4th Friday 6Pack: MFA|EDA Caitlin Margaret Kelly (’14)

Welcome to the fifth installment of MFA|EDA’s 4th Friday Alumni 6Pack. We are pleased to continue the new monthly tradition with Caitlin Margaret Kelly, director of the Power Plant Gallery and MFA|EDA Class of 2014. Away we go:


In trying to find a title for my six-pack entry, a random essay generator suggested: Photography: Inventorying Affable Corporeality and Attraction. Corporeal is defined as relating to a person’s body, and affable as friendly or good natured. I love dictionaries. It is often the place I begin when I start a new body of work or get lost in one. Understanding the root of a word usually leads me (back) to the root of the idea. Language is fascinating and limiting in so many ways. I search for words when I am talking with others because I often feel like I can’t access the perfectly nuanced phrase I need to describe a scene or feeling. It is, instead, embodied and therefore inaccessible to the language of words.

I am taking two weeks to go to an artist residency for the first time since finishing grad school four years ago. There is a Post-it note that has been tacked to my computer for about two months now and says, ‘A whole two weeks to think about my work, not art work’. I run an artist residency at the Power Plant Gallery so I should know how to prepare for one, right? I’m packing too much stuff is my current assessment.


My two weeks will be spent at the Vermont Studio Center. Having grown up in New Hampshire, this is a familiar landscape. I am eager to renew an old friendship with autumn in the New England woods – something so influential during my childhood that about 10 years ago I tattooed a large maple tree across my back, its leaves of red falling down my left arm in a swirl of wind.

My sense of belonging is tied to the landscape, but not in a ‘there must be trees sort of way’ but in how I interact with it and how it whispers back to me. I am attached to the dirt beneath my feet, but that hasn’t always been the case. I lived in Southern California for 12 years and the land never whispered to me. I felt the landscape growing up in New England and I feel it now living in Hillsborough. They feel very much alike.


What is the difference between a feature and a nuisance? My bee garden is a feature, the yellow jacket hive in a rotted-out soffit high up in the eaves of my house is a nuisance. Or so keep I telling myself. I would have left them had the painters not been replacing rotted wood.


I probably spend more time than I should thinking about the space between bodies, objects, and the landscape. I partially believe this is due to my job, where each exhibition and installation is about anticipating and evoking a corporeal relationship. In my personal artistic work, I’ve started to consider the role of memory and time. I am fascinated by the “right to be forgotten,” a legal concept in practice in Europe. I’m interested in the concept as it could be physically and spiritually lived. Once, back in 2009, I was standing at the base of Fitz Roy, known more widely as the logo for a certain winter clothing company. Backpacking across the Chilean and Argentinian sides of Patagonia I found myself looking up at this formidable rock formation and feeling utterly connected. The mountain had been there for millions of years before I existed and would continue to be there for millions of years after I ceased to be. That moment was so peaceful. As if what the landscape whispered was how the right to be forgotten is a gift; the right to be forgotten embodies the right to a period of quietude amidst all the noise.


My father’s slides are deteriorating, now. We had a house fire when I was in ninth grade. That was followed by a frozen pipe that exploded from the water pressure a month or two later. It all got wet. The slides, the books, the basement in full. The house was quickly righted, the fire damaged carpet removed, the pipe patched. The slides however are slowly being eaten away. It is beautiful. Most of the damaged slides are from the early 60s through the mid-70s. The ones that stand out to me are the slides my father took while stationed at Thule Air Base in Greenland during his time in the Air Force. The decay is a type of clock, eating its way across the memory. The patterns and texture are not unlike the landscape he photographed – cool and jagged at times. All of it looks a bit alien, but also open and expansive.

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