About Kelly McCabe
Growing up in The Bronx, Kelly McCabe had always been creative not even thinking being an artist was even an option but after moving to Charlotte a couple of years ago did she finally decide to put her creativity on canvas. Kelly is a self taught artist and has been outlining everything in black since she can remember. She uses acrylic paints and the internal madness in her head to create her lipstick ladies. “The stuff that makes you question your sanity and reality.” Kelly’s lipstick ladies are basically portraits of modern emotions with pretty faces. She believes they represent whatever you feel, your intense emotions, your insecurities, and she hopes people to relate and find comfort in them.
Now 23, Kelly decided to showcase her artwork this last April to the public and what a good decision that was. Her ladies have captured people’s attention and hearts. We recently bumped into Kelly showcasing her ladies at the SCOPE: Raw Artist Art Show!
I LIKE TO THINK I CAN GIVE STRUGGLE A PRETTY FACE AND CONTROL TO OUR CHAOS THROUGH MY ART, WHICH HAS THE CAPABILITY OF COMFORTING US ALL IN SOME WAY…”
When you were a kid, what did you want to be?
I was always obsessed with the ocean, growing up on City Island it was hard not to be. I wanted to be a marine biologist for a long time. I love how mysterious the oceans are even after millions of years, we really know next to nothing about it. Coming from a generation that’s so used to everything being exposed and in your face that’s pretty exciting. To this day nothing makes me happier than being on the water. I do remember being very into fashion later in elementary school maybe 6th grade. I recently recalled not just drawing clothing designs but actually sketching them on models with basically the exact build of my current portraits. (Huge boobs and all haha) That was a pretty awesome memory to come across. Crazy how creativity can progress.
What sparked your initial interest in art?
My mother always supported my creativity. She was definitely interested in the arts when she was younger but wasn’t able to pursue it. It was important to her that I could build my imagination and not be limited as she was. I was far more involved in performing arts when I was growing up but that only lasted until insecurity and the need to be “cool” kicked in. I’m by no means conversant as far as traditional arts go. I never expected to be a visual artist and didn’t have a direct interest in it until recent years.
What was it about moving to Charlotte that make you pursue a career in art?
Charlotte has nothing to do with my work, getting out of New York City was the key. One of my paintings “Machine” describes this perfectly for me… (You can find other descriptions on my website)
“When you are on the outside looking in the differences in any case are significant, specifically the idea of New York City. Being raised in one of the boroughs instills a special kind of crazy in you. You become a part of the greatest machine in the world. It is not paved in gold and definitely not what dreams are made of. So many of the people I know are trapped or lost in a constantly unpredictable lifestyle. One day can be as eventful as weeks, for better or worse. You become indifferent to the potential of this machine. You do not see the bright lights or opportunity. You are too busy trying to see past the brick walls and concrete that you have built around you.”
I love The Bronx and it will always be home but you don’t even have a second to breathe. For me leaving the city was not just the hardest thing I’ve ever done but the most beneficial. My dad passed away the first week of my sophomore year at Cardinal Spellman High School. As if I wasn’t living a life beyond a 16 year old the year in between losing him and coming to North Carolina was spent in the clouds. Coming here, I had no choice but to face silence and myself. I had the experience of 17 years in The Bronx and the clarity of a new life in Charlotte. This gave me the chance to eventually fall into what I believe I’m meant to do, which is create.
How did you come up with the idea for your lipstick ladies?
I’m lucky enough to say it was an organic process for me. Though perfection doesn’t exist the idea of it is definitely instilled in all of us. We’re clearly in a generation disturbingly invested in physical appearance. There is so much more to be concerned about and I think the focus on image is a direct result of our discomfort and fear. There wasn’t even a thought when I started painting about what it would be, portraits of what we feel in its most dramatic form. I still have a hard time describing my work because it was so natural for me. They’re only females because that is me and what I know. Like I said in your first question I’ve been drawing these ridiculously proportioned and perfected builds for longer than I can remember. This is a result of the “perfect” idea of a woman implanted in us. I think we’re all perfect so though Physically that is not me or my friends or anyone else it is how I see us. In order for me to really express the serious feelings and issues I wanted to I had to first visually appeal to myself and now anyone else who will see my work.
You mentioned you are inspired by intense emotions and the ability of experiencing moments. What experiences have inspired you recently?
Having my first showcase in April was beyond inspiring. My art comes from an insecure vulnerable and a lot of times dark place. Receiving so much support and commendation not just for something so honest of me but from strangers was pretty incredible. I’m constantly inspired by the people around me. I tend to feel peoples problems and successes on a deeper level than what I’ve observed others do. I recently did a painting for my closest friend Samantha Emerick and her sister MaryAnn Emerick who are both at risk for Huntingtons disease. The painting was done in memory of their mother Rosaria who passed from this disease and to raise awareness and “Hope” which it is titled as well. I could go on for days about how inspiring their struggle and triumphs have been to me but it has just reminded me how strong we can be and how grateful we should be. It is insane what people are going through all around you, always. There is so much to learn and value from others and their experiences in this life. Check out an interview MaryAnn did with Fox News recently and her blog which you should definitely take the time to read because inspiration is an understatement…
Do yourself a favor and start from the beginning!
How does it feel to start showcasing your work?
It is overwhelming and unimaginable for me. I’ve never been so honest with something in my entire life so for it to be put in the public eye and appreciated like it has been is surreal. It is still so new to me and I’m just going with it staying honest and open with my work. Grateful isn’t even the word. Definitely have a lot of people to thank for their support I wouldn’t have come this far without it!
You mentioned you’ve been outlining everything in black since you can remember. What made you decide to work that way?
Outline is everything to me. I have some perfectionist tendencies only when it comes to creating. Before I could even read and write when using coloring books I would re-outline the image with a black marker once I finishing filling the color in. It wasn’t a decision but a natural instinct for me. I can’t finish something without outlining it. I think I’m just dramatic haha.
At what point did creating go from side passion to full-time career?
This was very recent for me maybe a few months ago that I decided now was the time to pursue this. I had a consistent flow of commissioned artwork and decided to go to brooklyn with my work in September so there was a lot going on. Though what I do is my passion and makes me happy it can be time consuming and draining. This may be temporary or last forever but regardless I have the circumstances to be able to focus on my artwork full time right now and I decided to jump at the opportunity.
What skills have you learned through all this that you didn’t have when you began?
I am not a business oriented person so that has been tough as Lipstickelly Art progresses. The term “networking” makes me cringe. I’ve become more comfortable with speaking about my art and where it comes from even where I want to go with it. Every day that goes by I’m more confident in myself which makes it easier to stand by my art with purpose and create more for others to relate no matter where they are in their life and experiences.
Would you say art helps you relax the internal madness going on?
Absof*inglutely. I’ve dealt with anxiety as a result of depression from things I have been through like so many people now a days, art was and still is my relief. That is why it is so important to me to focus on these emotions that can get so out of control hoping it can bring that same relief to others. I think it is all about finding a purpose in your life. If you have that the ups and downs are suddenly worth it. Right now and hopefully forever expressing and creating is mine.
What was the best advice you have received? (or a bit of advice for the reader)
Though it has all been valuable the best advice I’ve received is simply that my art will speak for itself. There is so much pressure in anything you do now and life in general is overwhelming. If you’re honest and real with yourself it will always reflect in whatever you chose to do. My brother reminded me of something my dad used to say before my showcase in Brooklyn “90% of life is just showing up.”. Just be you drop the judgment drop the fear really all negativity and you’d be surprised how easy it is to live the life you’re looking at with envy right now!