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Witness to an Apparition
Sculpture by
Kelly Garrett Rathbone

Kelly Garrett Rathbone - After Bernini (detail) - Photograph Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   After Bernini   (detail)   terra cotta, glazes and sculpted glass

An Ongoing Conversation

It started with an email from an artist. More of her work in that show appeared on this page as we filled it with words. It is finished now. You can read our words or make up your own. As usual, the photos are here so you can decide for yourself.

Subject: Elbow, Shaddock, criticism, invitation
Date: June 17 2009
Kelly Garrett Rathbone:

Hello Mr. Compton, Mr. Shaddock, or Whoever may receive this at DARts,

I've been searching for art critics, writers, enthusiasts etc. because I am a sculptress that has an exhibition on display for the next two months at a space in Deep Ellum.

Looking for ways to get a review, I came across Ken Shaddock art thoughts, and ART thoughts, and was quite interested. I wanted to invite him and you to come and have a look at my work on display. It's sculpture worth a couple minutes, and besides, it stays open late and there are a few good bars around the corner to make the trip worth your while if the exhibition bores or depresses you.

I am an emerging artist. I completed a year and a half of undergrad, thus never went to graduate school, which is where I hear they beat you down with criticism to hopefully make you a better and smarter more thoughtful artist.

Art criticism is an interesting thing. Also, incredibly important in artistic development. Ken wrote some interesting things in The Elbow of Art. When I was reading what he wrote, I thought that if he saw my exhibition of work, he may find it unoriginal, unfinished, perhaps art just "existing", more craft than ART.... (or arts and craps and one of my professors use to call it).

But then, reading further, I decided I wished for his feedback either way. First of all, he mentioned indisputable ART as the ever so important classical sculpture of David; (I just returned from studying classical figurative realism in Florence for 2 years).

He went on the mention an artist that has been a leading inspiration, the filmmaker Alexandro Jodorowsky. I believe that you can pause the screen on any given scene in one of his films and find a visual sensory overload .... a painting of photography in its own right. He is an amazing artist who's work I think a lot.

When I've tried to explain my inspiration for the work in my exhibition, I speak about the power of religious iconography and it's effects on viewers, and then, if I think the person I may be talking to is "artsy" enough or whatever, I ask if they are familiar with this Jodorowsky fellow. (Everyone I have asked has said no). Anyway!, Mr. Shaddock knows of him. And one thing that I have to say about my own show: As a whole, all of the sculptures side by side together in the gallery is not the way that I envisioned them. But instead they were created to be beautiful, slightly disturbing but emotionally powerful objects that would be well-suited in the background of any given scene of Holy Mountain or Santa Sangre.......

Now, when you make it to my exhibition (please do), that you won't get to witness exploding toads. But there's an amputee, and giant heads that cry tears. Or perhaps, to be more Jodorowsky appropriate, they should cry blood or milk.

I would be honored and so appreciative if you might stop by and see what I've made. I just want my art to be seen and I want feedback. The show is titled APPARIZIONE, TESTIMONE. It's at Hal Samples Gallery located 2814 Main Street in Deep Ellum. It's up now and will be on display until August 11. I'd be happy to meet you over there if you can stop by.

Thank you for your time.

Kelly Garrett Rathbone


Kelly Rathbone - Moses - Photograph Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   Moses   terra cotta, glazes and sculpted glass   $2,300

I replied:

It's just me, J. R.

Calling yourself a sculptress loses you points right off, because there was this thing called Women's Liberation, so people are aviators and sculptors now, not aviatrixes and sculptresses.

I went by your ... uh ... gallery Satty aft, but it was closed. You should reply with times the place is actually open. I tried to go and see, only saw a man's head in stone on the front table and a little thing behind it. Don't know if either is yours.

Not a stirring invitation — "bores or depresses ... arts and craps" — but I've already tried once. With real open times I might try again. Cannot guarantee anybody else's participation.

Not sure what an "emerging artist" is*. I think if you were one, I might have heard your name before. It's like calling someone "world famous," if they are, they don't need to be called that, because people would already know.

