Kelly Wallace shares personal story that lead to his work


THE BROCK PRESS/Brittany Brooks

THE BROCK PRESS/Brittany Brooks

On February 26, Rodman Hall held the ‘Hot Talk’ for artist Kelly Wallace where he spoke about the collection of his work that is currently featured there. Wallace provided contextual information such as the processes and inspiration for his art. Wallace’s work captures the beauty of the natural landscape while simultaneously drawing attention to the fragmented world of the human-made amidst collapse and decay.

Wallace manipulates the graphite on paper with a dedicated precision to vertical lining as his primary mark, resulting with illusionistic spaces that encompass phenomenal depth.

Professor Tim Conley from Brock’s English and Literature Department attended the artist talk and shared his thoughts on Wallace’s gallery: “I find this work unforgettable, the images are haunting; I like the way they materialize and dissolve.”

At the artist’s Hot Talk, Wallace shared a traumatic event from his past that lead to his development of his unique personal style.

In 1994, while studying in his undergrad, he hit a car door at a high-speed on his bicycle and lost complete use of his right arm for three years. When he was able to hold a pencil again he could only make vertical strokes and would have to tape a drawing instrument to his right hand. Up until 1999, his goal was purely representational as it was merely a question of “can I do this?”, so he would just draw anything he could to see if he could regain the full control he had before the accident.

After mastering his technique, he began to think about the ways he could play with language in his drawings and make his marks conceptual.

He started using all sorts of homemade instruments—wands and rods with masking tape or Kleenex—to aid in his drawing process for different results.

At one point he was able to make 400 strokes per minute and Wallace explained that it produced a sort of out of body experience for him, where he would be able to focus on his energy.

Once he began to enjoy his drawings, he wanted to discover a way to enhance the actual worth and durability, while still maintaining the concept of his work. Subsequently, he spent five years studying a five-hundred-year-old marble gesso and determined it could hold both the graphite and the physical weight he put onto his drawings.

This format proved to be timely, as it would take any where from twenty to one-hundred hours to engineer a panel, nevertheless, Wallace stated that he actually enjoyed this aspect of the process going into his work.

Both the exhaustive process of constructing the panels and the actual act of drawing itself—which Wallace spends 15-20 hours a day doing—are intended to overtly express the laborious nature of his work.

The sensitivity works to slow the reader down to think about why he expressed this type of imagery that isn’t otherwise seen in other pop culture medias. These images work as common grounds for the viewer to interpret and find meaning in Wallace’s pieces of art.

In his newer works exhibited in his gallery at Rodman Hall, there seems to be a shift to more abstract imagery that communicates the drawing as subject—his marks are his subjects.

“I cling to carrying on a gesture of marquee, the first gesture that all arts go to. It is about the marks not the drawings, the marks are what express the self or the me,” said Wallace.

The significance of his marks as subjects impacts the audience in such a manner that would not transpire if the marks were purely marks and not the subject; The viewer would become isolated from the works, which would distance them from interpreting their meaning.

“They are so particular and yet so abstract at the same time, it makes sense about Wallace said about trying to show you the labour,” said Conley. “You move around the room and realize what happens when you look at a drawing. I like art that is fragile. And his work seems so safe and yet very unsafe. Stable and yet looks like it is just about to fall apart.”

Visit for more information about Wallace’s exhibition and other upcoming exhibitions

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