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Keeley Haftner

June 21, 2017

Keeley Haftner is a Chicago-based Canadian artist who explores her own intense yearning toward non-living matter through sculpture. She will be installing her permanent public work Galleryfill for Third Space in Saint John, New Brunswick this week. She has exhibited internationally in the US, Canada, Germany and Iceland at venues including Currents International New Media Festival (Santa Fe), MOCA (Toronto), Studio XX (Montréal), Schering Stiftung (Berlin), and the Art Institute of Chicago. She received her BFA in Fine Arts in 2011 from Mount Allison University and completed her MFA in 2016 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Fiber and Material Studies.

1. Garbage

Keeley Haftner, Elemental Sculpture (After Rauschenberg), 2017, wood scraps (laser etched), street glass (worked molten)

Garbage is really the most ongoing and obsessive love affair I’ve ever had. The concept of calling objects into existence from complex and undifferentiated matter only to have them fall victim to a kind of lumpen neglect fascinates me. As John Scanlan describes it: garbage as a philosophic concept is entirely theoretical; anything can become it but it is actually nothing whatsoever. The slippage from relevancy to trash is equal parts delicate and violent.

2. Rhombille

Keeley Haftner, Rhombillion,

Rhombille or “tumbling blocks” is a pattern found in diverse sources ranging from ancient medieval tile and Minimalist sculpture to quilt-making patterns and contemporary advertising. It is one dimensional as a mathematical description (infinite lines), two-dimensional as a visual descriptor (the flat surface of the image), three-dimensional as it relates to our capacity to read images (a flat thing with optic volume), and four-dimensional as it relates to time (it is both historic and futuristic). I have a Tumblr called Rhombillion where you can submit to and view instances of rhombille ranging from ancient Pompeii to Fifty Shades of Grey. And, of course, it comes up a lot in my practice, mostly under the rubric of an expanding project called Tesselescence.

3. Transmutation

Julian Charrière, Metamorphism XVII, 2016

As Anaxagoras once said: “Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.” In art and in life the objects that excite me the most are the ones that have been through intense transformation, on a spectrum ranging from El Anatsui’s assembled liquor cap tapestries to Julian Charrière’s magmatic e-waste meteorites.

4. Umbrellas

Keeley Haftner, Tesselescence (Marquee), 2017, broken umbrellas (nylon), thread

Umbrellas have been a part of human history as far back as the first century B.C. in the form of the parasol, and yet their technology has either hardly improved or declined, which is in large part due to planned obsolescence in design. One could go to the museum and view a collapsible umbrella from the Song Dynasty, and then find a lesser version of that same object on the street like fallen fruit after a storm. For me this is a testament to our implicit awareness of this object’s subliminal narrative. Like many things in my studio, I’ve collected broken umbrellas obsessively for years, and have only recently begun to transform them. My first attempt is currently on display for an exhibition at Public Access gallery in Chicago.

5. Children's books by contemporary artists

El Lissitsky, About Two Squares, 1922

My current favourites are Lawrence Weiner’s conceptual masterpiece Something to Put Something On and El Lissitsky’s Suprematist tale About Two Squares. I am always on the hunt for more!



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