Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley

I’m struck by how many of my favorite works are made by pairs of collaborators. The Quay Brothers, Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata of Tiny Inventions, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, and, of course, Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley.

I stumbled on the Kelley duo on Instagram, and was delighted to be able to see their work with my daughter at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Mary Reid Kelly writes clever, funny rhymes full of puns and witty phrasing, that are rooted in historic fiction. Her partner, Patrick Kelley, produces, edits, and stars in their videos with her. The black and white films seem almost animated and cartoonish, and reference Cubism and German Expressionism. Sometimes, Mary’s family will perform in the videos, like in The Syphilis of Sisyphis.

The rigor of their research is evident. Increasingly, I’m becoming aware of the importance research plays for many artists. I see (and value) the benefit of academic approaches to information gathering, processing and assimilation.

From the BMA Website:

The exhibition includes two films featuring their signature black-and-white sets and costumes. This is Offal (2016) is inspired by Thomas Hood’s 1844 poem, The Bridge of Sighs, in which the narrator, a forensic pathologist, laments the suicide of a young woman whose body is pulled from the Thames. The Kelleys’ new film, In the Body of the Sturgeon, brings a feminist perspective to an exploration of life on a submarine stationed in the Pacific at the end of World War II, with the USS Torsk docked in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor inspiring the mise-en-scène. The exhibition also includes six light boxes featuring characters from both films and elements from the Kelleys’ sculptural sets.

This is an excerpt of This is Offal (2016) that I made with my phone while at the BMA. I LOVE the anthropomorphic organs and appendages!

Mary Reid Kelley says the following about This is Offal:

In Offal, this invitation is also taken up by its characters: the organs of the corpse try to “solve” the mystery of the suicide of the woman to which they belong to. The organs spend a lot of time blaming each other for the act, complaining of various betrayals: the foot is accused of slipping on the bridge, the brain is blamed for the idea to do it. Betrayal is a central theme for me, betrayal in one form or another occurs in almost all the films. I have also long thought of wordplay and particularly puns as betrayals within language.

I love these productions. Mary’s writing – the dialog – is brilliant by itself. Then, I’m always deeply entranced by the decor and set design, as well as the costumes, and video production. This work is a clear synthesis of both Kelleys’ effort, talent, and intelligence.

According to Patrick, the characters are shot on a green screen background, and then the sets are produced/added to the background.