Minnesota artist Kellie Rae Theiss has dedicated her life to observing and painting nature. Most of the year she can be found at her Turtle-hill Studio, near Prairie Lake in the north woods of Minnesota. Her reverent and intimate paintings capture the spirit, beauty, and wonder of nature’s blessings.
My formal art education began at the University of Nebraska. This took me to observe art in over 27 countries of Europe, then on to attend the Accedemia de Riaci in Florence, Italy. I have worn many hats for the arts as an educator, owner and director of Kellie Rae Theiss (Red House) Gallery for nine years. It is very important to note that I have also been a student of the community of artists here and abroad. Libraries of information have come from the extraordinary artists and students that I have been privileged to work with and for over the past 35 years here in Minnesota.
Above all else I am here as an artist for nature. For 35 years my paintings have been about expressing a reverence for the natural object or creature. Rendering with academic precision, I attempt to relate to the viewer with a touch of surrealism how beautiful, fragile and brief are the creatures and their physical world. I also intend parallels to be pondered regarding our existence with theirs. Is there is a physical connection to the spiritual realm? Are we responsible to observe, appreciate and protect? I hope that my work will reflect these questions, creating a stronger connection to nature and a sense for protecting it.
Born on her ancestral family farm among the rolling hills and prairies of Northeastern Nebraska, Kellie Rae has always retained a love of, and respect for, the natural world. Whether it be the cultivated fields of golden corn and wheat, the natural grasslands that cover endless miles of land, or the streams that water the earth, this beautiful environment remains the essential foundation of her view of the world.
Her reverence and respect for nature imbue her life and art with the sincerity of prayer, as befits a woman whose Quaker forbearers moved West to establish one of Nebraska's first homesteaded farms.
A poet as well as a painter, Kellie Rae sees the world in terms of its beauty and its sanctity. Like the prose of the great Nebraska author Willa Cather, or the contemporary poems of Mary Oliver, Kellie Rae's visual images show us an understanding of the specialness of the most humble of natural forms. Her paintings are a sincere celebration of life imbued with careful observation, tenderness, and respect. The creatures she depicts are not anonymous. Each one expresses the uniqueness of the individual, the sense of personality that recognizes the special character of all of God's creations.
Kellie Rae's poetic vision of nature comes into the world through the masterful sureness of her craft. She studied art at the University of Nebraska and later added to her training at an art academy in Florence, Italy. Her sophisticated technique is based on the craft of the Renaissance masters whose work she studied and whose careful building up of the image yields a sense of depth that evokes the beating heart that lies beneath the feathers or scales in all their complexity of color and texture. The animals she creates exist in a space that adds a sense of mystery and timelessness to the vision.
These paintings could not have been created within the overbearing built environment of the city with its noise and frenetic activity. Her studio sits on a hill overlooking Prairie Lake in Northern Minnesota. Surrounded by woods and long vistas of water, her retreat is a place of sanctuary that allows her to enter the fullness of nature in all seasons. A student of natural history, Kellie Rae is a ceaseless student, ever eager to learn about the animals who fill her life and her art. She is a close observer of nature and fascinated with creatures great and small. Her work honors the world in which she lives and provides her with an essential expression of her love of life in its many forms. We are fortunate that Kellie Rae has devoted her life to bringing her vision to others as an affirmation of the world in which we live.
Bio By - Dr. Evan Maurer
(Minneapolis Instute of Art, Director Emeritus)
About nine months out of the year I am at my home and studio in northern Minnesota. This magical place provides the backdrop for my inspiration. It takes my breath away to come upon nature, to watch great blue herons passing overhead or have the company of a northern leopard frog in my hand. It is a thrill to observe creatures that are so very different than ourselves. It is my passion as an artist to capture the mystery and pride in painted portraits of nature. The subjects are frogs, insects, crayfish, tadpoles, turtles, fish, birds and butterflies. I do mean that I love it all - their patterns, color and the symmetry. But what is more - is that in their strangeness they are remarkably romantic. They are all creations of absolute poetry.