The Ortolan’s Revenge


A few weeks ago I posted about Kelly Green, an artist in the State College area whose work I greatly admire. She was kind enough to share a few of her images with me to share with you, and I hope you’ll be intrigued enough to view more of her work at the Kelly Green Gallery.

I find it difficult to articulate what it is that I like so much about her work.  For instance, the image below — The Ortolan’s Revenge — I find both confrontational and rather unsettling. But there’s a purity of intent at work that’s extremely strong, and an attention to detail that raises this far above the kind of in-your-face avant-art that tends to get the Right Wing so riled up with its overt, and simplistic, desecration of symbols.  There’s much more going on here than mere shock value, although there’s definitely a bit of that, too.  But this is the kind of work that gets under your skin in ways that more obvious and straightforward images never could.

The Ortolan's Revenge

Dig the delicacy of some of Green’s details, here:  the bird (a robin?  I’m no ornithologist, obviously) whose claws grasp the exposed vein that runs along the man’s jawline, or the small bird who seems to have found a nest approximately in his trachea, or the one that’s hatching eggs in his ear…there’s a kind of horror in seeing these creatures emerging from this exposed musculature, an almost instinctive wrongness to what you’re seeing…and yet the efficiency with which she’s placed these avians in their alien setting makes them also seem almost natural.  I haven’t counted them, but many of them weren’t obvious to me until I started scrutinizing what was going on.

I’m also struck by the juxtaposition of the gray-and-black border — redolent of branches and string, natural nesting materials — with the vivid colors at play in the anatomical and bird illustrations.

What does it all mean?   Search me, I haven’t got a clue.  I can tell you that it makes me think about the vividness of our imaginary lives in contrast to the sometimes mundane realities we live, and also about the relative positions of people and other creatures on this planet…but those are just associations, impressions.  What I get out of it is my business, what Green intended is hers, and whether or not we’re on the same wavelength is less important than the fact that she’s created work that signifies.  And perhaps that’s what’s really key here.

Perhaps what I really like about Green’s art is that I find myself compelled to respond to it.  The work of many artists, maybe most, I can take or leave.  I guess I tend to have a default “eh, so what” reaction to most art I see.  And I’ll accept that as my failing and not necessarily the artists’.  But I can’t see an image like this one and not think about it, not note the care that went into producing it, and not wonder about what it took the artist to create…and what it might say about me that I like it as much as I do.



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