About Ferris


I’m a gardening enthusiast but that fact is not evidenced by anything in my yard. Since reading Doug Tallamy’s book, Bringing Nature Home, I just love planting things that are  useful to bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators. This notable book changed my philosophy on gardening, and now I judge the importance of a plant by how much wildlife it sustains. So, when I walk through a garden or the woods and see lots of tattered chewed-up leaves on plants, I tip my hat to it and think, “Good job.”

The Queen Who Banished Bugs ~ A Tale of Bees, Butterflies, Ants and Other Pollinators is my first children's book, and it was definitely the most fun to write. My mother, Mary Ferris Kelly, picked up her paints after a long hiatus to illustrate this whimsical rhyming story that underscores "the creatures that have important roles in getting food to our plates, our cups, our bowls."

I’m the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror, and my columns have been published in the Christian Science Monitor, The Chattanooga News Free Press and chattanoogan.com, among other publications.

picture of mother and me

Something about Mary ...


Since my mother has no idea she is officially out there in cyberspace and wouldn’t consider saying anything about herself, I’m doing it for her!

The Queen Who Banished Bugs began as a project to make my mother pick up a paintbrush ~ she hadn’t drawn or painted or sculpted since my father died almost six years ago. At first she said she wasn’t up to it because she was out of practice and wasn’t good enough. But I shamed her, buying a bundle of cheap paper at the dollar store for her to simply sketch a few ideas. I reminded her that every letter she sent to me at camp included a funny sketch of a very large woman in a tank top with stringy flyaway hair, a long pointed nose and tiny drooping bosoms. There was also a drawing of a tiny scowling man, only his eyebrows and wild tufts of hair visible behind a newspaper, and I instructed her to recreate something along these lines. These so-called “self portraits” of my parents were wonderful, and I’m so sorry I didn’t save them.

My mother finally drew a befuddled king and surly queen, carefully coloring them in with great detail. Then she did another sketch, and another … all on the cheap paper. By the time I saw them, there was no way I wasn’t going to use them, so the original drawings are all on the thinnest paper ever, with warping edges and divots from erasing. But they are absolutely wonderful, each as quirky and engaging and hilarious as the sketches she sent me at camp fifty years ago. She says she’s not a cartoonist, and I wouldn’t describe her as one. But she nailed it in this little book.

Mary Ferris Kelly graduated from Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans, where she studied with Mark Rothko, the artist-in-residence at the time. She counts Rothko among her many influences, which include Michelangelo, Vermeer, Rodin and the Impressionists, who are all clearly apparent in her art.

Her work hangs in the Whitney Museum in New York City, the Hunter Museum in Chattanooga and in Tennessee’s Parthenon, as well as in corporate collections that include the Coca-Cola collection, IBM’s collection, RJR Nabisco and Marmot International, as well as in numerous private collections in both the United States and abroad. It also appears in a slew of lost letters and one children’s book. 

On a recent show ...


By combining the spiritual and commonplace, Kelly’s work imbues both with an elevated sense that the heavenly and tangible worlds are not so distant. It’s a sensation that sits firmly in line with art’s long-standing history of bridging the two. Nashville Arts Magazine

“I hope that after seeing [the Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center's show 'Pray to Love,' ] the viewer might feel a sense of peace and an awareness of everyday life.” Mary Ferris Kelly