BY ELISE MIKLICH
Bathed in tangerine light, I sit across from Rochester, NY based artist Kelly Clancy. Her light brown hair falls to the left- opposite of her mirror image twin sister, whose hair naturally parts on the right. Tousled pieces gently rest on her shoulder, catching on the flannel fibers of her button down shirt. A ceramic coffee mug is cradled in the hammock of her woven fingertips. The cup’s shape fits so perfectly with the contour of her grasp, you can almost picture it unfinished on the wheel.
“I love making pottery,” she tells me, “but I enjoy carving because of the amount of commitment and concentration that is involved.”
Kelly is a relief linoleum printmaker who can easily be compared to an Olympic athlete; putting the highest level of commitment into everything that she does. Not for recognition or for glory, but because she cares about the quality of her work like she cares about the quality of her life. To her, they are one in the same. For those of you who are unfamiliar with printmaking, relief printmaking is when the raised or protruding part of, in this case, linoleum, is inked while the recessed areas (i.e. the carved areas) are not inked, and will show up as white space on the print. Sheets of linoleum are hand carved, inked and then printed using a high-pressure press. Clancy described it to me in layman’s terms like “making a giant rubber stamp”.
“When I’m painting, I can paint over it. When I’m working on the wheel, I can squash it and start over,” she says with a confidence that feels unrehearsed. “If I carve a line incorrectly, I need to come up with a solution.”
When she sent her most recent piece to be displayed in North Dakota at Minot University, she made over forty prints before she had one she was satisfied with. Print making is notoriously tedious, every line must be carved properly and with intention. Pressure to this degree might turn some off, while Clancy feeds off of it, harnessing it to push herself further. In high school, she focused on painting and drawing. The first artwork she ever sold was a commissioned portrait of a family friend’s children.
“I started with painting because I was comfortable with it,” she explains, “but I think the second you stop putting yourself in uncomfortable situations creatively, you’re no longer being an artist”.
It’s safe to say she’s still an artist. Now, she puts her efforts into making linoleum prints that focus on the human form, expressing both her concern and fascination with the fate of the human body. Surprisingly, Clancy admits she had a hard time considering herself a true print maker until October of 2013, when she was accepted into the Boston Print Makers Biennial. Sighting this as one of her biggest accomplishments, it was only natural to hear her say that her next long-term goal is to be on the judging panel one day. But before her works make it to the gallery, it all starts with a feeling. That feeling then becomes a concept, which will then become a sketch- or numerous sketches.
“It’s always a challenge to see how many ways I can communicate an idea visually” she tells me.
When I think about the fate of the human body, I think of death and dying. When Clancy thinks about the fate of the human body, she thinks of cyborgs. No, not the kind portrayed in sci-fi flicks or Marvel fan-fiction, the kind that start with you and I – that will start with our children and their children, too.
“I grew up with technology,” Clancy insists, “I’m not afraid of it, but it’s definitely scary thinking about where it could go.”
Many of her current works beg the question: What makes a person and what will the definition of a person become? Clancy uses metaphysical concepts that are relevant to everyone, not just her. In fact, she wants you to be able to see yourself in her work. More often than not, her figures are faceless or portrayed as skeletons. Gears grind inside of skulls, wires clench tightly around wrists, holding down bodies or tangling them in a web of artificial intelligence. It makes you think; those bodies may be ours someday.
“I refer a lot to singularity, or when robots and humans become one” She explains, harping on the concept of downloadable consciousness. No one is blowing smoke on the topic. Recent research conducted by Henry Markram has led scientists to claim that an artificial brain could be constructed in as little as ten years. To put this timeline into perspective, this research was conducted in 2009, proving Clancy’s work to be relevant- and profoundly so.
When she isn’t carving at home or making prints at the Nazareth College studio, she’s teaching art to grades pre K – 6th at Aquinas Institute of Rochester. It is important to her to pass on the power of art and to demonstrate how art encourages youth to “stretch and explore”. Professionally, she says she will continuously advocate for art programs and wants her students work to be seen out in the community. When asked what she would tell herself if she were her student’s age, she responded, “It’s not a waste of time to pursue a career as an artist. Behind everything in life, there is an artist.”
Kelly Clancy’s work can be seen at:
Americas: 2016 Paperworks, Minot University, January 12th-February 19th 2016
Nazareth Graduate Art Show, Nazareth College, March 29th-April 17th 2016
Visit her website at Kclancy3.wix.com/artteacher