The gallery doors at ArtFarm (45 West Street) could barely open the evening of Kelly Blorstad’s exhibit release party. As I forced my way through the entrance, I strained to set my eyes on the novice creator. Skirted by family and fans, she was hard to see. But in between the head of a friend and hug of a father, I caught a brief glance where she stood effortlessly effervescent, obviously thrilled to have her work finally on display.
Kelly Blorstad, 27, (an Annapolis area native and graduate of Mount St. Mary’s) always thought she was going to have a career in special education. However, her mind and major quickly changed after completing her first collegiate drawing class. By senior year, she began to feel the pressures to define herself as an artist and needed to do so by the deadline of her capstone project. She knew she liked installation work. She knew she wanted to use paper. But she couldn’t find the “right” kind of medium—until vellum. Originally made from calf hide, vellum has a skin-like texture and a thickness that is not usually found in your average tracing paper. For her senior art project, Blorstad started playing with vellum and ink. Light and dark.
While her work is certainly fueled by personal experience and emotion, the way she communicates those aspects is elusive. “I wanted to get my emotions out, but didn’t want to hit people over the head with them,” Kelly explains. Her plaster pieces, however, are hard to deny being packed with feeling, such as a piece featuring a spinal cast, laying in a bed of black yarn, and a forearm crawling up the wall while tethered to the floor by the same black yarn. It begs to be questioned and felt.
“We are going along with our day to day lives and we might not even know something is wrong, and it’s not until it becomes a problem or apparent to the eye that we notice and it’s almost too late,” Blorstad said. “It’s spilling out of you, and it’s too late.”
The shift from those pieces are evident when moving on to the vellum pieces. Boards bloomed with unnamed enigmas come next. Kelly doesn’t have words to describe them. Neither do I, but knowing if she intended to create wings, thoughts, or flowers isn’t really the point. We spend a lot of time relating things to objects, or experiences to tangible things, but there are fleeting moments in life that can’t be explained, justified, or remembered.
“There are changes that occur in humans, nature, or both and build over time,” Blorstad explained. “Slowly it becomes noticeable and it is then that we take a step back and try to consider what brought us to that exact outcome.”
Each structure is created by hand, one at a time, and come to life after hours of thought, precision, and detailed accuracy. Blorstad cuts each piece of vellum to scale, secures it, and watches it grow. She equates these pieces to our interactions with nature. Her light, ethereal pieces are juxtaposed quite perfectly next to her explorations of darkness, disease. One of the three vellum pieces particularly stands out, as it’s installed on a piece of natural wood and happens to be the artist’s favorite piece.
What’s so moving about Kelly Blorstad’s exhibit is that no piece can stand on its own. Rather, each piece is a part of a collective story she’s trying to tell; one that is eerily similar to the ebbs and flows of life. She communicated birth, growth, joy, hardship, and death in her work.
To see for yourself, visit ArtFarm where Kelly’s work will be on display through the month of February.
Images courtesy of Kelly Blorstad and ArtFarm