Carolina Art Crush: Kirk Fanelly


If you don’t know Kirk Fanelly, you’re really missing out. We only met him in person recently, but we have been following his meticulously detailed works (initially paintings and more recently, cut/inlaid paper pieces) for awhile now. We really like the way his brain works…and, also get a kick out of his sense of humor (admittedly, we’re not sure if he was joking about the nightstand comment below though?).

HappeningsCLT: Describe yourself in three words.
Kirk Fanelly: Talented, handsome, modest


Autopeep I, 2015, Flashe vinyl on paper, 16 x 12 in.

HCLT: Who or what inspires you artistically?
KF: Materials and processes, color, patterns, piles of paper, flora, human vignettes, animals, people I care about, travel, artist and curator friends. Artists: Alex Katz, David Hockney, George Condo, Tom Wesselmann, Gustav Klimt landscapes and Jonas Wood interiors. Of course, this changes. Most inspiring is usually the entity around the corner that I didn’t anticipate.


Cat Strangler, 2013, Inlaid paper, 38 x 55 in.

HCLT: When did you realize you were an artist?
KF: It wasn’t until college at Brown, where I was immersed in an environment with a lot of intelligent people who were driven and gifted in specific subjects. That frenetic time made me realize that painting was my strongest academic aptitude and passion and pushed me to cross-register for numerous studio classes at RISD. It also took meeting other artists (particularly through a Yale Summer Fellowship in 1998) to register that being dedicated, skilled, and curious is a strong enough foundation—you don’t have to measure up to some eccentric genius or tragic artist stereotype. I realized in my early twenties that I could never abandon making art because I would always need to create to feel fulfilled and happy.


Fleshy Pile, 2016, Inlaid paper on panel, 36 x 24 in.

HCLT: Where can we see your work?
KF: Instagram (@kfanelly) is the best place to see new work and work in progress. Older paintings are archived on my website. You can peep in my studio window, but, true story— the last person who did that was attacked by an owl. You can visit Lia at Davidson and see a couple of works in their permanent collection, but you should bring her an offering for admission. Sorry if you missed my shows at Winthrop and Davidson in the past; I promise to be better about exhibiting locally in the upcoming years.


Portrait of My Dad Moving the Lawn, 2015, Cut & inlaid paper on panel with archival ink and flashe vinyl, 58 x 64 in.

HCLT: Tell us about your current body of work?
KF: I always say I’m a painter, so it’s a little confusing to people (and me) when I explain that most of my current work is made with cut and inlaid paper. I wouldn’t categorize it as ‘collage’ because the tension isn’t in disparate materials or imagery, but rather in the flatness and hard edges of the same material—like many painting styles. I’d just say I’m a painter working mostly with paper for now. The current work evolved from some earlier stenciled and masked painted surfaces. There’s still some narrative that was the impetus for much of my early work. There are also some new pieces that appear abstract, but are still dependent on observation and physical objects. I find myself increasingly reflecting how wonderfully bizarre the natural world is rather than just mining the human narrative.


Recurrence, 2016, Inlaid paper, 70 x 48 in.

HCLT: What do you think is the most valuable art experience in the Carolinas?
KF: I know your past interviewees covered all the good exhibition spots. If you are already an artist, the most valuable art experience you can give yourself is making new work consistently, and pushing yourself to take chances as they present themselves. If you are not making art, the most valuable art experience you can give yourself is to purchase original work by talented artists. You will get to experience the work daily, and you’ll be encouraging an artist you like to create more work. Make a point to have more non-arts friends and help expose them to joys of collecting and displaying original work and supporting artists—not buying shit whose function is to occupy space and go barely noticed.


Lips II, 2017, Inlaid paper on panel, 9 x 12 in.

HCLT: What book is on your nightstand right now?
KF: I panicked when I read this question because I don’t own a nightstand. Just to show you how seriously I took this interview, I went out and purchased a nightstand, and then placed the book I’m currently reading on it. That book is Stephen King’s, On Writing. I’m obsessed with streamlining my work process to complete all the work I need to do in a day—and still have time for a raucous social life.


Bouquet, 2014, Cut & inlaid paper, 50 x 40 in.

HCLT: Best meal in Charlotte?
KF: I can’t tell you. I don’t want you showing up at her place, too.


Backyard Silver Maple, 2017, Inlaid paper, 29 x 22 in.

HCLT: What is up next?
KF: You all are coming to visit me, right? I’ve been here for 17 years, and never done a solo show in Charlotte. I think I’ll do one within the next year. You are invited.


Cut From the Same Cloth (Emma, Viking, Alternate,  2017, Inlaid paper, 40 x 30 in. each

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