Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kelly McKernan contemplates Fight or Flight

Posted By on Wed, Apr 7, 2010 at 2:06 PM

Kelly McKernan is this sweet little wispy thing and, I swear to you, between the hyper-fem-ethereal art and her innate daintiness, I probably wouldn't last five minutes in that kind of syrupy suspension if not for the fact that she seems to be mid-battle with the ethereal heroines of her new work when I arrive at her Virginia-Highland home/studio. "I love this work but I swear, I'm never attempting this process again," she declares of her method of combining photography and painting.

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The recent Kennesaw State University graduate is in the middle of hardcore crunch time this week preparing for her first solo show, Fight or Flight, which opens Sat., April 1o at Beep Beep Gallery. We talk about solo art shows versus the increasingly popular team or group shows (she was originally tapped to team up with others for a collaborative effort but fought to do her own thing) — it's intriguing and probably beneficial to the artists to exercise the kind of artistic communication that inherently is present in group shows. But what they don't give artists is that challenge to stand on their own, where the only message is theirs, nor the fear that comes from being the only head on the critical chopping block, nor the cathartic release that comes when you've successfully communicated a complete thought through a body of work, or the energy of a space. Ms. McKernan wants all of that.

Witnessing the last-minute energy spike in an artist's studio before a gallery opening is like nothing else; she flits from room to room (there is work in-progress in three rooms) speaking about her work/the show/life in general with the "I'm too busy to bullshit you or myself" clarity of someone who has discovered what she set out to find in the process of creating this body of work, and is acutely high from the rush (both in time and endorphins) of mentally and physically putting it all into place. It's a total trip to be around. As it turns out, Kelly McKernan's diminutive stature and oft-idealistic work belie a borderline-surly (I mean that as a compliment) astuteness that makes hanging out with her a treat — and makes her upcoming show that much more interesting.

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