Holly Mailey Kelly currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, pursuing her Masters in Fine Arts, Sculpture at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Before moving to Tennessee, she worked as an artist assistant in Minneapolis, Minnesota, creating large-scale public artwork. Kelly has also assisted multiple artists in the Boston, Massachusetts area, as well as being employed by an art foundry in Chelsea, Massachusetts. 

Artist Statement for Cast Iron Work 

Iron is a universal language. There is no single culture that can claim responsibility for the knowledge and power it holds today. Iron’s inherent qualities put it at the core of the industry. It is valued for its strength, adaptability, and abundance. It is common in both home and factory. As the foundation of almost all developed societies, seen in building materials, decoration, and everyday household objects, iron has become an undeniable presence in our world.

Iron is transformative. The material has influenced me both personally and in my object making. The practice of casting iron changed my existence, providing me a community and culture with which I relate. This allowed me to express my viewpoint through a metamorphic material with a deep history and extensive community. Physically iron moves from a solid form to a molten liquid to an embodiment of artwork. For most, this is a significant transformation both in state and aesthetics. Instead, I rely on the objects we break and melt to be reborn only slightly changed.

Iron is self-reflexive. My most recent work is a postmodern articulation of historical and traditional objects. Using the casting process, I transfigure everyday items into non-functional art objects that playfully yet critically examine contemporary social issues. Embedded in these forms are inherent allusions to work and human habitation, as well as class, gender, industrial history, and personal relationships. Some of these familiar and mundane pieces of our culture that I have appropriated have been park benches, stoves, ladles, and irons. Obstructing the audience from seeing these objects the way they want, instead and forcing people to concede utilitarian abstraction, is my way of teasing and playing with the viewer. By altering and subverting their intended purposes so they are just off enough, I am creating a cultural discourse through one of the world’s most overlooked materials.