Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
When Kellie Cox-Brady entered the university in 2005, she had two loves—art and horticulture.
In high school, she loved art but also enjoyed working at a Newark garden center, she said. Her mother, who works as a florist, and father had both encouraged her to pursue her love of plants.
“Growing up, I’ve always done art,” Cox-Brady said.
Because of this, Cox-Brady decided to major in landscape horticulture and plant sciences.
Now the 25-year-old works in Ithaca, N.Y. as a landscape designer by day and an artist by night. Her art focuses on accurately portraying the details of plants, flowers and herbs. She calls herself a “natural scientific artist.”
Cox-Brady said she would never have started doing what she loves if it hadn’t been for her parents.
“I’m thankful my parents pushed me to do horticulture because [my business] wouldn’t be what it is,” Cox-Brady said.
Last August, Cox-Brady led a project called “21 Boxes, 21 Artists,” sponsored by the Public Art Commissioner’s Office. Out of the 100 artists who applied, 21 were chosen to paint 21 different utility boxes around Ithaca, in order to beautify the city. The fund was made possible from a grant through the Tompkins Charitable Gift Fund.
Cox-Brady, who painted a box downtown, said not only was it difficult painting during such a hot time of year, it was also hard to concentrate with onlookers approaching her with questions and opinions.
The project, which was inspired by a similar assignment in Boston, was a success, she said.
“The whole project was awesome,” she said. “That’s actually what led me to do more murals.”
Cox-Brady also illustrates pictures, which she sells at local art galleries and shows. Her work focuses on everything from flowering irises to blueberries.
Though she uses many colors to display the beauty of nature accurately in her work, Cox-Brady is not afraid to create black and white pictures.
One picture called “Black Fall” features thin, bare trees shaded black that stretch to the top of the canvas. Branches sprawl outward toward one another while leaves lay scattered about the white ground.
For those who cannot afford her pictures, however, she has developed note cards of her art so everyone might get a chance to own her creations.
Currently, Cox-Brady has been working on an exciting project for Cornell University. She is painting three “portable” 5 x 7 murals to place around the campus. Her murals will focus on the technical details of plants, and she hopes to “educate the public on horticulture” through her painting. She expects this project to be her biggest accomplishment to date.
After she’s done with her Cornell project, she expects to keep continuing to start innovative projects, she said.
“I always try to push myself,” she said. “I’m always creating these new challenges for myself.”
Cox-Brady said she’s most proud of her ability to do exactly what she has wanted to do all her life—gardening and creating art. She said she has a picture of her from when she was younger where she was standing out by her garden in a pair of gardening boots.
She said she has only met a few people who are actually doing what they’ve always wanted to do, and she is happy to consider herself one of these people.
Cox-Brady said she would not be able to be where she is today if it weren’t for living in a community that is as supportive of artists as Ithaca. Many gardeners living in the area have taken to her work and are supporting her.
“I really enjoy what I do,” Cox-Brady said. “I’m really excited that people are responding well to my work.”