Kelly Connole

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Kelly Connole is a Professor of Art at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. She earned her MFA from San Francisco State University and her BFA from University of Montana. Her work combines the tactile nature of clay with images of memories and emotions addressing relationships within environments: natural and constructed, human and animal. Her work has been exhibited in numerous galleries across the country. She is the recipient of many awards including a McKnight Residency, a Jerome Project Grant, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and a 2014 McKnight Fellowship. Memories, raw instinct, and elements of the natural world inform my desire to create narrative pieces that celebrate the tactile temperament of clay and my connection to the world. I investigate relationships within environments: natural and constructed, human and animal, tangible and fleeting. I rely on groups of hybrid creatures to examine complicated spaces between wild and tamed, friendly and eerie. Rabbits, crows, and other animals perform much like human beings in my work, exposing vulnerabilities and tendencies through the gesture of ears, wings, hands and bodies. As humans, we love to go into nature—forgetting that we are, in fact, part of nature. As the most dominant species, we choose which plants and animals are pests and those whom we cherish—endowing them with human attributes to make them more like us. Our interactions with wild things are filled with contradictory emotions of fear and delight, and our desire to personify, name, and categorize, all that we encounter. I grew up as a budding naturalist/scientist in a very isolated, rural environment. I kept horses, rabbits, birds, and insects as both pets and subjects in rudimentary studies—most of what I know about being human I’ve learned through my early experiences with animals, and nature in general, and my current contact with clay. My sincere interest in the intersection of scientific knowledge, personal memory, and the visual poetry of the natural world excites me to no end. My most recent work places hybridized creatures in the role of both specimen and collector. Rabbits, squirrels, and mice perch in and on obsolete card catalogues, file cabinets, and well-aged tables and stools—frozen in a moment that straddles the present and past. These animals act as visual cues to an obscure system of cataloging to propose a sense order of the natural world through tactics of organization. Blue-footed rabbits are arranged in a pattern based on the brilliant hue of their human-like hands much like colorful songbird specimens in drawers in a natural history museum. A flock of crows interact with a Victorian curio cabinet, reconstructed as a laboratory of sorts, to imply time, motion and another deviant system of organization. I make connections between the human desire to collect beautiful things from nature and the refuse of our existence (litter) that is collected in nature. I hope to draw the viewer into the work through recognizable imagery that appears friendly and familiar until one enters into the space shared with the objects. Once inside, that space takes on an unsettling feeling as we become animal and animals become us.

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