There are so many incredibly interesting things to say about Kelly. I wouldn't really know where to begin if I were to try to mention them all. Please read this article by Bill Hankins and you'll see what I mean.
I had never met Kelly and basically made a "cold call" to ask if she'd be be part of the doll project.
Am I ever glad she said yes. I am learning a lot from this woman, I continue to be blown away by her work and I am grateful to finally have made her acquaintance.
Kelly chose to transmute her banana fiber doll into an "Intercessor." The Intercessors make up a body of work that has become an outlet for her environmental concerns; Kelly honors endangered species and through her artwork brings their plight to the attention of all the rest of us. This Crowned Crane, the national bird of Uganda, is a fitting contribution to our doll project. See other Intercessors (and more of her work) at Kelly's website, Diddy-Wa-Diddy.
The case mask (in Hopi Kachina fashion) is made of leather, from a pattern Kelly drew. It is hand sewn and painted. The dress is the color of a crane's body with the words Uganda and Vulnerable (a reference to the birds AND to the children) painted on the front. To make the dress, Kelly sketched a pattern and sewed it by hand from salvaged vintage fabric. The dyed horsehair represents the tall, stiff feathers of the crane's head - that which gives the appearance of a crown.
About Kelly, in her own words:
“I am a native Missourian and self-taught mixed media artist. For twenty plus years, I have beaded and hand-sewn figures and jewelry. My "art supplies" include European glass seed beads, discarded ephemera and bits of bric-a-brac from past generations. I combine holy emblems and relics with assorted trifles from day-to-day living, often adding written narrative as the new creation comes to life. In this way, the mundane becomes sacred as disparate and unlikely remnants evolve into hand-made figures.
In the 1980s, I began creating pieces for private commission, followed by juried art shows and fairs across America. Since then, museums, galleries, and boutiques that have carried my work include the American Folk Art Museum (New York City), Doodlets (Santa Fe, New Mexico), and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan, Wisconsin). From 1992 through 1995, my husband, sculptor Rhett Johnson, and I maintained our own art gallery, Diddy Wa Diddy, in the historic river town of Weston, Missouri. In 1998 Rhett and I were honored with our first retrospective show, Partners in Art, at the Toy and Miniature Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.
Since 2000, I have devoted my time and energy to creating a series of Muñecos Santos (Holy Dolls). A group of these Muñecos was on special exhibit at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art (St. Joseph, Missouri) and the International Marian Research Institute Library in Dayton, Ohio. Three of these figures appear in the book, 500 Beaded Objects (Lark Books).
I live and work in rural northwest Missouri, near the small town of Dearborn, where Rhett and I share our farm with Gus the Dog. I teach beading and narrative adventures workshops at my studio on the farm as well as for corporate clients, including Hallmark Cards. In addition to creating new pieces, I restore beadwork and stitching on antique clothing and artifacts. When working with these precious pieces I continue to be amazed and inspired by the exquisite skill and imagination of the craftswomen who came before me.”
Kelly's Crowned Crane is a special piece; it was made with a lot of care and fierce attention to detail. She is a mad researcher and even gave me a list of really interesting facts about the Crowned Crane, like... she is 3 feet tall, has a 7 foot wingspan when in flight, lives an average of 22 years and mates for life. How cool is that?
Oh, yes. Her husband, artist Rhett, made the stand for the doll. He's a whole other story!