Artists Take On Detroit - Projects for The Tricentennial
Mike Kelly


Kelley constructs idiosyncratic and sometimes improbable histories as groundwork for his artistic production. In Blackout, he explores his nostalgia for the local culture of his youth in Westland, Michigan, while engaging in a fantasy search for the "Land O’ Lakes" girl during a boat trip to the islands of the Detroit River. The installation consists of large-scale sculpture and photographs. Interested in the pop psychology theory of repressed memory syndrome, Kelley created an eight-part photo montage in which large portions of the image, intended as a panorama, were "blacked out" due to a camera malfunction; he sees these as analogous to lapses caused by repressed memories.

For the sculpture, Kelley used a folk-art technique called "memory ware," covering the surfaces with broken bottles, tools, flatware, and pottery shards collected on one of the islands. The huge central sculptural figure is based on a statue of astronaut John Glenn that stood in the library of Westland High School, Kelley's alma mater. Photo reproductions of newspaper clippings (placed in large black racks) document local culture from 1968 to 1972. Each clipping is rendered on three different types of paper, giving them a documentary, nostalgic, or "art photography" feel.

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Blackout Project Image

Mike Kelley
Installation, 2001 (detail)

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> Artist’s Statement

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