Exploring the Unfamiliar


What do a cell phone, a toolbox and the remnants of an F-15 fighter jet all have in common? They’re all objects Benjamin Kelley has used in the past for his art.

“I’ve been exploring similar-rooted themes for a while now. They’re broad, and that allows me to really push out in many directions,” says Kelley, whose work in sculpture involves the re-contextualization of found objects such as these with altered materials.

Many of the objects Kelley works with, such as ancient bog wood, are rare and “unfamiliar” — not the type of thing most people come across on a day-to-day basis. Bonnie Dunbar’s space glove from the docking mission of the space shuttle Atlantis to the Mir space station in 1995 is only one example.

“Though recognizable, this object has a compelling aura, as it has experienced time and space in exceptional ways,” Kelley says.

Through this artwork, he adds, we are able to learn: “We learn when we make, we learn about the world around us, we learn about ourselves, we learn about physics, beauty, politics, power.”

Kelley hopes that people learn to “question and examine their surroundings” when they experience his artwork, which is the same method of thinking that led him to create things in this way to begin with.

“As an artist, I am pushing in as many directions as possible,” he says. “There should be no end to the artist’s pursuit.”

A finalist for this year’s Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize, Kelley had his work featured this summer in the Special Exhibition Galleries at the Walters Art Museum.

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