You Make Me Iliad, a video that combines live-action performance and stop-motion animation, is primarily set in a brothel in German-occupied Belgium toward the end of World War I. Mary Reid Kelley posits the brothel as a metaphoric space in which wartime exchanges and moral compromises, sexual and non-sexual, are explored. The main characters in this work, a Belgian prostitute and a German soldier, are both portrayed by Reid Kelley herself. Their dialogue is written in a style that evokes epic poetry and is saturated with puns, rhyme and wordplay.
Born in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1979, Mary Reid Kelley received her BA from St. Olaf College, Minnesota, in 2001 and an MFA from Yale University in painting in 2009. Reid Kelley uses painting, video, animation, and performance as vehicles to examine the construction of historical war narratives culled from archive-based research. While Reid Kelley’s work is grounded in the told and untold experiences of World War I, her animations unfold in a dreamlike cartoon world where characters—played by the artist herself—speak according to strict rules of rhyme and repetition. The result is an exploration of the political and symbolic weight of language. Reid Kelley recently had her first solo exhibition at the Fredericks & Freiser Gallery in New York. She lives and works in Saratoga Springs, New York.