Don’t you just love it when some great talent turns out to be living in your town, sharing the same shopping, school and gas station existence that fills your own life?
For years, the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY-New Paltz has prided itself for drawing such epiphanies from our region into view, be it the wonders of a Judy Pfaff, Don Nice or Carolee Schneeman or more recent shows focused on contemporary artists making their homes in our small towns dotted around this rural landscape. Consider the grandeur of the Dorsky’s new exhibition “Mary Reid Kelley: Working Objects and Videos,” which opens to the public on Wednesday, January 22, with a public reception to be held on Saturday, February 8.
In her mid-30s, Reid Kelley has been rising on the international scene of late for her wildly original, baroquely sinister black-and-white performance videos in which she stars, each wittily playing up (and off) some hidden truths in our greater Western history. She’s a Yale Master of Fine Arts, winner of various key fellowships and a subject of PBS’s series Art21. Last year, she was commissioned to create a work for Troy’s stunning new EMPAC center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; she has a piece in the Whitney and has screened her films at the Tate Modern. She lives in Olivebridge.
Originally from South Carolina, Reid Kelley works with her art-professor husband Patrick, who helps with the direction, building of sets and stylization of her short-but-dense pieces, which mix pun-full monologues and dialogues with well-researched but apocryphally jumbled historical settings, the better to emphasize themes involving art, power politics and the roles that women have played over the years.
“I only started doing poetry when I got into the First World War as a subject, and realized what an important medium it was for responding to the war,” she has said of the written elements in her stunningly visual pieces. “My grandparents often wrote comic verses. In earlier times it was something normal people did. I don’t necessarily think of myself as writing capital-P poetry. I think of it as versifying.”
The Dorsky exhibition will be Reid Kelley’s first museum exhibition devoted to the finely crafted and researched costumes, objects, furniture and drawings that she creates for her acclaimed videos. After its run in New Paltz, the exhibition moves on to the University Museum at SUNY-Albany.
The artist and her collaborator, Patrick Kelley, will give a public gallery talk at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 2; the opening on February 8 runs from 5 to 7 p.m. This is a must-see exhibit for both art-lovers and those curious to see how our world may be seen looking back from the future. Believe me, here’s another treasure found in our midst.
“Mary Reid Kelley: Working Objects and Videos” opening, Saturday, February 8, 5-7 p.m., artists’ talk, Sunday, March 2, runs January 22-April 13, Dorsky Museum, SUNY-New Paltz; (845) 257-3844, www.newpaltz.edu/museum.