When's it open? Let me know.

I forwarded her email to Ken Shaddock, pointing out the non-PC "sculptress," and he replied:

Ken: Thanks for forwarding Ms Rathbone's email. I'd be interested in seeing her sculptures but maybe without the sculptress.

Kelly Rathbone - skull and foot - Photograph Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   title unknown

Kelly replied:

Kelly: I do apologize about not providing the times the gallery is open.

I called the gallery today. They are always closed Mondays. During the week their hours are roughly noon-8pm. To make sure they are open (because it's not just a gallery, they have all sorts of events) it may be best to call ahead.

Carlos (the gallery director, is there thurs - sun) 972 351 1307

Thanks again, J R!

P.s. About sculptor/sculptress: I've lived overseas for almost half of my life. Actually moved back from living in Italy a year ago and it seems adopted using masculine, feminine for some nouns. I guess I don't have to do that here in the states. People will think I'm a raging feminist. : )

I forwarded the gallery info to Ken, who thanked me, then wrote this next email, into whose context I've put my replies, to save space:

Ken: I read DallasArtsRevue this morning ... and saw Kelly Rathbone's wonderful sculpture. Would love to do a collaboration but one problem: I am not an art critic (gulp!).

J R: Ahhh. True. But you're a good talker and a great thinker, just what would be required. You have opinions and are not reticent to state them. Everybody has opinions, but most people are too cowardly to express them publicly — literally afraid to say them or have them attributed.

Ken: You are a great art critic and writer of art critique, I am an art rube, but know what I like. I wrote down some initial thoughts during the day and emailed to myself here at home and include them below. I am open to however you might want to do this and I really want to see her work in person.

Did you have an opportunity to meet the artist? How was your experience at the gallery? I wonder if there would be any value in me going to look at her work alone, and then the two of us going together to discuss in the presence of the sculptures?

J R: Yes, met the artist. She'd love to meet you, too. She's a big fan. I'm just who answers the mail. So I'm sure she would move Earth and Mars to see you. The gallery was easy. Yup. yup. That's the way it should be.


Kelly Garrett Rathbone - Translation - Photograph Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kelly Rathbone   Translation   terra cotta, glazes   $1,500

Ken: Some random thoughts on Kelly Rathbone's "Translation:

"From the photo, first impressions, this is a gorgeous piece, can’t take my eyes off it, intricate and interesting with detail and surprises. Looks old and destroyed, as if it had been waiting at the bottom of the sea to be discovered, classical.

More surprises to find that it is a self-portrait, places more meaning in the work, what is the artist telling us about herself?

Is that hair, or has her cranium exploded to reveal her brains, or are those intestines twisting out of her head, or are those piles of feces stacked on her head? Obviously she feels her inner self cannot be contained, and she is spilling herself, revealing herself, her intelligence (brains?), her bravery (guts?), her contempt for conformity (piles of shit?).

J R: Hair, I think. It is beautiful, but disconcerting. With art, disconcerting leads to questions, maybe answers.

Ken: The dual faces: her male aspect, with horns obviously Pan looking to heaven, and the female, with tongue protruding from between her lips to suggest an inviting vulva and eyes cast to her lover.

J R: I was thinking good and bad sides. not nec mal/fem. dunno.

Ken: I forget that this is a sculpture and now I am looking at the artist, her face is flipping back and forth between this Pan and her tongue sticking-out face, pasty and ancient. The artist becomes the brave revelator, courageously opening a secret spot of truth, the artist shares animus with the viewer, and creates a thing of beauty. This is what I am. This is who I am. 

J R: She's in most of her works. Artists often do that because they're almost always around, but this feels excessive, showy-offy.

Ken: The ornate design at the base is perfect, lends a feel of elegance, grounds the work in something formal and symmetrical.

J R: Might even be a tat.

Ken: My belief is that good art is, like an effective right hook to the jaw, preverbal, and shouldn’t require too much talking about. Unless, of course, you want to talk about it, or have a lot to say, or just like to talk a lot and don’t really have a lot to say and others indulge you.

