Artist and cancer survivor Kelly G. McCarthy was born in Louisiana, about 45 minutes southwest of New Orleans in Cajun country. Her family tree traces back its ancestry to 300 years in the United States, and includes more than 13 nationalities on three continents.
When Kelly was just a child, her father stopped working after more than two decades at a local sugar mill due to macular degeneration. Her mother, with only a ninth grade education, went to work as a school cafeteria cook and housekeeper until she earned her GED when Kelly was beginning high school, and later completed training as a nurse aide in her late 50s.
The youngest of three children, Kelly's childhood was filled with drawing and playing with crayons, paper and typefaces. She says, “My parents were always fearful that I would end up as a starving artist in Jackson Square in New Orleans.” Her siblings also support her creativity. “For my 12th birthday, my sister gave me a watercolor set, and as a teenager I was always stealing my brother’s copies of Popular Photography when they came in the mail.” She completed her first oil painting at the age of 15.
Kelly’s love for artistic fun grew in high school when she took classes in art and offset printing, worked on the student newspaper and yearbook, and purchased a 35mm SLR camera with money she earned while working at a fast food restaurant.
She attended Nicholls State University on a full academic scholarship where she received a Bachelor of Arts in art education with concentrations in photography and graphic design. She earned her Master of Arts from Florida Gulf Coast University.
Kelly and her husband, Tim, reside in Naples, Florida, with their cat and dog. As an anniversary gift in 2007, Tim gave Kelly a digital camera that has rekindled her love for photography. “The artistic spark was still there after 20 years and has inspired me to focus on what is important, especially when I have chemo treatments,” she said. Diagnosed with Stage III Ovarian Cancer at the age of 40, Kelly donates 20% of all proceeds from the sale of her work to cancer research and advocacy.