One of the most influential artists of the last three decades—-a feminist who's also renowned as an activist, theorist, and cultural critic—-will be in Rochester next month as a visiting scholar at the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Rochester.
Mary Kelly, whose 1976 exhibition Post-Partum Document vaulted her to world attention and is now a classic work of art, also will present a lecture at the Memorial Art Gallery at 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 2. Her talk and slide show, a look at her 30-year art career, is free and open to the public.
"Kelly is a conceptual artist whose work was at the forefront of a wave of intellectually and politically engaged critical feminist artwork and art theory," said Lisa Cartwright, Associate Professor of Visual and Cultural Studies and one of the organizers of Kelly's visit. "Her commitment has set the standard for politically engaged art practice for three generations of artists."
Currently professor and chair of the Department of Art at UCLA, Kelly began her art career and her involvement with the women's movement in 1970s London. She was active in grassroots media organizations and was also a member of a group of politically active women who developed intellectual feminist theories of sexuality and representation.
Kelly made her name with Post-Partum Document, a series of wall-mounted mixed-media works that used psychoanalytic theory to analyze her child's development and her relationship as a mother to her son. Using words, smears of food and bodily substances, marked remnants of clothing, and infant scribblings, the series chronicled the everyday processes of the mother-child bond. The exhibition is now acknowledged as a meticulous groundbreaking work.
Her numerous exhibitions also have included Interim, a 1990 work that looked at age and aging in relationship to women's labor and power; and Gloria Patri, a 1992 investigation of masculinity and war that displayed polished aluminum shields and trophies.
Like her other works, Kelly's most recent project, Mea Culpa, incorporates narrative and visual materials, combining compacted lint from domestic laundry chores with a woman's account of military atrocities and the everyday experiences of wars, including Beirut and Sarajevo.
Kelly is also an accomplished writer and critic. In addition to numerous books and catalog essays and interviews, she has written art criticism and theory for journals including Camera Obscura, Artforum, and Art Journal. She is the recipient of a Visual Arts Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, was a Fellow of Newhall College of Cambridge University, and served as director of studios for the independent study program of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Kelly has taught and exhibited her works throughout the world, including Sweden, Canada, and England. A monograph of her works, published by Phaidon Press, London, in 1997, includes an interview conducted by Douglas Crimp, Professor of Art History and Acting Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Rochester.
Kelly's lecture is co-sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Institute, the Susan B. Anthony University Center, and the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. As a visiting scholar, Kelly also will hold a seminar for faculty and students and will conduct critiques with studio art undergraduates.
Born in Minnesota, Kelly studied art in Florence, Italy, and London, England.