J R: Artists talk. about their work. about other people's art. about each other. about anything. artists are curious people. they talk about materials, concepts, everything. You and i get together at the gallery, we can do good for a half hour. edit later. until we're happy, and it's short enough. or long enough.

Kelly Garrett Rathbone -

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   Madona and Child   (extreme detail)
terra cotta, sculpted glass and gold luster

Then comes this from Ken.

Ken: Been looking over the photos you attached yesterday and gathering thoughts; I want to see these sculptures in person.

My mind keeps going back to some lines in Kelly's original email: "And one thing that I have to say about my own show: As a whole, all of the sculptures side by side together in the gallery is not the way that I envisioned them." Hm.

I'm not sure what to make of that, or if I should make anything of that. I'm taking her to mean that each work should be considered as an individual "artifact" of a particular state of mind that existed for her at the moment she created the work, and not as part of a collection represented by the items it happens to be surrounded by in the Hal Samples Gallery.

She goes on to say that she envisions her works as "objects that would be well-suited in the background of any given scene of Holy Mountain or Santa Sangre," in other words, as part of a scene, or perhaps tableau, perhaps the same way I view much of my own work.

Certainly this collection represents a body of work, as she maintains a consistency of style and expertise throughout all the pieces. But I guess that is mainly an issue of workmanship, if I can use that word. Maybe what she is referring to is inspiration, or even something much more enigmatic, intent. Hm. I think I just confused myself.

I replied.

J R: Confusion in the face of new art seems appropriate. Perhaps ideal. Some time ago I reviewed a show by Frances Bagley, and she later commended me publicly for asking more questions about those objects than giving answers, not that I had any.

Questioning everything is important in art criticism. Anyone who believes there are objective truths or correct answers are deluding themselves.

Being confused starts the process. Asking questions is needful. Figuring out our own answers continues the endeavor. Probably no two perceivers will have the same answers.

I don't believe that artists, the makers, have any particular skill in defining what they have made. It's fun to share their rationales, their hopes and guesses and back-stories, but they aren't experts in interpretation. They just make the stuff.

What they say about their work is mostly meaningless. It is the perceivers who decide. I have long seriously disagreed with what historic criticism has decided about certain chunks of art. We're all just guessing in the wind.

What makes art-crit worth making and reading is that everybody's take is different.

When Roger Ebert was still verbal and reviewing movies — his reviews are still out there guiding me — I knew if he liked something, I probably would also. Picking critics of any medium is a matter of finding one that we mostly agree with or find their questions worth asking.

There's really no reason to keep introducing text like this. It's just us talking, albeit via email.


Weeping Wisman #5 by Kelly Rathbone

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   Weeping Wiseman #5
terra cotta, glazes and melting ice   $2,300

Ken: Well, I went to Hal Samples Gallery and spent something over a hour and a half there, talking with Hal and Stacey, looking over the sculptures and taking copious notes on just about everything that could have notes taken on it, and then looking some more to make sure I hadn't missed anything and wishing I was rich and could buy the whole bunch but that would just be selfish, wouldn't it? Wouldn't want to be accused of being selfish, or rich.

The crying wise men weren't crying today, but by a clever mechanism, ice can be placed in the top of the sculpture and as it melts, the water drips out the eyes and the sculptures cry. I don't know why Kelly hasn't made the next logical move, to create a beautiful stigmata with Big Red using a similar technique, although she seems to be more into phantom limbs (more about this later).

This sounds like I'm making fun of her, but I'm actually quite serious. If she truly sees herself as an acolyte of Jodorowsky, then a little over-the-top behavior is definitely in order. After all, Alejandro used to throw live turtles into audiences during his performance art events. Hard to top live turtles.

I'm trying to place Kelly's work within the surrealist context, as that is where she seems to want to place herself. Let's see, those surrealists persons started with dreams and the unconscious, and then moved off from there.

