Highly-acclaimed artists Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley will present this year’s Firestone Lecture in Contemporary Art at Mary Baldwin College at 7:30 p.m. on March 24 in James D. Francis Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public.
Reid Kelley was born in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1979. In videos and drawings filled with punning wordplay, Reid Kelley presents her take on the clash between utopian ideologies and the realities of women’s lives in the struggle for liberation and through political strife, wars, and other historical events.
Composed of live action and stop-motion animation, her narrative videos present historical or myth-based stories. At the center of each is a main character or narrator played by Reid Kelley, who appears costumed, bewigged, and practically unrecognizable, her face painted white with features defined in black. A trained painter, Reid Kelley creates all of her costumes, props, and sets in black and white, creating a kind of three-dimensional drawing. Everything is drawn and painted, and intended to look so. Reid Kelley’s collaborator and husband, Patrick Kelley, then digitally assembles elements shot on green screen.
Along with a sprinkling of auxiliary characters, many of whom she also plays, Reid Kelley’s narrators bring to life eras of significant historical change, often moments when women’s roles were transformed, in playfully bawdy, pun-laden verse. In Sadie the Saddest Sadist (2009), we hear from a World War I–era woman who goes to work in a munitions factory, meets a sailor, and contracts the clap. In The Syphilis of Sisyphus (2011), a pregnant Parisian prostitute extols the virtue of cosmetics, reports on the French Revolution, and is carted off to an asylum to be treated for hysteria.
Aesthetically, the works draw inspiration from such varied materials as newspaper comic strips and Futurist manifestos and artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Fernand Léger, while intellectually, sources range from poetry to philosophy to history. Reid Kelley playfully jumbles historical periods such as World War I and France’s Second Empire to trace the ways in which present concerns are rooted in the past.
Reid Kelley earned a BA from St. Olaf College in 2001 and an MFA from Yale University in 2009. She has received awards from the American Academy in Rome, the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, and the College Art Association. Major exhibitions include the ICA, Boston; Salt Lake Art Center, Salt Lake City; SITE Santa Fe, N.M.; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, Germany; and the Rochester Art Center in Rochester, Minn. Her work is in the public collections of the Goetz Collection, Munich, Germany; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.; and the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Language and nature inform Patrick Kelley’s artwork, which ranges in form from flipbooks to interactive installations. He received an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a BA from St. Olaf College. Kelley’s works have been shown at the American Academy, Rome; Bibliothèque Publique d’Information-Centre Pompidou, Paris; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany; Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, Minn.; Catherine Person Gallery, Seattle; The Minneapolis Foundation Offices; Katherine Nash Gallery, Minneapolis; Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis; Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minn.; College of Visual Arts Gallery, St. Paul, Minn.; Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis; Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Shakopee, Minn.; Pontiac Art Center, Pontiac, Mich.; Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; Steensland Art Museum, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.
The Susan Paul Firestone Lecture Series in Contemporary Art is made possible by the generosity of donors in honor of the creative work and professional accomplishments of Susan Paul Firestone ’68.