Baltimore Museum of Art presents films by Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley: We Are Ghosts

. March 14, 2018

BALTIMORE, MD — In collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Advanced Media Studies, The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) presents Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley: We Are Ghosts on view April 4 through August 19, 2018 in the Contemporary Wing. The exhibition presents two dramatically stylized films that artfully resurrect history and poetry. For This Is Offal (2016), which won the Baloise Prize at Art Basel, and their most recent film, In The Body of The Sturgeon (2017), they reanimate the dead, empowering a drowned woman to tell the story of her suicide, and envision the final moments of an American submarine crew. These unorthodox ghost stories are told in careful meter and rhyme with wild wordplay and wickedly funny twists throughout the films’ scripts. More broadly, the artists’ choice to focus on subjects who represent life experiences not recorded in detail by official history (an unnamed, “average” woman and enlisted Navy men) is an act of reclaiming otherwise lost souls. Nearly life-size lightbox portraits of the film’s characters are also presented in the exhibition.

“The subjects of these two films parallel one another as embodiments of femininity and masculinity under the stresses generated by their own imperfect natures and confrontations with death, as well as the eras they inhabit,” said Kristen Hileman, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art. “Despite their anachronistic forms of speech and odd, blank-eyed appearances, these figures represent us—or any person, at any time, who has struggled with her or his sense of identity and place in posterity—and lead us to the awareness, expressed in the show’s title, that inevitably ‘we are ghosts.’”

The division of labor in producing these films is divided between MacArthur Award–winner Mary Reid Kelley (American, b. 1979) and her artistic collaborator and life partner Patrick Kelley (American, b. 1969). In addition to creating the brilliant verbal contortions of the scripts, Mary directs and performs most of the roles in makeup and costumes of her own design. Patrick, who also appears in the two works, produces the digital effects and editing that result in the seamless but strange cinematic universes that underscore the characters’ plights. Harkening back to the early years of movies, particularly the dreamlike sets of German Expressionist film, the black-and-white mises-en-scene announce to viewers that they have entered another reality in which contemporary critical thinking infuses nostalgic fantasy with the power to bring greater nuance and empathy to attempts to imagine the people who lived before us.

For general museum information, call 443-573-1700 or visit

Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley. Video still from This is Offal. 2016. Courtesy the artists and Fredericks & Freiser Gallery.

Category: Fine Art

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