Weeping Wiseman

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   Weeping Wiseman 2
terra cotta, glazes and gold luster   $2,300 


Ken: Some themes begin to emerge if you look at someone's work until you are cross-eyed, until you are no longer thinking rationally about terra cotta glazes or sculpted glass or gold luster and yes by god that wise man's hair really does look like his intestines wrapped around his neck, and why should wise men be weeping anyway? Why would men weep in their wisdom, with their guts hanging around their necks? Did they seek the baby Jesus? Or did they find the baby Jesus?

Baby Jesus does not suffer as does his poor mother, who is portrayed in Kelly's work often with phantom limbs, symbolized by glass arms and hands or fingers. Mary is an amputee, handicapped, the Holy Mother is not whole; perhaps this is why the wise men weep. One objective of the surrealists was to scandalize and to shock: these blasphemous amputee images cruise under the radar, ready to collide with some unsuspecting art consumer. And what more do these phantom limbs reveal?

Getting close to my bedtime, perchance to dream...

J R: Like in the Jodorowsky movie (The Holy Mountain) we saw after Rathbone's initial email, I keep looking for some unifying principle, some deeper meaning, personal iconography or context, instead of images run together like in that too-purposely bizarre 70s movie created through his LSD haze.

Surreality for its own sake.

A real departure from tradition emerges from an intimate knowledge of established materials and form, not sticking them together for effect.


Kelly RAthbone - Madonna

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   Madona and Child
terra cotta, sculpted glass and gold luster

Here are too many answers and too few questions. This is the work of a young artist — not emerging — seeking visual excitement without letting it flow. No shocks or amazement here. Competent but not thrilling.

Many believe an emerging artist is one who is just beginning. I disagree. A true, emerging artist is one who is becoming important and influential. If Kelly Rathbone were an emerging Dallas artist, many of us would know her name and work.

The more I look, the less I care. Too much of it seems glib, and despite the intimately molded self-portrayals, lacking in first-person involvement. Who is she to all this? I get the juxtaposition of disparate mediums, but the work doesn't need it. Components clunked-together that often becomes conspicuous.

There's craft in this — skills involved, but not enough to unify or excite. The juxtapositions more important here than integrating concepts. We have often well-sculpted classical shapes and characters in service to ... I'm not sure what.

I love After Bernini's glass hand top of this page. Yearning, delicately reaching, but it is too fragile to hold anything. If it works as art, it is because the connecting tissue hides in that oxidizing blue blanket. Sleight of arm. I like its parts better than the whole.

Likewise the sculpted glass forearms, wrists and hands on the Madona and Child. The fat baby Jesus seems real and reaching, but His unidealized new mother seems unlikely to nurture, and those slight, transparent hands incapable of holding Him.

The most ungainly conglom is this exhibition's eponymous yet apish Apparizone,

apparition: the appearance of something remarkable, unexpected

another revealing self-portrait floating uncomfortably before a modular sculpted blue proscenium that holds my attention more than the figure in front of it, perhaps because it is proportional. Real arms don't look like that, though her other parts hold together.

Not sure what the void behind is, but I like it as deep space and her zero-grav floating towards us. She might have pulled it off with just one set of disjointed extremities, but arms and legs along with Black and White skins may be too discontinuous. The legs blend while the translucent arms and elbows hang ungainly on disproportionate upper arms.

I don't want to put her work down out of hand, because there's work here I really like and hope to write more about. But why the sudden, intra-body medium changes?

I'll have to think about that.

Kelly Garrett Rathbone - Apparizone

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   Apparizone   terra cotta, glazes and sculpted glass


Ken: "Who is she to all this?"... "We have often well-sculpted classical shapes and characters in service to ... I'm not sure what." Mystery.

Yes the glass hands, glass arms, glass fingers, these bother me as well. They are the discontinuous element in this world; they don’t really belong and they are not needed. At least not connected as they are to the figures. The juxtaposition is jarring.

So why are they there? Interestingly, I am told by Stacey, at the gallery, that the arms are attached magnetically, and can be removed “for installation,” so I presume that if I bought the piece, I could remove them, for display and viewing.

