afterward.

"It's a creative and spiritual show," she said.

The title of the show, "Quickening," refers to the first time a mother feels the movements of the baby inside her.

Hughes said some of her pieces reflect the fears of a new mother and the anxiety she felt at finding out she was pregnant 14 years ago.

"I was afraid," she said.

Hughes has a daughter, 13-year-old Sierra, and an 11-year-old son Gabe. As her children have gotten older and more self-sufficient, she has found more time to practice her art. Hughes has given art lessons and hosted workshops in her Open Window Studio for years, but said she finds it hard to make time for her own art.

"It takes time to develop a collection," she said.

After the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center commissioned her to draw the caterpillars, Hughes decided she could put together a show for herself, too.

"I personally got to a place, too, where I could go ahead and put that out there," she said.

The "Virgin Artist" confronts visitors to the Black Door Gallery, listing questions about insecurity, drawing attention to the courage it takes to display one's own art.

"Can I really put my soul out there?" "What if it's not as good as I think?" "Is it a sin to enjoy it?"

This work -- press board with tin laminate and metallic enamel and marker -- and the sculptures around it entitled "The Mud Lust Series" lead patrons to read sexual undertones into Hughes' show.

"I think it's all kind of rolled into one," Hughes said. "Sexual being so close to the creative."

The series includes "Conception," "Awakening," "Gathering," "Laboring" and "Birthing."

"I think it works on a variety of levels," Hughes said.

She likens it to the literal birth of a child and also the birth of an idea -- an idea for a piece of art for Hughes. You conceive an idea, realize it, gather the materials needed, work to form it and finally see the completed project.

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