Meet the Artists: Joe Kelly and Jeff de Boer
Joe Kelly is a Newfoundland-born and Calgary-based filmmaker and media artist with a large body of media art, encompassing film, video, installation and performance. He’s exhibited installations and films in galleries and at festivals all over the world and guest lecturing at post secondary schools across North America. Studying film and video at the Quickdraw Animation Society and the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers. Joe works primarily with film and video, and has completed and screened many films on super 8, 16 and 35mm formats.
Highly active in the Calgary media arts community, