am I artist as a way to …

Am I artist as a way to account for the ways i am unable to negotiate particular conventions in a fashion I can live with? I don’t recall a time in which I was not paying attention to the way I or others bounced off convention regardless to whether they arose in small group dynamics or a part of the larger cultural construct.

11 kkelley i open my splintered self

i open my splintered self, 2010

My body bore and bares witness via art making–inclinations toward this material and not that, methods of assembling my work, the particularities that arise in the point of contact with the public. In a previous post defining artist, I used the prophet, that artist cultural role is to pin point discrepancies in our system (or cover them over, distract us from them). My process of making art is functions as an unconscious bodily confession. With each making, I uncover and begin to consciously mull over things I could not acknowledge or access within myself previously. There are aspects I have yet to grasp. But how unclear is a series of twenty 9 foot withered, hand stitched soft vagina’s hung meat locker like when peri-menapause has begun? Or living 20 years in an almost sexless marriage? Or 40 plus years minimizing my attachments to the feminine? Or being a part of a system that litters our digital screens with woman’s bodies as sexual object?

One of my earliest works involved over a hundred cubes composed of tar and plaster. I chose my materials because they should not mix–oil based tar and water based plaster. As I poured cube after cube in an assembly line fashion and then pulled these beautiful ugly things from their form I was shocked? The dark and light did not dissolve into one another instead shoots of tar slung out frozen in a splash like fashion from the pour of plaster. The plaster and tar where intertwined and unseparable and beautiful. I felt this reflected on my inner workings, that what I registered as “dark” within myself and desired to expunge was 1. to intertwined with my way of being to be removed, and 2. it blended with my “good” and perhaps was part of me that made me unique, possibly beautiful.

consumption replaces redemption consumption replaces revolution consumption replaces the real i am impotent. size varies. cardboard, charcoal, acrylic, found ladders and tree clippings. 2006

Neither wrong nor right but both my source and married familial conventions frowned upon exhibiting strong emotions legibly in word or deed. The making of process created a space to allow me to perform my feelings materially and abstractly distancing them from the familial without breaking home norms.

My entire process seem as though I have years of untapped knowledge stored in my frame that is slowly working its way out via my hands. It is as though my body understands my lived experience in ways I am unable to access any other way. My body gracefully (compared to my conscious accounting) accounts for who I am. My body renders me legible to myself and to other as artist. Is this way of knowing, this working out in my body, what makes me slot into the social category of artist?

untitled grief, 2010. ~40′ in length

But why exhibit, why expose myself? Hmmm, cliche but none the less perhaps applicable, people are only as sick as there secrets. Is this the role of the artist? Does this make me artist? Does this unpacking of inner and outer discrepancies through making combined with a public accounting make me artist?

tribal masks, 2009.

Hmm. And then in turn I use my practice of it accounting for inner world discrepancies which inherently point to outer world discrepancies, to teach. My practice enables me, perhaps compels me, to open doors for my students to do likewise–explore the areas in which they chaff. More important than the teaching them to be artist, for me, is that I might help them reconfigure their chaffing into a livable realm by calling attention to it and the convention.

Before I even read Judith Butler or Kenneth Gergen I developed a project entitled identity essentials–the body as a site of conflict. This project entailed revealing something about them self through a series of self-portraits riffing on the 1970s feminist notion that the  personal is politics.

Project handouts are below student samples (would love credit, but feel free to use and adapt).












not enough



Em molting




Identity-Essentials-Crit-Guide-web 0

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