Birds of a Feather

Two new dioramas for an upcoming show at Fleckenstein Gallery in Hampden, “…and Your Birds can Sing.”

Alred Hitchcock and Edgar Allen Poe sitting with a Raven on a bench
Max Ernst dreamt he was a bird.

These will join Larry Bird and the Bird’s Nest.

Bird Dioramas grouped together

Max Ernst Practicing Hypnosis

Max Ernst practicing hypnosis

André Breton playing Chess

André Breton playing chess with a cat

“[Surrealism is] psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express…the actual functioning of thought…in the absence of any control by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.

André Breton

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg

Nathalie Djurberg on stage with Hans Berg and Laura Albans, Curatorial Assistant at the BMA.

In May, I went to one of the Art After Hours evening events at the Baltimore Museum of Art. It was during the Surrealism Show. I attended the artist talk by Nathalie Djurberg and her partner, Hans Berg. Nathalie is a self-taught animator, and Hans is a composer specializing in non-vocal, psychedelic electronic music.

Nathalie talked a lot about the importance of process – process as being more important than the finished work. She doesn’t plan too far ahead, and just makes the work.

“The art itself is the making of it,” she explained. “It doesn’t matter if it is even considered art. Art is the one space in society that’s free. Freedom in the studio. Craft is not even as important as the act of making.” The rules can be, should be, ignored here. It is the Joy of Making. She also talked about how, when workin in her animated world as the creator, she is the Goddess of that world, and is both the protagonist and the villain(s). In this way, she is free to experience all sides in the story. She is, perhaps, free to be the things that one cannot be in daily life.

Djurberg explores obsession, fantasy, and desire in her films. Uncensored, yet couched in absurd/Surrealist visual storytelling, I was moved by her honesty and depth of vision. She’s found a way to openly explore very private things (secrets), using her own language. I think this is something most artists strive to do.

Here are three excerpts from the films that were showing at the black box at the BMA. They are rough, from my phone, and incomplete. I just want to share a little of their style and approach.

They are:
Snake with a Mouth Sewn Shut, Or, This is a Celebration 2018
Delights of an Undirected Mind 2016
Dark Side of the Moon 2017

Here are a few things on YouTube, some in Swedish. Note: I hope these links are working as you read this – sometimes, permissions on the videos change, or they are removed from the Web host.

Art21.org has an excellent overview with these two, in English, that features lots of behind the scenes footage. Please take a look, it’s GREAT.

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.

https://artbma.org/exhibitions/kelley

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.

http://www.vdrome.org/mary-reid-kelley-patrick-kelley

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.