I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO INTRODUCE CHANDI KELLEY…because she is the best friend an art geek could ever have. Her husband, Frank, thinks I should list all of Chandi’s many accomplishments (he’s so proud), but she has a very well organized website and I’m her friend, so that would be weird. I think he wants to avoid Chandi the embarrassment of being gushed over, but I ask you, HOW CAN I HELP IT?
If you know me, you’ve heard my praise of Chandi and her work. She is brilliant when properly motivated, reserved at the appropriate occasions (a gift I do not possess), gentle when you’re being stupid, kind to all the animals in the kingdom, and extraordinarily fair in the sandbox (so to speak). Chandi for President!
Her current work deals with one of my favorite subjects; the manipulation of visual information which provokes one to question nature vs. artificiality. Her work is beautiful, thoughtful, well composed, and well framed – literally and figuratively.
She’d want me to be more reserved about my praise of her work, because she does not like it when I show favoritism (I forced her to take her turn as feature). I don’t care, I’m going to say it…she’s my favorite. Hands down. Favorite. I would order a subscription to Chandi in a heartbeat, except that she’s also way too generous. 😉
So without further ado, I introduce to you the brains (and most of the labor) behind Project Dispatch…the woman my children want to emulate (one of them requested to be called Chandi at school)… a most fair collaborator… an ingenious organizer… and a constant source of inspiration…
(omg I made her cry)
When you are working on a body of work, what is your primary concern? What about photography do you find the most rewarding and what do you find the most annoying or limiting (if anything) about the medium?
When I begin a body of work, I typically have a concept in mind. Initially, I am gathering materials and taking notes. Photography so perfectly speaks to the things that I want to explore about the world. Particularly how perspective completely changes the way that we view an object or scene. Photography is a lie, and I continually try to play with portraying truth with lies and using the trickery available in the medium to raise questions about what we know about the world. I find image making incredibly satisfying, and so I don’t think that anything is annoying. Although my computer files as a result of the image making are REALLY annoying. Mostly because I am pretty disorganized about that. The darkroom is definitely something that I miss at the moment.
In the last few years, you have focused on this juxtaposition between fiction and documentation. When you were first thinking about representing this glorification of artificiality, what were you reading/studying/thinking about? We can see the genesis of this idea in your “Inhabit” series, but that work was more about how the natural element relates to an artificial environment, right? What made you decide to focus more on objects and less on environment?
I was thinking alot about magic and early spirit photography actually. There was an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art back in 2005 called “The Perfect Medium” about photography and the occult, and the use of various processes to create false documentation of the supernatural. It’s probably too cheesy to say that it haunted me, but it truly did. I began thinking about the use of photography as a tool for creating false evidence and was kind of obsessed with how to incorporate it into my work. I was reading about Houdini and the Fox sisters, and looking at photography that incorporated more modern ideas of the supernatural. It probably wasn’t until I began working on the “Inhabit” series that I started playing with my ideas more directly, even though the focus of that body of work had nothing to do with anything otherworldly. But the idea that the world around us is not what it seems became the subtle driving force behind it, and everything since. It crept up on me. And before I knew it I was spray painting the roots of weeds gold and photographing fake leaves on real trees. I guess the progression to move away from environments and focus on individual objects came from the desire to create my own scenes, to hone in on specific objects and examine them front and center. It was a way for me to approach my questions even more head on.
Do you make sketches or notes, or is your process more trial and error? What are you working on now?
I do not make sketches, but I definitely take notes. One of the notes that has been sitting on my desk for the past 3 months just says “photograph mirrors in nature for cutout background” and I often send emails to myself that just say things like “go to petco for more volcanos and driftwood.” I am always working on collecting the items that will eventually be incorporated into my work. Right now, I am playing with digital manipulation, which is totally new for me since I have always been more of a purist about the way that I use photography to tell a story. I am also working on paint by numbers kits from the 70’s, both painting and digitally coloring. Although those are much more like an exercise in fun than anything serious.
Has your recent move to Baltimore inspired a departure from your current theme? You’ve been exposing yourself to a lot of work by Baltimore artists. How has that influenced you? Are there themes or styles you wish to emulate in your own work?
I probably wouldn’t call it a departure, but since I have not been as focused on exhibiting a new body of work at the moment I have been more free to experiment and create new works that are not part of a complete idea, theme, or plan. I have been a lot less rigid with myself and my normal structured way of doing things, and have just been acting on my impulses and using alot of my old images as source material. I don’t know that anything in particular has been a major influence in Baltimore, or whether my environment has contributed to my allowing myself to loosen up. It’s funny even saying that, because my work is still so controlled. But working on things without a complete plan is pretty new to me.
What is the most challenging aspect of running Project Dispatch? What is the most rewarding aspect? What are your hopes for the future of the Project?
Without a doubt the most challenging aspect is time. I have a full time day job as a Studio Manager, in addition to coordinating Project Dispatch and making my own work. However, it is incredibly rewarding to be devoted to a project that is about a community. Self promotion grows tiresome, but promoting a group of incredibly talented artists never grows old. I am dedicated to putting together events and exhibitions that make art collecting accessible and fun, while making sure that artists are benefitting as well. Right now I am focused on carving out a place for us in Baltimore. And ultimately, my hope for the future of the project is for every artist to have a subscription every month.
Have you made any discoveries in your practice as a result of becoming a member of Project Dispatch and making work for subscriptions?
Absolutely. I think that Project Dispatch has allowed me to make work without over-thinking what it meant. Just to do something and see where it goes. The “Inhabit” series started out of a need to make new work for subscriptions, and for a long time felt unresolved to me. It was only in the persistence of it that I eventually reached a certain level of clarity. Project Dispatch definitely gives me the incentive to keep doing and making, even when I don’t know why or how.
If you could pick three artists from the Project to subscribe to, who would they be?
I already get work from two of my favorites (Frank Adams and Rachel England), so Corwin Lamm, Evan Hume, and Becca Kallem.
Chandi’s work is currently hanging in “Survey Says”, a Project Dispatch group exhibition at EMP Collective, in Baltimore. The show will be running through January 24th. Come visit Chandi and other members of the project at the Closing and Book Release party on the 24th from 6-9 PM.
TO CHECK OUT MORE WORK BY CHANDI; VISIT HER WEBSITE.