Sonia Gechtoff was born and raised in Philadelphia. Gechtoff relocated to the Bay Area in 1951 to attend the California School of Fine Arts. There she was exposed to prominent Abstract Expressionists such as Clyfford Still, Frank Lobdell, and Ernest Briggs. She married James Kelly and moved to the famous Fillmore Street building, next to the residence of Jay DeFeo, Wally Hedrick, and Michael Mclure. From 1957-58, Gechtoff taught at California School of Fine Arts. In 1952, after meeting Ernest Briggs, Gechtoff launched into vigorous large-scale abstractions. Gechtoff displays a sensuous, hedonistic affection for paint laid on in broad, juicy strokes with bursting affects. Like her husband, James Kelly, she often used a palette knife like a pastry knife, producing lustrous, glossy impastos on the canvas. In the later 1950s, Gecthoff broadened her strokes into flickering, flame-like shapes with a torrential sweep recalling the work of Briggs. In 1958, Gechtoff and Kelly moved to New York City and remained there. Her works are in the collections of Metropolitan, Whitney, Guggenheim, San Francisco Museum Modern of Art, Carnegie Museum of Art, and Baltimore Museum.