Introducing Artful Dodgy's Artist of the Month for July: Edward Kelley. You may remember his name from last month's review of his installation at Art League Houston (on view until July 22nd, by the way, if you have missed it so far). I'm circling back to this because "Speak of the Devil" really resonated with me as a product of the CCTV generation, and I walked away knowing that I had to find out what makes this artist tick. Further exploration of his work revealed a Warhol-esque preoccupation with consumerism, and all the trappings of modern day life - most evident in his large scale installation. His most recent series, "Here Today - Gone Tomorrow" is certainly a reflection of this - but I'll let him tell you the rest for himself. So without further ado.....
First things first, I want to know more about Speak of the Devil, your current installation at Art League Houston - can you tell me more about the inspiration behind this piece?
Its hard to say if there was a specific inspiration for “Speak of the Devil” it was kind of a natural progression based on some earlier experimentation with camera and camera triggers. I was certainly interested in addressing concerns regarding the ease in which we can be monitored by various entities. This monitoring or surveillance encroachment and how we as a group become complacent with this action in order to participate within society. We all know we’re being watched but in order to take advantage of the amenities of todays world we have to overlook this. With most of my work I utilize a sense of humor or absurdity as a way to allow the viewer to enter the work. In this manner it becomes easier to address various content that can range from light to heavy.
Tell me a little about your background, how did you get your start as an artist?
I had a strong interest in art throughout my childhood. I worked in cabinetry and construction with my father so I think maybe the interest in sculpture stems from there. When I started in college I was taking a lot of Anthropology classes and initially planned on going in that direction. In fact, I would say that Anthropology and Sociology play a heavy hand in the development of my work. I eventually stumbled into the sculpture studio and ended up spending the rest of my undergraduate time there. It seemed natural and comfortable to be there in the studio so I just kept doing that.
Through college I worked in a frame shop and after graduating I started as a restoration mason, making molds and repairing stonework on buildings around Charleston SC. After a few years of this I went to Syracuse University for graduate study in Sculpture. Later, I owned a woodshop/art services business in Minneapolis for a couple years, worked as a mold and pattern maker in Lincoln, NE and finally ended up at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Is there a specific artist or artwork that inspired you to practice art? For example, for me it was Damien Hirst's Shark (The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Minds of the Living) that inspired me to study art history because at that moment I realized that art really can be anything, it's not limited to a canvas or a gallery wall - and I wanted to see how far artists could push those limits.
I don’t think there was ever one artist that spurred my art making. I think it happened naturally through my interest in art and the manner in which I grew up. Gordon Matta-Clark, Louis Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Joseph Beuys, Martin Puryear, Bruce Nauman and Chris Burden are some that come to mind as artists I was really interested in at an early stage in my art making. I enjoy the manner in which they approach art in both a conceptual and formal or technical manner. While there’s a number of artists that I follow today, I find that I still gravitate towards these aspects in the work.
Can you describe your creative process (I know this is a very complex question!)? How does your work come to life from idea to execution?
There are threads of similar content that most all the work contains, so often the process begins with differing ways to approach these subjects. I started as an object maker so I begin through playing or exploring materials and methods, making smaller forms or individual pieces that the larger works feed from in process and content. The smaller works are more reflective and open in form as a way to feel out how the larger pieces are going to come together. Usually this practice of making and exploring on the smaller scale is a constant that maintains through the construction process of the large works. So the process itself or the act of making is usually what is pushing the overall work forward.
Do you have a preferred medium and subject matter?
During the small scale exploration, I’m working often with various materials and techniques from casting to constructing in wood and metal as well as exploring with different materials or things that I find. With the larger pieces I prefer the overall concept to dictate the material, in a way knowing what I want to do and then trying to solve the problem of what or how can I best accomplish this goal. I was brought up as a woodworker and focused largely on the casting and mold making process during school so these processes and materials come into play periodically. I’ve always been interested in sociology, cultural or class dynamics and history as subjects. I use “history” as a broad term, meaning not only general history but also its visual manifestations, conceptual and personal relationships and importance individually and as a whole. With most all of my work there’s also an absurdity or humor based aspect involved as a way for the viewer to enter the work. This humor typically allows me to convey more meaningful content through the piece without being to blatant. I wouldn’t call this a kind of subject matter but it is a supporting theme to the overall.
What projects are you working on right now and where can we see your work next?
I’m currently working on an ongoing project called “Here Today-Gone Tomorrow”. It’s a series of sequential dollar bills used in a grid like a rectangle or square and a corporate logo is laser etched over the entirety of this. So you can only see the image when all the bills are together. The logo is pigmented with powder pigment, sealed, photographed and put back into circulation by purchasing at various locations thus creating an image that exists in a singular moment only. The logos are chosen based on the amount of money spent by these corporations on influencing and directing public policy, and is done as a way to address concerns over the expanding influence of corporate interests on government policy. In order to rebrand our money to fit our current social and political atmosphere. This is again pointing to a specific singular moment in history when these bills are together. During exhibition the viewer is able to purchase one of the etched bills for .50$ through a gumball machine. There’s a few other projects that are happening but right now their really in the very early stages of development.