Mike Kelley 1954-2012

Mike Kelley was my neighbor. Or at least his work was my neighbor. His studio was in the Farley Building at the corner of our street. I took this picture of the discarded flowers after his memorial. For a couple of days last weekend, his videos played on a huge screen in his studio while people came and went. We wandered through and felt a little bit like grief tourists, so we didn’t stay long.

I met him a couple of times, but we didn’t really know him. T likes to ride his scooter around the parking lot behind the Farley Building and I always loved to peek in the back door, to catch glimpses of the process.

I find Mike Kelley’s work challenging and inspiring. I had weird moments of synchronicity with it. Shortly after he moved into the Farley Building, Scott and I walked into a bookstore in NY and there was a huge Destroy All Monsters installation. We bought a signed copy of one of his movies. We found it kind of wonderful and kind of unwatchable at the same time.

I’m saddened by the news of his suicide. In some part because my hope is that as artists, our work somehow redeems our suffering. Of course, some suffering is irredeemable. Some suffering is unendurable.

And as with all things, being a mother has totally transformed the lens through which I view the world. I always look at suicides now and think- that was someone’s baby.

He’s a loss to the world. And to our small corner of it.

2 Responses to 'Mike Kelley 1954-2012'

  1. I’m so glad you wrote about Mike Kelley. He was on the faculty when I was in the MFA program at Art Center in the early nineties. Back then his installations with stuffed animals, such as “Zen Garden,” were all the rage in the art world. He always had a unique and humorous take on student work, calling one of my installation pieces (employing multiple outlets and cords as the material) “Industrial Macramé.” he and I had the Michigan connection as well, both being from Detroit. He was ultra cool in his person and his work, a master of rendering the lowbrow highbrow, his art a brilliant merging of punk rock ideals with post conceptualism.
    This is one artist the world will miss.

    • I’m so glad you wrote about Mike Kelley. He was on the faculty when I was in the MFA program at Art Center in the early nineties. Back then his installations with stuffed animals, such as “Zen Garden,” were all the rage in the art world. He always had a unique and humorous take on student work, calling one of my installation pieces (employing multiple outlets and cords as the material) “Industrial Macramé.” He and I had the Michigan connection as well, both being from Detroit. He was ultra cool in his person and his work, a master of rendering the lowbrow highbrow, his art a brilliant merging of punk rock ideals with post-conceptualism.

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