I would like to see the arms mounted next to their owner, and titled “Phantom Arms of the Madona.”

I have been searching for this unifying theme as well, and think I may have some clue, though it may be as accidental on the artist’s part and reflect the stage of artistic development that she has achieved as it reflects psychological projections of my own on her work. I keep returning to her self-proclaimed surrealist impulse, and its dream component, and how we experience the dream world. Which may answer your perplexing question I repeated at the first of this email. But not so fast ...

She wants those arms to go away, but at the same time she wants us to know that they are not nurturing, in fact they are reptilian, snake-like. And on Madona and Child I believe the very point is that the arms do not nurture. In fact the arms do not exist, at least not in any substantial form. This Mother is incapable of normal physical touch, and frankly, she doesn’t look like she cares that much anyway. I think the arms would look much better hanging below the piece, connected by strings. 

I do love the faces on these female figures, peering far into the distance, as if they were trying to make out that tiny dancer on the JumboTron or more likely some ghostly figure floating by in an otherly void, disconnected, disinterested, but strangely desirable despite their aloof and obvious spiritual unavailability. Are we tapping into the artist yet?

Kelly Garrett Rathbone - Weeping Wisemen 3 & 4 - Photograph Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   Weeping Wiseman #3 and #4   terra cotta, glazes 


And I keep going back to those wise men. Can't stop thinking about those wise men. The other obvious reason the wise men weep is because they have no bodies! Surrounded by voluptuous naked floating women and the wise men have no bodies! I am not particularly wise and I would certainly weep! The only males to be seen here are babies, and they are by and large unsatisfied even in their attempts to gain a lip lock for milk.

We have yet to explore the role of religious iconography in her work. Obviously we are dealing with religious figures here, Madonnas and Moses and little baby Jesus and wise men. But how does she expect her treatments of these images to impact her viewers? In her original email she says this is a central interest for her.

What is the nature of the internal universe that she has created in her mind that informs these works and makes them legitimate within the structure of that universe? How does this internal universe of the artist relate to religious iconography, and does her art help us to understand it? I think here we must make fantastic leaps of speculation, for she may not know these answers herself, but since my own work involves its own theory of religious art, it intrigues me.

And so back to the big Mystery, since religion is all about the big Mystery. A marriage of the unconscious, dream content, and images born of the big Mystery: where does that take us?

Or am I wandering too far afield here....?

J R: No. You're on a right track. Interesting follow-through — or ricochet. Good direction to explore, this religiosity. I'll be interested in what you come up with, Mr. Red Pope.

I am beginning to understand that this email tit & tat may be the best way to handle our dialog about the sculptress' work. This method that we've fallen into. I'm not certain there's any more need for getting together in the gallery than any of these figures in Kelly's tableau need worthless misshapen glass arms and hands.

Moments ago, I was browsing through NOMA's (New Orleans Museum of Art's Arts Quarterly they've been sending me since DARts was Texas Arts Revue), reading in Heather Lemoneds' Making the Invisible: Seeing What the Artist Has in Mind that:

“What many abstract artists have in common is a desire to capture something essential, to apprehend that which is fundamentally incomprehensible. In effect, they seek not to reproduce the world around us but to make visible the invisible.“

Abstract artists are hardly the only ones who attempt to capture incomprehensible essences. Otherwise, I'd happily Radar "What she said," except I don't think this artist quite understands or conveys anything that esoteric.

Kelly Garrett Rathbone - Testimone

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   Testimone   terra cotta, wood and glazes

J R: The piece I find most interesting, aesthetic, narrative is this pocked, scarred and bleeding female torso plunked haphazardly on the sign-in table inside the front window like an afterthought delivered once the show whose name this witness' title is half of was placed and hung. A good place to witness the show.

What remains of another sculptress clone crowns a rough, dark, 5-board pier and is cinched by a thick, grain-striated wood belt. She is pierced, not with tiny arrows, as I first assumed, but with what looks like scaled-down yellow #2 pencils (although not upon further perusal). I thought it might be a subtle reference to the artist skewered by critics?

