Vanitas paintings depict subjects whose presences are fleeting: wealth, knowledge, and youth. Traditionally, the paintings are filled with fragile objects such as soap bubbles, flowers, and fruit; and with objects that when used leave little or nothing behind, like candles, pipes, and musical instruments. The paintings are about the brevity and fragility of life and are challenges to the viewer to ponder what is of lasting importance.
Said Kelley, “The works in this exhibition incorporate traditional vanitas symbols, but I am especially interested in developing a personal vocabulary of vanitas imagery in this on-going body of work. My images include dice, midden heaps, trophies, origami, exhibition postcards, and studio debris. Several of the works derive from the vivid metaphors that describe the inevitable result of striving for perfection: missing the boat or falling short of the mark.”
Heather Ryan Kelley is a professor of art at McNeese StateUniversity where she teaches painting. Kelley’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake based paintings have been shown in Dublin at the James Joyce Centre and at The American Irish Historical Society in New York. Her work was a part of The Cracked Lookingglass portfolio published by Dublin’s Graphic Studio in conjunction with the centennial celebration of Ulysses. In 2009 she established The Midden Heap Press, a press devoted to prints, artist books, and collaborative ephemera. She recently was one of eight individuals in the state to receive an ATLAS grant (Awards to Louisiana Artists and Scholars) for her Studies after Finnegans Wake project.
Kelley’s work is included in the collections of the New York Public Library, Cornell University, The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, the State University of New York at Buffalo, the Museum of Southeast Texas, the Center for Photography at Woodstock, The Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum at ULL, and the Kansas City Art Institute. Her work is also found at Christus St. Patrick Hospital, Lake CharlesMemorial Hospital for Women and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Lafayette.
HistoricCity Hall is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission to the arts and cultural center is free, however donations are gladly accepted. For more information, please call 491-9147 or visit www.cityoflakecharles.com.