Wisconsin artist Kelly Meredith has spent the last 35 years of her life brushing against perfection. Meredith paints realistic historical murals, and to date has completed close to 128 across Wisconsin. “I think to date I’ve painted 1,800 people,” Meredith says. “It’s a lot of people.”
The murals can take weeks or even months to complete which may be best represented with her most challenging work, a nine-month installation at the Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center in Ashland, Wisconsin.“It’s 140 different species of animals,” Meredith recalls. “Then like maybe 72 different bugs and insects.”
While painting the mural, Meredith would spend her nights doing research on the various animals and insects she was painting; looking at the environment they lived in, their size, and even the kind of food they ate. “Because everything has to be put to scale,” says Meredith. “So I spent a lot of time learning as I painted.”
Meredith’s attention to detail hasn’t gone unnoticed. Many of the people in the mural are actually based on real people within the Ashland community. Community member Donna Carella, who contributed to the mural financially, praises Meredith’s commitment to the project. “She did so much research on this project and she really got it right,” says Carella. “And she wanted to make sure she got it right, too. She wanted to include every animal and plant that was in this area and tell the story of Ashland.” It is comments like Carella’s that inspire Meredith to do the work she does.
“Once a piece is done and it’s out the door, it’s not mine anymore. Now it’s the communities,” Meredith says. “I’ve always said it’s kind of what it’s like to send a child off to college. You’ve done your work. Hopefully, I’ve done a good job. Now it’s up to them. Now they have to go and have a life of their own.”