Mary Reid Kelley creates videos, photographs, and drawings all based on her humorous and poignant renditions of ancient Greek mythology and historical events. Her scripts are densely woven with complex multi-lingual word play, literary and artistic allusions, and lascivious puns that burlesque the master narratives and gender politics of war and myth, giving them a grotesquely comic feminist twist. Produced with Patrick Kelley, the videos’ costumes, props, and black-and-white aesthetic pay homage to many visual worlds, including Cubism, early cinema, and cartoons.
Reid Kelley’s program features five videos: in Camel Toe (2008) a male aviator bemoans the loss of his lover to her new, more exciting diversion. The bawdy revelry in The Thong of Dionysus (2015) follows Dionysus, Ariadnae, and the Minotaur on an intoxicated adventure in search of “a raisin to live.” In a more somber tone, The Queen’s English (2008) portrays the monologue of a British nurse on the Great War’s Western Front who laments watching a wounded soldier’s slow demise. Also set in World War I, this time in London, Sadie, The Saddest Sadist (2009) displays the intermingled amorous and vocational lives of women working in factories at the time. Finally, The Syphilis of Sisyphus (2011) stars a pregnant bohemian in nineteenth century Paris who delivers biting criticisms of modernity and its false promises of progress.
Mary Reid Kelley with Patrick Kelley, The Syphilis of Sisyphus, 2011. HD video, black-and-white, sound; 11 minutes, 2 seconds. Courtesy of the artist, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects and Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, New York