Heather Kelley Update

Brad Goins Friday, November 16, 2018 Comments Off on Heather Kelley Update
Heather Kelley Update

From time to time, the Up Fronter writes about the art of Lafayette’s Amy Guidry. Guidry’s art is experimental, and it only falls into one category: surrealistic art; that is, it’s art that portrays images from dreams in a realistic manner.

The art of McNeese’s and Lake Charles’ Heather Ryan Kelley isn’t as easy to categorize. Depending on the work in question, I might call it conceptual art or assemblage art or installation art. The fact the art is so hard to pin down shows you how experimental it can be.


Much of Kelley’s recent work has centered on the “midden heap” — an old Irish term for the communal garbage dump that figures prominently in James Joyce’s last novel Finnegans Wake. (There is no apostrophe in Finnegans.) 

From this work, Kelley’s produced a series of collages and artists’ books titled The Midden Heap Project: The Book of the Children. That work earned her the Delores and Tom Tuminello Endowed Professorship at McNeese last year. 

Kelley made a collage for each page of the “Storiella” chapter in Finnegans Wake, then made an artist’s book based on these collages. The series has been the subject of a number of recent exhibitions. 

Möebius Sigla


The works showed up in two international exhibits in June and July: Storiella and The Midden Heap, a solo exhibition of her artist’s books and digital prints at the Royal Academy of Art in Antwerp, Belgium; and the Joyce In Art exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp. 

Working with artist Nico Dockx, Kelley arranged an event called So Pretty Prattly Pollylogue at the deSingel Arts Campus, also in Antwerp. During a full day of lectures, chamber music performances and music from DJ sound systems, Kelley sat off-stage drawing out her responses to the performances. The end result is the large drawing Möebius Sigla — a Möebius strip that incorporates the drawings Kelley made. It and the artist’s book Storiella are on display in the McNeese Faculty Exhibition in the Grand Gallery in the Shearman Fine Arts Center of McNeese.

From now through Nov. 10, ten collages from the Storiella project will be on display in the Shelf Life show at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette. Work on The Midden Heap is probably just right for Shelf Life, which “explores the consumption of ephemeral or consumer products … in our everyday life.”

Dec. 8 will be the opening date of Quiddity — a retrospective of 30 years of Kelley’s work that will be housed in a 4,000-square-foot gallery in the Acadiana Center for the Arts. The gallery, at 101 W. Vermillion St., Lafayette, is open Mon-Sat from 10 am-5 pm.

Finally, a photograph of Kelley’s studio was featured in a series in the Hyperallergic art magazine. Go to hyperallergic.com, search for “A View from the Easel,” and find the edition for Aug. 3. Kelley’s studio is itself a work of art, with its careful arrangement and display of hundreds of old toys and other small artifacts.

The Cajun Bayou Food Trail

Here in SWLA, we have the Creole Nature Trail and the Boudin Wars. But to our southeast, we have a counterpart in the Cajun Bayou Food Trail.

I know some may be thinking, “Brad, there’s nothing southeast of us but lots of salty, muddy Gulf water.” 

The explanation is that the 110 miles of the Cajun Bayou Food Trail of Lafourche Parish stretches downwards until it’s 45 minutes south of New Orleans. And even that is not the southern-most part of the other side of the state.

Much of the Cajun Bayou Food Trail is about the town of Thibodaux, which the locals say isn’t off the beaten path; it’s “off the EATIN’ path!” (I’m not making this up. It comes straight off the Cajun Bayou Food Trail web site.) Go down the trail, and you can eventually visit 15 restaurants. 

I found out about all this when I stumbled across a photo of one of those Cajun chef innovations that looks way too big for a single meal but way too tasty not to try to eat. My search for info about this food took me to the site for the Cajun Bayou Food Trail, where the friendly and prompt staff told me I was looking at the Seafood Napoleon served at Fremin’s Restaurant in downtown Thibodaux. Although I couldn’t find out anything about this dish, I did learn that this fine-dining establishment serves other tasty-looking exotic creations, such as a pork belly appetizer and braised rabbit with roasted carrots. If you want to get info before you travel, call 985-449-0333.

Bayou Lafourche food is made with recipes that were handed down by Native American, French, Spanish, German, English, African and Italian ancestors.

The trail is also associated with food festivals and events. On Nov. 9, the Big Boy’s Main Street Cook-off will take place in downtown Thibodaux. “Dozens of cooks” will compete in “a culinary showcase of Cajun cuisine.” The next day, the annual fall festival will come to downtown Thibodaux. In addition to live music, food, arts and crafts booths, a flock of hundreds of rubber ducks will “race” down the bayou.

If you want to learn more about our parallel food trail to the southeast, visit lacajunbayou.com and see lots of photos of good-looking food. 

Wring Indecency By The Neck

You’ll hear people say that the No. 1 love of people in South Louisiana is football. But that’s not correct. At best, football is No. 3 — stuck behind Puritanism at No. 1 and prudery at No. 2.

The latest development that has the state’s decent folk aquiver with moral indignation and righteous wrath is a chant that some LSU students took up during the school’s recent victory over No. 1 Georgia. The chant is called “Neck” because — I think — it’s based on a song or a rap that contains the word “Neck.” It is, apparently, far too obscene to print in Louisiana publications. So the state’s journalists have taken to stringing together the first letter of each word of the chant —STTDB — thus giving indignant readers the chance to spend long periods engaged in the pleasant diversion of trying to figure out what the letters stand for.