Is that nonplussed disgust playing across her textured staring face?

I first encountered this obscured in shadow when I stopped at the gallery on the off chance it would be open late on a Saturday afternoon. Failing any other communication with the art there, I photographed Moses on the day-lighted edge of the table and later placed it atop the Gallery Information Page, where art-space-related enigmas sometimes rest.

This witness can only watch.

Ken and I thought we'd have to meet in the gallery to record our review, but this email tit & tat process we've fallen into is more efficient, albeit less personal.

Kelly Garrett Rathbone - Golden Child

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   Golden Child  
gold luster, velvet, antique plate and tooth


“When I've tried to explain my inspiration for the work in my exhibition, I speak about the power of religious iconography and its effects on viewers.”

— Kelly Garrett Rathbone

Ken: And so Kelly opens the door to our exploration of inspiration and the artistic and psychological issues attendant to inspiration.

I think we can safely conclude that she feels the "power of religious iconography" and that its effect is mighty on her, which is a good thing in my book. Means she understands her intended audience, in this instance, that would be me. If that taints my objectivity, well, I never claimed to be objective; I will not write reviews with raisins in my nose.

At first blush the use of religious iconography seems pretty straightforward. Semi-naked Madonnas float in the air. Little Baby Jesse. Moses. Red angel wings on a china plate. A crucified Jesus on a three-headed bird. The usual.

But what are we to make of these images? My own take on religious art can be reduced to one piece of sculpture that I find to be especially revealing, not only about religious art, but about the psychology of religion itself. If you are a very nervous person, or still use Brylcreem, you may want to skip this next part.

While not strictly an example of religious iconography in the narrow sort of way we seem to be using the term here, Gian Lorenzo Bernini's St. Teresa in Ecstasy, a marble and gilt bronze sculpture in the Cornaro Chapel in Rome, is a Baroque masterpiece, plus it's life size so you know it's damned heavy. Bernini is nothing if not subtle with St. Teri, as we here in the Grove like to call her when she drops in.

Kelly Rathbone - After Bernini - Photograph Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   After Bernini  
terra cotta, glazes and sculpted glass   $2,700


St. Teresa was a Spanish mystic who had trances in which she saw heaven and hell and was visited by angels and once attended an Ozzie Osborne concert 350 years before Ozzie was born. Bernini sculpted St. Teresa as she was in the midst of an ecstatic vision (don't know if this was the Ozzie concert or not), being penetrated repeatedly with a flaming golden spear held by a smiling angel-lad. To quote the mystic:

“The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease .... This is not a physical, but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it — even a considerable share.”

The sculpture is, of course, incredible. But if there is not an implied sexual message here, then I am a blind beggar man. St. Teresa is diggin' it! Angel-boy is diggin' it! Everybody in the mid-1600s knew what was going on here and they were diggin' it, and they got to see it in church!

This is not your old "be fruitful and multiply" sermon, this is sexuospiritual (I just made that word up, I think you know what it means) ecstasy pure and simple, young female mystic with fine angel-boy. The pursuit of ecstasy was the forte of the religious elite, and of course the art reflected this. What an incredible recruiting tool! Jesse may be the bridegroom, but those fine angel-boys have got some fine flaming golden spears, and since they are not really human, well...

Ecstasy. So I got a little carried away there. Like a giant Venn diagram, all religious thought seems to intersect at this point. What is the point of God, if not to ensure an ecstatic hell-free afterlife?

So are we talking about the suggestion of an ecstatic state reflected in this art? These figures peer into the void at .... what? Do they gaze outward, or do they gaze inward? If these figures are in fact tripping, then all these physical distortions are explained; the viewer is the witness to the physical manifestation of the sculpture's ecstatic state, experiencing the modifications of the figures's body even as the sculpture would experience it, were the sculpture a living thing. The viewer is, in effect, placed on the inside of the work, and becomes the perceiver, inside looking out.

