QUIDDITY


Quiddity: the inherent nature of an object: its whatness, the essence
of an object, that-thing-about-a-thing- that-makes-it-what-it-is



The paintings in this exhibition have their footing in the objects of my
home. My studio is located centrally, in what should be the dining
room, of my house. Instead of an easel, I use two solid core doors
positioned against a wall. Large canvases are leaned against the
doors. For smaller ones I hammer in a couple of nails and hang the
canvas stretchers upon them. The doors have gradually accumulated
many found objects, keychains, a few mirrors, notes and drawings,
lead weights, rulers, and a line-up of tchotchkes. These objects often
become part of the subject matter of my paintings and drawings, so it
is fitting that the doors themselves should be a part of this exhibition.
The work in this show spans a thirty year period and all of it has been
made atop these doors.

Still life painting and works made in response to James Joyce’s
Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, are the two broad, often overlapping,
categories of the exhibition.  

The connection between still life subject matter and the writing of
James Joyce lies in his meticulous descriptions of commonplace
objects. Wyndam Lewis criticized Joyce’s
Ulysses for its “amount of
stuff—unorganized brute material” which he says bogs down the
dramatic action. This stuff he says is “a suffocating moetic expanse of
objects, all of them lifeless, the sewage of a past twenty years old, all
neatly arranged in a meticulous sequence.”  (Wyndam Lewis,
Time
and Western Man,
1927, Page 91) Joyce’s love of objects is part of
what draws me to his writing.

As Joyce showed, stories can be told with objects. Narratives are
embellished with objects. It was famously said that if the city of Dublin
were destroyed that it could be reconstructed on the basis of Joyce’s
descriptions.  And in
Finnegans Wake, there are so many brand name
products mentioned that it has nearly a pop sensibility. Here is one
example: “deltoid drops, curiously strong,” FW 210.9.  All at once in
this phrase Joyce references a river’s delta, the deltoid shoulder
muscle, and Altoids, the curiously strong breath mint.
        
    Heather Ryan Kelley, December 2018