“I am the purveyor of magic. I’m a magician, neither painter, nor artist. I’m not any of these conventional historical labels. I deal in magic, beauty, life and love…”
Paul Chelko, was a vital presence in the Atlanta art scene for more than 40 years. His abstract painting, ultra realism, portraiture, performance art, music, poetry and film is world-renowned. Chelko also taught at Emory University, The Quinlan Art Center, Massey Junior College and was a member of the White House Art in the Embassies Program. He served as the official artist for The Annual National Charity Awards Banquet in Washington, D.C.
His work hangs in the collections of Oprah Winfrey, Frank Sinatra, Vincent Price, Mayor Maynard Jackson, Senator Max Cleland and Coretta Scott King. His work has been featured in The High Museum of Art and The Smithsonian.
His experience as an artist and creator was centered on illuminating “doorways” inviting the viewer into a house of being. Passing through and presenting themselves completely the viewer is transported to a place inside themselves where their truth and power live. “Ideally, in that moment, the individual will begin to create his life as a work of art. So it’s like the paintings are stepping stones, star gates, or bridges to another reality in which all possibilities live, including rediscovering again who we really are.”
Chelko’s act of creation, while free, was still fraught with complications, and the vision was not always solely his own. Inspired by the beauty of women, one of his most striking pieces is “The Three Faces of Eve.”
The artist admits to drawing inspiration from a twin sister who was lost at birth, but “… who lives in my life. There is no separation. She is the female counterpart to my masculinity. She lives in the eyes of all of my art and behind my eyes.”
Those who knew Chelko understood and appreciated the vibrancy and positive energy that flowed freely. While others labeled him as flaky or “an artist” his freedom from judgment allowed him to move beyond the boundaries of expectation. This gave his life and art a deeper passion allowing him to discover a truer, deeper love in others and in himself. He would say “…judge if you want but ye shall not be judged by me… You can be any way you want to be with me. I gave up my seat on the judicial bench of life. I think I reached the highest level that I could operate on as a creator and a communicator when I gave up needing you to understand who I was or what I was attempting to explain, define or bring into existence.”
The conflict in the vision behind his art transferred to the canvas. “Every time I did a painting, I would do three,” he said. “There was the one I was going to do, the one I did and the one I should have done. Then one day, I started choosing it the way it is.”
Chelko was about one thing and one thing only: Love. Everything he touched is imbued and permeated with a love that shines an elegant truth. I never really discovered who I was as a magician until I met my wife, who died. We were together for 31 years, she was my favorite love, Debbie.”
Paul lost his 12-year battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2007.
For more information on Paul Chelko, his writings and his artwork, please visit the Paul Chelko online gallery.
A Life and Legacy
In addition to his prolific career in art, Paul Chelko amassed an incredible collection of written works. These works, some of them featured here in the blog section of this site, feature some of his most creative and stirring thoughts and observations. Managed by by the foundation that bears his name, portions of this collection will be posted on this page as well as the The Chelko Foundation website.
The official Paul Chelko website currently offers viewers the opportunity to view his amazing, eclectic collection at their leisure. Additionally, The Chelko Foundation can announce that there are now additional locations where portions of his art collection can be viewed.
While Paul’s time on this earth ended in 2007, his legacy continues to live on through his words, his art and in the impression and impact he left on untold numbers of people around the world.
His art and his memory live on in the private and corporate collections which include:
Opra Winfrey, Maynard Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Vincent Price, Mr. Henry Ford II, Fiona Thorpe, Coretta Scott King, W.E. Mariott, Isabella Rosselini, Michael Hilton, Ted Turner, Pia Zadora , Lady Beatrice Peale.
Mead Paper, Scripto, Panasonic, Avon, King and Spalding