Jyl Kelley’s strange photo and installation art
Hats off to artists who push limits, explore new opportunities, and lead other aspiring artists to do the same as their passionate teachers. One such artist is UW-Eau Claire professor Jyl Kelley. Kelley’s art falls within the realm of photography, but you will find nothing usual about the pictures she’s taking. For example, in most of her work you can find this peculiar little character that she calls “the magician,” played by Kelley herself. By dressing as the magician, Kelley is able to be fully involved in the live creation of her art, which is a modern form of magic.
Jyl designed and built her own set of pinhole cameras, 33 of them to be exact, which are a primitive camera by today’s standards, but help her to bridge the gap between the past and present.
When the process of photography was first invented, photographers of the day were seen as magicians who were able to capture a moment in time, something seen as amazing and impossible. Jyl designed and built her own set of pinhole cameras, 33 of them to be exact, which are a primitive camera by today’s standards, but help her to bridge the gap between the past and present. With her cameras set up in a circle, a sort of “theater in the round,” Kelley can use her medium to create art that isn’t isolated to capturing just one moment in time.
Most recently, Jyl has exhibited at the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts with an exhibit she calls “Home Theater.” This show revolves around her digital camera setup, similar to her pinhole theater only with fewer cameras, and mostly displays a friend of hers (fellow artist Joe Maurer) in full hunting attire shooting a rifle. Kelley remarked that “the association our society has with guns is powerful” and that “hunting can be seen as a sort of spectacle.” Just what she needs for her style of performance art. Jyl also took video and still photographs of her same friend playing a hunting video game in the Mabel Tainter Theater, which displays her examination into the advancement of our technology, how it affects our experiences, and what we lose and gain from that.
With such a complex and unusual artistic style, one wonders how Kelley first became interested in such things as a child. While we live in such a media-driven world, photographs are a powerful symbol in our society. As a girl, Jyl would travel around with her mother, who was a small town photographer, and would frequently be in the pictures her mother took. It wasn’t until she would see herself in the local newspaper, next to pictures of important and famous world events and people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. that she began to sense the importance of photographs in our culture.
In addition to her impressive repertoire of work, Jyl has also collaborated with many groups locally and internationally. She has made a video of the UWEC Civil Rights trip and donated her time and talents to working with students of the Blugold Beginnings program. Kelley was also instrumental in a collaboration between UWEC art students and students from Latvia in which they exchanged a “mash” of popular music and then interpreted the other cultures music with photography. A simultaneous art show was then held between the two groups of students via a live webcast. And this fall look for a show that Jyl will be involved in called “Domesticity,” in which artists transform homes in the community to be walked through as artistic installations.
Home Theater • through April 29 • Mabel Tainter, 205 Main St., Menomonie • FREE • 235-0001