Isabel Kelly – A Cup of Tea in Infinite Futures: A Positive Look at Speculative Fates

Isabel Kelly, Garden Layout 3, 2024, digital sketch

Isabel Kelly
A Cup of Tea in Infinite Futures:
A Positive Look at Speculative Fates

Opening Reception: May 25, 2024 | 3 – 5 pm
Thesis Defence: May 27, 2024 | 10 am – 12:30 pm
Exhibition On View: May 28 – 31, 2024 | 1 – 3 pm
Penny Gallery, University of Lethbridge

A Cup of Tea in Infinite Futures: A Positive Look at Speculative Fates, is an installation exploring the question, “What will happen in the future?” Humans have engaged in speculation throughout history, manifesting in many ways. In Speculative Everything (Dunne & Raby), the act of speculation is defined as the act of imagining various outcomes, scenarios, and worlds. After explosion of speculative fiction for young adults, dystopia in the media of the 2010s, and actual events bringing reality closer to scenarios of dystopian fiction (Covid 19 quarantine, the doomsday clock reaching 90 second to midnight, the loss of Roe v. Wade in the US), there has been a greater interest in making changes to our society and at the same time, an interest in escaping it in the past few years.

While contemplating the question, “What will happen in the future?” Isabel considered two overlapping forms of escapism and potential carriers of change: the genre slice-of-life speculative fiction and the aesthetic cottagecore. These modes share a focus on everyday life, displaying moments of mundane existence and simple living. Such quiet moments and stability are qualities she desires to work towards, and they have become important qualities in the outcome of the project.

Her research and self-reflection culminated in a set of positive speculative outcomes displayed as kinetic vignettes / diorama scenes. She also considered how the manifestations of these speculations are, themselves, speculative.

To manifest possible answers to the question she has constructed four kinetic sculptural vignettes or dioramas from a variety of materials including polylactic acid (PLA, 3D printed plastic from FDM printers), textiles, and acrylic paint. Three dioramas depict speculations that of quiet moments and stability, while with the fourth points to the activity of speculation. In creating these dioramas, Isabel became aware that the act of planning the vignettes (sketching layouts of each work, determining how to put the tables together, etc.) was an act of speculation in itself. She was so focused on her questions about the future that she forgot how prevalent the act of speculation is to most everything people do. With this in mind, the exhibition presents the act of creating these scenarios of potential futures as exercises of speculation by including the process of speculation in the form of a worktable installation and printed sketches amongst the vignettes displaying the very process of their creation.

Isabel Kelly, Table Start Sketch, 2023, digital sketch

Isabel Kelly is an American artist who received a BA from Lawrence University, majoring in Studio Art and Theatre. She currently lives in Alberta, Canada earning her MFA in Art at the University of Lethbridge. Exhibitions include Trajectories, 2024, at Casa, Lethbridge, and at Casa’s Platform in 2023, and the 2023 University of Lethbridge Art Department Staff & Faculty Exhibition. Isabel has interned with Third Avenue Playworks in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, USA and Degree Art/Artellite at Somerset House London, England. She works primarily with object based mixed media. Some of her favorite methods of making include textiles, digital 3D printing, and painting. Her work often revolves around narrative. Isabel approaches the art of storytelling by weaving details into her work, examining narratives ranging from works of theatrical literature to slice-of-life vignettes.

Instagram: @isabelkellydesigns

Penny Gallery
Dr. Foster James Penny Building
Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Lethbridge
324 – 5th Street South
Lethbridge, AB

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