Believe me, it’s something monstrous. In fact, on Oct. 16, N.O. Advocate columnist Dan Fagan told readers that the chant was “vile, vulgar and crude.” Vile, no less. Let’s read a little of the column. 

“Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but there’s something terribly unsettling on so many levels about the vile, vulgar and crude chant belted out by the student section at Saturday’s Georgia-LSU game … It’s the worst kind of taunting — the very opposite of sportsmanship. I know drawing moral lines and boundaries these days will get you labeled a prude or a kill-joy, but enough is enough. Words matter.

“I can hear the arguments now. Fagan, who appointed you thought police? Free expression is what college is all about for students. But the LSU football experience at Tiger stadium belongs to all of us, even children. This is not about principled rebellious college students having the courage to defy PC culture. The chant betrays basic fundamental human decency …”

Let’s do some unpacking. Fagan starts off “call me an old fuddy-duddy.” OK. I’ll call him an old fuddy-duddy. No problem there.

Now, about the chant being “unsettling on so many levels,” I would advise any writer either to state what the levels are or leave out the reference to them.

“I know drawing moral lines and boundaries these days will get you labeled a prude or a kill-joy.” Yes, it will get you those labels for the simple reason that a person who draws moral lines and boundaries for others is a prude and a kill-joy.

Then comes this masterful prose: “But enough is enough. Words matter.” I’m not qualified to pass judgement on the philosophical question of whether words matter. I am qualified to state that clichés do not matter. At best, they serve as solid indicators of intellectual laziness. Speaking of clichés, did you catch the reference to that old bugaboo “fundamental human decency …” What in the world is that? I could use a little less preaching and a little more defining of terms.

A sentence that comes later shows readers that Fagan is whipping up all this moral snarkiness out of ideology that has nothing to do with that old time religion. Fagan’s sentence reads: “If students were truly standing up to the PC police, they’d dare to say … a man is not a woman just because he thinks he is.” OK. Now I understand what’s going on here. See if you can detect any particular ideologies in these headlines of recent Fagan editorials:

“Kenner mayor deserves credit for speaking out against Nike, Kaepernick” — Sept. 15.

“Before dropping hammer on ICE agents, remember they’re Americans, too” — Aug. 25.

“Want food stamps in Louisiana? Get a job.” — Aug. 4. 

“Conservatives targeted as evil by liberals” — July 3.

I just got Fagan a whole bunch of new readers by listing those headlines. OK. Back to the Neck.

After the LSU game, there was a huge Louisiana story when students at a Parkview Baptist volleyball game broke out into the Neck chant. Students who heard the chant, it was reported, laughed or said, “oh.” I’m going to guess that Parkview Baptist offers moral instruction, which in this case was not sufficient to overcome the eternal adolescent obsession with any term related to sex. 

But you can see how it might happen. I mean, at any school, it’s going to be the volleyball players who are the real toughs. They’re always going to be the ones who are getting in trouble: the thug gang you hope not to come upon in a dark hallway.

At 1:30 pm on the Thursday after the LSU game, as Louisiana press coverage of the chant piled up, Advocate business writer Sam Karlin Tweeted: “The ‘Neck’ news cycle is relentless.”

He probably Tweeted that because LSU athletic director Joe Alleva had just released an open letter about the Neck crisis. There comes a time in any media event about some silly incident when an authority figure does something to bring actual news into the picture. Alleva was the figure in this case. 

Advising students to “keep it clean,” Alleva said, “chants and cheers that blatantly offend rather than inspire do not represent what LSU is all about …”

Alleva’s words may strike a chord. Or they may go unheeded. For years, LSU officials have been distributing literature encouraging students to stop using the chant. That literature has had exactly the effect one would expect. A sure way of guaranteeing that a young adult will keep on doing something is to tell him he should not do it. 

The Nadir Of Silliness

The low point of the media silliness about the Neck was reached when some great moralist waxed indignant about the Advocate using the headline “Afternoon Delight” to describe the Tigers’ victory over Georgia. The Advocate ran this curious diatribe as a letter to the editor. Let’s take a look:

“Students will act like young people because they are, as evidenced by the yelling of off-color chants by students at LSU football games. What is the excuse of the editors at The Advocate? I did not know what to make of the headline of Sunday’s front page, ‘Afternoon Delight,’ except to assume there was some connection to the song made popular by the Starland Vocal Band in 1976.

“Although most fans no doubt found the game an almost orgasmic experience, I’m not sure that was sufficient reason to use a song title that most understand has a sexual connotation as the front-page headline the next morning …”

That was penned by one Mercedes Doré of Plaquemine. You may not be surprised to learn that she describes herself as “retired.” Let’s do some more unpacking.

Doré argues that “Afternoon Delight” is “a song title that most understand has a sexual connotation.” She could have been stronger than that. Anyone who listens to the song’s lyrics will see that the song is about sex and nothing but sex. It shares that characteristic with 500 million other pop songs.

But truth be told, I found Doré’s use of the phrase “an almost orgasmic experience” much more directly sexual than the Advocate’s reference to a pop fluff ditty. Doré is the self-appointed moral arbiter here. What’s she doing using language like “an almost orgasmic experience”? Physician, heal thyself! 

The only problem with the Advocate headline is that it’s not going to mean anything to anybody under 35. How big a problem that is I leave it to the reader to judge.

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