Ryan W. Kelly is a native son of the great state of Michigan, but currently resides under the shadow of the Liberty Bell and the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia PA where he is an Artist In Residence at The Clay Studio. He holds a BFA in Ceramics from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA in Ceramics from The Ohio State University. Ryan is also a past recipient of the Lormina Salter Fellowship at the Baltimore Clayworks, and more recently and Independence Foundation Fellowship Grant. Ryan has taught both on the community level at a number of institutions and at the collegiate level at The Ohio State University, Swarthmore College, Rutgers University, and now The Maryland Institute College of Art. The wide variety of materials and communities in which he works has led to his involvement with several puppet theaters and theatrical prop construction for low budget films, including the Green Porno series by Isabella Rossellini.
My work comes into being through a great deal of non-linear or associative research, tangential explorations and an abiding love of the object, the well made, properly made, appropriate object. (In that, I leave room for the appropriateness of the immediate, the unrefined and the crude). The form my work takes, and the subject matter I work with are in a looping dialogue. They find commonality in the theme of the solitary figure, a figure from history or myth, engaged in labor.
These semi-universal characters out of history, popular culture and collective understanding, serve both as an entry point for viewers, and as a jumping off point for myself into allegories for my own internal struggles and observations. I come from and teach in a craft based discipline where the arrival at a successful final product is dependent on mastery of a fickle and demanding material. I am indebted to this material. To barrow a phrase from Walt Whitman, I am ‘out of the cradle endlessly rocked’ by a craft based work ethic.
Borrowing my subjects as I do from existing sources, I feel the need to gain as much ownership of the work as I can. This manifests itself in my laboring over these projects, beginning to end, in every aspect. Every decision of refinement or finish, material choice, action or inaction belongs to me. And in doing so, the resulting works speak to who I am as a maker. And so I find myself inhabiting environments of my own creation. I believe the work has become the act of creating and inhabiting these installations. It has become tableau vivant or prop-based performance.