Kelly Rathbone - Companion

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   Companion
terra cotta, glazes and gold luster



email address on the Contact Us page

J R and Ken,

Just back from the Italy studio. 5 new pieces. Took three days off from work and went to Venice to see the Biennale. Should have taken a month ... it was entirely too much to see and comprehend (or not) in the time I was there.

Ken mentioned his project with you, J R — the "dialogue" about the work of sculptor Kelly (even in Italy these past 30 years, I've never referred to myself as a sculptress. The word has a bad, hissing sound, doncha think?) I read it.

Neither of you mention that the work is very reflective of the 16th Century sculpture the artist was looking at during her years in Firenze (interesting — she used the European femininize form of sculptor — sculptress, but uses the English word for Firenze — Florence!)

Got tedious toward the end. You two don't talk like that in person. I'd rather have been in on a real-time, real person conversation with you both — in the gallery — maybe with the artist. Anyway. Here's something to consider in reference to looking at and talking about art....

“For the artist, I think, as for the public, no such thing as art exists; it only exists for the critics and those who live in the forebrain. Artist and public simply register, like a seismograph, an electromagnetic charge which can't be rationalized.

One only knows that a transmission of sorts goes on, true or false, successful or unsuccessful, according to chance. But to try to break down the elements and nose them over — one gets nowhere. I suspect this approach to art is common to all those who cannot surrender themselves to it!”

— From Mountolive by Lawrence Durrell

Paradox. Anyway, DallasArtsRevue and you (both) are still worth the price!!!


NOTE: This story began as a collaboration, because Ken said he didn't feel qualified to write it alone, even though the artist asked him to. If he had he could have said what he wanted said, and not be so angry with me for saying what I said that this story ended our till-then long friendship.

I would have been happy to have butted out of it altogether or removed my great hunks of it, but he would not tell me what he did and did not like. I liked what he wrote and wish I could rewrite the whole thing the way he should have written it. Eventually, he excused himself, saying he was a poor communicator. That was the last thing he said to me.

A story is not worth a friendship. I'm sorry I let this thing happen. I never understood Rathbone's work. I did not appreciate it as I Ken did. I tried to fill in as Ken insisted. I should not have.

J R Compton

Orbs - Photograph Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

orbs from Madona Holding Child by Kelly Rathbone

Ken insisted I write some sort of wrap-up for our supposedly collaborative story. Before that he seemed okay with the story. After that… Well, there was no after that.

J R: Yeah, Santa Teresa has been getting it on with the Archangel Michael for the last four and half centuries — follow her precisely pointed right finger for what she wants. It is less obvious, however, that Kelly's work — even those with faraway eyes — is either religious or spiritual, despite the the artist's repetitive nakidity.

Saying it is, does not make it so, but if any of those other religio-ecstatica allusions were accurate, maybe Testimone [above] depicts The Martyrdom of St. Kelly of Rathbone by the Critics of The Trinity River Congregation.

Perhaps there is something to the theory that the Wise Men are key to understanding this exhibition. They are noticeably different from the others, even the ones we haven't tapped into. Maybe especially those. But of the figurative work, the Weeping Wisemen are hefty, bulbous, and their beards are lumpy and massive, as unlike hair as a beard made of anything but clay can be, although I never once thought of them as extruded gut.  

Kelly Rathbone - Weeping Wiseman - Photograph Copyright 2009 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kelly Garrett Rathbone   Weeping Wiseman 1
terra cotta, glazes and sculpted glass   $2,400


They are old, bodiless but bulky guys of differing races. Tthe Indian has a skin-tight red rectangle over his eyes, like an even squarer Lone Ranger. The wise weepers drip ice water tears.

Everybody else in the show, except the dogs, angels and kids, is Kelly. Kelly white, Kelly black, Kelly duo-tone, Kelly in glass or terra-cotta. If you need it spelled out, tough. Those are the fundamental and incomprehensible essentials artists tell in their visual stories.

I feel no need to understand all the niggling details and connections. If these are mysteries, I want them unparsed, and their incomprehensibles uncomprehended. I don't want to take out the magic.

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