“Emerging from the human psyche and showing characteristics of abstract expressionism, minimalism and Russian constructivism, graffiti removal has secured its place in the history of modern art while being created by artists who are unconscious of their artistic achievements.” – The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal
Kelly Wallis is part of an emerging genre of digitally savvy artists whose work investigates the liminal space between our digital lives and everyday experience; between the lived and the systematized; between present action and the bureaucratic management of human activities.
In MILE MARKER 15.4 Things that may have happened at the underpass, Wallis uses the features of her frequent walks that take her under the I-80 underpass at mile 15.4 in Truckee, California, to explore a host of intersections. The installed work meets the audience with elements repeated from Kelly’s past work, most notably the recycled pattern from Security Blankets. Wallis’s Security Blankets are quilts made from business reply envelopes; the kind meant to conceal their contents with a lining of hashes and dots. As Wallis rightly notes in the project statement of MILE MARKER, “We are constantly choosing what to conceal or disclose in our public and private lives…” The project itself becomes an epic exploration of navigation through this site, encompassing notions of public access and private moments, the eminent domain of the state as it passes through nature. MILE MARKER reflects upon itself, putting on display the negotiations necessary to obtain official permission to interact with, document, alter and perform at the site.
In her documentation of the site, she highlights the mark of Cal Trans workers unconsciously creating contemporary abstract paintings to remove graffiti, similar to those featured in McCormick and July’s 2002 experimental film, The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal. During Kelly’s opening, with many of those present donning safety-green shirts, audience participants walk along her meditative path passing beneath the underpass and up into the woods near her home.
Throughout the installed work, the pattern of Security Blankets merges with the safety green of public works. Given enough contemplation, a meditative space concerned with concealed communications relevant to personal and public actions of the moment emerges. While an entirely personal experience, Wallis’s attempt to share an activity where she is “able to uncover the part of [her] self-identity that suggests [her] most natural state,” becomes something of a physical metaphor for our contemporary digital society and its intersection with what we do IRL.
Her performative gestures, documented and dispersed throughout the installation, seem then to represent the peeling back of a sticky net of security as bodies pass through public spaces; of anxiety cloaked figures, clothed in a kind of high-visibility obscuration of self for safety’s sake. Multiple lanes of movement intersect here-the walkway negotiates with the roadway, nature negotiates with public works, safety negotiates with the passage, public performance negotiates with the cloak of anonymity. All of these negotiations give a little to reach their goals and find a balance. MILE MARKER 15.4 archives the entirety of itself in stunning proportions, and in its self-reflexive and still-expanding size exposes a core that is confusing on its face but ultimately comforting in its breadth.
Kelly is an project-based artist, graphic designer and candidate for a Masters Degree in Interdisciplinary Arts at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village. She thrives on connecting to peers through their personal narratives, experiences and adventures and often pairs meetings or gatherings with exercise. She explores the condition of the psyche by taking note of the emotional and physical transformations during these outings. These revelations drive and influence her process.
In her work, Kelly visualizes an investigative dialogue taking place between the heart, the brain and the hand. By becoming conscious of these exchanges, she attempts to understand how they may protect and threaten one another. She is interested in what happens when anxieties overcome each unit, the system falters and patterns displace. Her practice is informed by these uncertainties, a need for control and a proclivity for hard, laborious work. This work is executed through use of diverse materials and exercises including durational performance, out-dated technology and the obsessive collection of useless, everyday, forgotten and neglected house hold items.