Cheryl Kelley’s captivating paintings depict vintage cars with stunningly real reflections. The artist uses smooth canvases painted with high-gloss varnish to achieve the nearly photographic effect. In fact, she classifies her work as “photo-based realism,” deriving paintings from pictures she takes at car shows. In the reflections, the artist includes hints of life in yesteryear. Silhouettes of old-style architecture, fashions from bygone eras and vintage advertisements can all be glimpsed in the sheen of a hood or glimmer of a door. “The reflections on the surfaces of the automobiles allow the viewer to go deeper, to see something more than the form,” she says.
Kelley came of age in the 1970s, as women across America started to flex their muscles to exert influence in previously male-dominated fields. She derives her focus on classic sports cars from both a love for the machines themselves and an interest in their cultural implications. “1968 Camaro, 1970 Nova, 1965 Corvette – just the mention of these high-performance vehicles bring up the memories of many childhood experiences for me,” she says on her website. “However, as I grew into my love of the monster machines, so did my awareness that the muscle car was the last bastion of young male dominance.” Kelley perceived feminine qualities in the cars that so often became masculine symbols, so she set out to capture her subjects with charm and mystique. As such, she says she feels her work serves as “a perfect metaphor for the American Dream in all its complexity.”