About Abstract Expansionism and The Artist

Excerpts from the book…

Lea Kelley Book1


“There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing.” —Mark Rothko

Abstract Expansionism:

The Art of Lea Kelley

Lea Kelley is the pioneer of the art modality referred to as Abstract Expansionism. In this artistic process, the artist initiates a work with a conceptual or symbolic personal representation. Through layers of painting, the work is expanded into territories of universal meaning with archetypal symbols, shapes, and colors until the final visual dialogue appears. Influenced by abstract artists of the twentieth century, Abstract Expansionism emerges as the next art development to represent the changing consciousness of the American culture from ethnocentric norms toward a global collective understanding of the human condition.

Kelley’s works can be found in private collections and public venues throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.


The artistic process of Abstract Expansionism is similar to a social process people commonly employ to ensure emotional survival. We claim territory for ourselves, then we share it with others to avoid loneliness within it. The term Abstract Expansionism is derived from a combination of sources to represent another step in the evolution of modern art. If we look at Abstract Impressionism in the late 1800s with artists like Monet and Pissarro, we find an art movement utilizing tiny brush strokes to relay an impression of subjects.

Moving into Abstract Expressionism of the mid 1900s with artists such as Kandinsky, Kline, and De Kooning, we find large brush strokes depicting an expression of departure from the self and from the limitations of social structures.

Now we may continue into Abstract Expansionism where the
brush stroke goes beyond traditional techniques into more elastic inclinations and toward evolutionary cultural norms. In living, we receive an impression, we cultivate an expression, then we participate in expansion until we become part of our social environment through a collective understanding of our mortal existence.


Abstract Expansionism

Artist’s Statement

Carl G. Jung said, “It is the function of consciousness not only to recognize and assimilate the external world through the gateway of the senses, but to translate into visible reality the world within us.”

Art movements are a broad representation of stages toward developing human consciousness. The world within us is not limited to impressions we receive or confined to expressions of our individuality.

To me, our consciousness is a collective instrument that can bring us together, unified in understanding, to translate our interconnection into visible reality. In my work through Abstract Expansionism I begin alone, reflecting on a subjective personal experience or impression with which I am contending in the moment.

I paint an image of myself on the canvas—a self-portrait or a symbolic expression to depict my individual circumstances. I then paint in layers over my own image (or experiential symbol) adding deliberation and visual dialogue in the form of universally experienced symbols such as colors, shapes, lines, or even numbers that evoke common associations or mutual agreement of meaning. These, archetypal symbols and representations are derived from my exposure to various cultures and philosophies that unite human beings in collectively shared significance.

I am finished with a painting when it transcends my own existence into the realm of meaning for those around me. The process of Abstract Expansionism is as significant to me as the finished piece.




There is an innate angst that compels us, as mortals, to deny our inevitable deaths. We build structures, establish religions, birth children, and dedicate monuments. We attach our personal significance to beliefs, worldviews, or systems, which we subconsciously hope will outlast our mortal coils.

The painting is an instrument to facilitate living while I am inevitably dying. It is a tangible, visual representation of my connection to that which I believe will survive long after my physical body is capable of impression, expression, or expansion.

Lea Kelley

Born in 1959, Kelley is the pioneer of Abstract Expansionism. She studied at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, California.

Her world travels and exploration of many cultures has contributed to the depth and substance of her work. Her passion for art history, mythology, and symbolism inspires inquiry into the significance of meaning.

Abstract Expansionism was developed over a period of three decades of Kelley’s experience as an American painter.

Kelley has resided in, and contributed to communities along the West Coast of the United States. She is the founder of The Bellingham Art Tank, and is a Mayor’s Arts Award recipient.

Presently the artist divides her time between Sonoma County California and the Pacific Northwest

A list of her collected works and exhibitions can be viewed at: http://www.leakelley.com Inquiries may be sent to: msleakelley@gmail.com

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