Tuesday, December 22, 2020


As a sculptor, Kelly Clare is drawn to creating installations where anything can happen.

Clare, a third-year MFA student in the School of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa, makes her artistic magic by presenting everyday objects such as orange juice, pancakes, construction equipment, bread, and prairie soil in new and exciting ways.

“The level of beauty and possibility in all objects means you can make work no matter the circumstances,” Clare says. “When you travel through an installation, you arrive at other side and hopefully something has shifted in the world for you. My hope is that when people leave my installations, they go into the world and those objects hold the capacity to perform different jobs than they normally would.”

Peers honor her work

Breadmaking is one of Clare’s culinary hobbies and the source of an award-winning installation.

Kelly Clare's award-winning sculpture "Bread Net."

Her artwork titled, “Bread Net” received the Jurors Choice Award at the 2020 MFA Online Exhibition “RAW”, sponsored by the MFA Art Program at the University of Montana. This is the 6th year of the annual exhibition, which had 575 applicants from 89 colleges and universities.
Clare spent between 8 and 10 hours kneading the flour for the bread and then weaving the bread fence together.

“There's just something really grounded and evocative about bread on a sensory level, like the smells and the experience of kneading it. It's very tactile and very personal,” Clare says. “I was thinking a lot about something that could dissolve and be eaten. Something that can be broken down and feed people. I made it section by section in a regular oven. It was a marathon of just knitting and weaving this fence that began to, after I hung it up, fall apart, break and shatter on the floor.”

With all the hard work, Clare crossed the figurative finish line first in the Jurors Choice category.
“It means a lot to be chosen by a jury of your peers, especially during a pandemic when it's been more difficult to exhibit work,” Clare says.

Inspired by everyday objects

Starting as an undergraduate student, Clare has been attracted to everyday objects around her and the level of resourcefulness required to create artwork out of them.

University of Iowa MFA student Kelly Clare.

“When I first started making work, I kept thinking about this constant sensation of catastrophe, everything from a tornado to an ecological collapse,” Clare says. “I kept thinking about how was I going to make my work if disaster struck? That sounds kind of dire, but it opened up the idea that I could really use anything, like a bouquet of flowers. Beauty and possibility are present in those objects. I wanted a practice that allows me to make work, no matter the circumstances.”

This semester, Clare was faced with challenging circumstances in the classroom, teaching Sculpture I to undergraduate students online.

Based on her interest in items we encounter every day, she was able to find success in this environment.

“You don't have the classroom, but you have every single object around you and all of those objects can be included in an installation, all of those objects can be activated,” Clare says. “There's no object that doesn't belong in art and doesn't belong in installation. It’s allowed me to ask my students to pull from everything they have. You can use cardboard, lemons, suitcases, pencils, mirrors, and build compelling and rewarding work.”

MFA thesis and beyond

Clare currently is working on her MFA thesis installation, where she imagines returning to the gallery space.

“I'm looking at how I can translate the work I've been making for the last nine months, which has been a lot of videos and digital collage,” Clare says. “How do I translate that back into the gallery space? How do I make a show that also functions with a virtual platform or is installed in many different places?”

After completing her MFA, Clare plans to relocate to the East Coast to pursue a position in higher education.

Wherever she ends up in her professional career, Clare remains grateful to the faculty in the Sculpture Department at Iowa.

“They've been incredibly supportive throughout the pandemic and before,” Clare says. “I've had some really incredible mentorship and a lot of support. That has really made a massive difference. I would like to give a shout out to all of those people without whom my work wouldn't be possible.”