Nationally acclaimed artist with strong ties to Kingman exhibits paintings at museum

Artist Kelly Bailey may live in Houston, but strong ties to Kingman keep pulling him back to his former desert home.

"My roots are in Kingman.

This is where I lived and went to school as a young boy," he said.

"I have never forgotten the wild beauty of Arizona's deserts and mountains."

Kelly has traveled a great distance in miles, and personal growth, since the time he was a first grade student in Jean Graham's class at Kingman Grammar School.

Now a nationally acclaimed artist, his unique watercolor paintings have merited space in several national juried exhibitions including the 24th International Exhibition of the Watercolor Art Society in Houston, and the Northwest Watercolor Society's 61st Annual Open Exhibition at the Bellevue Art Museum in Bellevue, Wash.

Bailey who was born in Mesa, came to Kingman with his family at age 2.

Always attuned to nature, Bailey said he sought to capture such beauty in art.

His artistic leanings led him to his first commissioned art piece for a restaurant in Bullhead City at the age of 16.

Among the first class to graduate from Kingman High School (formerly Mohave County Union High School) in 1970, he attended Northern Arizona University for a year, while remaining close to his family, who still reside in Kingman: parents Norma and Bill Bailey, mother Sondra Henriksen, and brother Jim, a paramedic with the Kingman Fire Department.

He was self-taught until he scored high on a talent test and took a correspondence art course from The Famous Artists School.

But fate intervened when a younger brother was killed in an auto accident.

The tragedy drained him of all creativity, and he could not finish the course.

But fate beaconed again, and Bailey met Charlotte, the woman he calls "the love of my life."

The granddaughter of old time Kingman fiddler Carl Grady, Charlotte, a Houston, Texas resident was visiting her grandfather in Kingman when she met Bailey.

"We got married a few months later," she said.

"I wouldn't recommend that for everyone, but it worked out for us."

The couple moved to Houston in 1972 and has lived there ever since.

They have two daughters: Chelly and a younger daughter, 13-year-old Kacey, who has shown some artistic talent of her own, Bailey said.

As a young man Bailey's own creative abilities were channeled into his livelihood: custom pin striping and graphic designs on cars for Houston's import car dealers and later designing and building custom, one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture.

For the past eight years he has worked as a mechanical designer for a Houston consulting engineering firm.

But he said he never gave up on his art, continuing to draw with graphite or pen and ink, and occasionally to paint with oils or acrylics.

Then in 1999 he realized a lifelong dream to take the first and only art class at the highly respected Glassell School of Art, which is affiliated with the Museum of Fine Art in Houston.

Bailey was honored when one of his pieces was selected to hang in the upper gallery for the school's annual student exhibition.

After the art class Bailey said he taught himself how to paint with watercolors.

"Many professionals say that watercolor is the most difficult medium to work with," he said.

"But I am always up to a challenge."

The results of his efforts have earned Bailey many accolades.

His artwork earned him a scholarship at the Glassell School of Art where he enrolled in an advanced watercolor class.

He has since completed four semesters.

He has been taking the art world by storm since, entering his watercolors in six national juried exhibitions where artists are selected to exhibit their work.

For one such exhibit Bailey was one of 70 artists of 500 chosen, he said.

His art pieces have also graced the walls of several regional juried exhibitions and group shows, as well as private collectors.

This month Kelly's art will be on display at the Mohave Museum of History & Arts.

It will be his second one-man show, the first taking place at the Art Bazaar in Edgarton, Ohio.

The paintings on display at the museum include an eclectic mix of the familiar, (the Hualapai Mountains and London Bridge in Lake Havasu City) and the abstract, including Rift de Rationale prints.

The exhibit features still life paintings awash in vibrant color, along with landscapes from around the world, but familiar Arizona landscapes painted from Bailey's unique perspective also make a strong showing.

"The asking price for the paintings, limited edition prints and prints are set for the Kingman economy," said Jaynell Chambers, the Mohave Museum of History & Arts director.

"We are very fortunate to be able to exhibit Kelly's paintings.

They are absolutely breathtaking.

His attention to detail in the Rift de Rationale prints are extraordinary."