Get to know AOV11 artist, Kelley Meister
Kelley Meister (ze/hir) is an interdisciplinary artist who uses drawings, sculpture, and time-based art to build transformative experiences and environments that encourage empathy through a shared emotional experience or exploration. Stay tuned to hotzone.kelleymeister.com for updates, to learn more, and hop on the ride!
Here are a few questions we asked Kelley Meister to get to know a little more about ze and hir project.
1. How does your Artist on the Verge project intersect with your larger body of work and artistic interests?
Over the course of the extended AOV Fellowship, the world shifted in unexpected ways. Fear and uncertainty became ever present in my life. It began with watching the shelves rapidly empty in the stores. As an artist who has worked with and about fear for over a decade, I knew my work had something to offer to this moment. But for much of the fellowship period, I was paralyzed and unsure. I couldn’t access the distance I realized was required in order to find the artistic antidotes for myself, to find the ways to work through and with the fear. I felt immense guilt for not showing up on my studio days week after week as the pandemic wore on followed by the uprising that shook the cities. Eventually last winter, I found a new working pattern, one that was slower, more introspective, and deeply personal.
Drawing on much of what I created in the first year of AOV work, I exhibited Fallout Shelter, a site-specific subterranean installation at Hair+Nails Gallery in April 2021. In the installation were over 100 canned good ceramic replicas (13 of which were created by co-fellows and our mentors during the first AOV critique), wallpapered photo-collages of over-sized cans taken during the the first few months of the fellowship while overseas, a VHS video and sound piece, and a collaborative Fear Scale created through audience-participation (also created for the first AOV critique). Three large painted wall texts acknowledged our collective contemporary and ancestral grief, ongoing fear, and gratitude to the Dakota and Anishinaabe for stewarding the land on which the gallery and my home are located before, throughout and despite the ongoing occupation of white settlers, myself included. These Acknowledgments were workshopped with the care and feedback of my AOV cohort.
For the culmination of the AOV project, I am launching a long-term investigation of the 100-mile stretch of land and water between the two nuclear power plants in Mni Sota, so-called Minnesota, at Prairie Island and Monticello.
First, there is a sculptural component of windsocks that call attention to the wind that moves particulates, smoke, dust, pollen, seeds, insects, and more through the 100-mile space. The wind disperses what is here, while also depositing small artifacts from along its route. These windsocks will be installed at various points throughout the 100-mile HOTZONE area throughout the month of September. A trio of windsocks will also be installed at Patrick Eagan Park in Eagan, MN, from Sep 11-Oct 28.
Additionally, I am creating a participatory online platform that explores our proximity to nuclear waste through data collection, drawing and visual observation, bicycle rides and other mobile endeavors, environmental radiation monitors, and connections between people. You can find it at hotzone.kelleymeister.com and submit your own drawings/photographic observations there. On Saturday, September 25, I will host an informal gathering for others to join me in looking closely at the ecosystem in a small oak savanna lying adjacent to the Hahawakpa / Gitchi Ziibi / Mississippi River. From 2-4pm, come anytime to sit and draw. Bring a camera, drawing materials, something to sit on (if desired) and water/snacks for yourself. We will be looking closely at the plants and small creatures of the habitat, creating a document of their lives in this location on this date, to be added to the website. Look out for future gatherings and ongoing updates on the website (hotzone.kelleymeister.com) or on my social media (IG: @__kel.ley__, FB: @kelley.shipwreck).
WHAT: HOTZONE: Observe & Draw Together: a small, informal gathering to look closely at the plants and sessile (limited movement and/or immobile) creatures (e.g., bugs, insects, macroinvertebrates, etc.) in and near the river
WHEN: 9/25 (Rain date 9/26) 2-4pm
WHERE: Oak Savanna at East 36th St and W River Parkway in Minneapolis
BRING: something to sit upon if you want (sheet, portable chair, etc); drawing materials*; water/snacks for yourself
*small notebooks and pencils will be provided if you want/need one
COVID PRECAUTIONS: outdoor social distancing should be easy to manage, masks are encouraged especially when talking to others
LOOK FOR: windsocks
2. What was your favorite part of envisioning and working on this project?
I have appreciated all of the ways that I am becoming more familiar with the land, water, and people of this 100-mile stretch. It is a slow process that engages my full senses. I have long had a fondness for the great river, Hahawakpa / Gichi Ziibi / Mississippi that travels a long path from the northwoods down to the gulf. It holds many stories in its waters, provides drinking water for millions, and has drawn people to it for millenia. The river also tells the story of the white supremacist industrial captialism on which this country was built. Along the shores of this great river are numerous power plants, factories, and our homes, all polluters. Oil and gas pipelines criss-cross it, with more continuing to be built. 21 nuclear power plants stand alongside it and its tributaries; 2 here in Mni Sota. All store 100% of their radioactive waste onsite. I am humbled by the magnitude of the river in so many ways. And I am excited to explore the minutia, the details, the smallest parts of it right here as part of this project.
3. People are invited to submit XXX, XXX, and XXX to your website. As the project grows, As the project grows, what do you hope people will take away from the piece?
People are invited to submit drawings, photos, and Geiger counter readings to the website (hotzone.kelleymeister.com) via email: firstname.lastname@example.org and/or tagging them on social media with #MNhotzone – directions are also on the website. Include location and date/time with the photo/drawings.
I hope that this work brings new awareness to our environment and to the delicate microcosm around us. Many people are surprised to hear that there are 2 nuclear power plants just outside the Twin Cities along the Hahawakpa / Gichi Ziibi / Mississippi River. By taking time to look closely at the ecosystem along the river, I hope this work opens up space for deeper observation and contemplation. As we gather data within the HOT ZONE, I hope that we can use this information to be proactive in our efforts to protect the river and the life around and within it. Observation is one tool in the toolbox that will help us gather data and learn more about the threats to our environment, from pipeline and railroad chemical, oil, and diesel spills to radioactive releases from the nuclear power plants. Over time, the effects of these damages may become clearer, and I hope that this will empower us to call for a change in course as well as to come together as a community to devise potential ways to protect ourselves and our environment from these threats.