The Curatorial Triumph of Garden Party at Dryden Gallery

Artist/muralist Liz Kelley gives a look behind the scenes of her vision for the spring exhibition


Amid bustling Mineral Spring Avenue is Providence Picture Frame, a 14,000-square-foot art oasis that houses Dryden Gallery. Last fall, artist Liz Kelley, known for her nature-inspired organic murals around the state, was hired as the gallery’s lead curator. Currently on display is Garden Party, an exhibit featuring the work of three women, which runs through June 15, and has Kelley’s fingerprints all over it.

“The inspiration behind this show was the anticipation of spring, the feeling of a fresh start after winter. I am a big fan of the in-between seasons when you can slow down a bit, and take a breath,” Kelley explains of the show, which opened in early April. Kelley’s discerning eye led to selecting a trio of distinct artists: Elissa Lincoln working in collage, textile artist Susan Allen, and painter Jess Jeffries. Each artist brings a unique style, infusing the space with a symphony of craftsmanship and expressive compositions.

“When it comes to group shows, I love finding a balance of size, intricacy, and color palette,” Kelley shares. “The work of Susan, Jess, and Elissa all represent different corners of the art world, but are symbiotic in their nature, each with a sense of real craftsmanship and confident compositions.”

Kelley’s curation process was deliberate, orchestrating a dynamic interplay between the artists’ works. “For this show, I wanted to have the work interact on each wall. We have four floating L-shaped walls on casters,” she explains. “Some walls only contain one artist’s work, while others meshed together.” She cites one of Allen’s pieces as an example. “Her ‘Spring Cleaning’ resembles a pixelated letter A, and to mimic that, I stacked three of Elissa’s pieces to resemble pixels as well.”

Lincoln’s meticulous paper-cutting and painting technique intricately weave layers of flora and foliage, echoing the delicate nuances of marshlands, gardens, and bouquets, captured in a dance of shadows and light. Allen’s textile masterpieces exude a subtle yet impactful fusion of color theory and mathematical precision, elevating quilting into the realm of modern artistry with her organic compositions. Jeffries, an intuitive abstract painter, dazzles with her captivating use of space and tonal contrasts, infusing canvases with playful line work and evocative depth.

In preparing for the exhibit, Kelley embraced a collaborative ethos, entrusting artists with creative freedom. “Honestly, my involvement was minimal. I trust the artists’ visions,” she says. “I gave them a general idea of the show and its timeline meant for spring. The rest I left up to them. As an artist myself, sometimes I feel like I can’t work with too many guidelines; I would rather see what they generate in their minds.”

Lincoln reflects on her experience, praising Kelley’s approach: “Working with Liz and the Dryden Gallery was a delight. As an artist, I can sometimes find it intimidating to enter a gallery where a curator has arranged my work in a show and made their choices, but I was so blown away by the elegance of Liz’s curatorial choices, choices that are both playful and restrained. There is a true conversation going on between the pieces in the show; it almost has the gentle buzz of a garden party.”

Reflecting on the collective impact of the artists, Kelley notes, “I want the viewers to enjoy leaning into the walls to study Elissa’s intricate cut paper, then pull themselves away to study and admire Jess’ larger works from afar. Susan’s work and craftsmanship was the perfect addition to tie everything together.” Learn more at



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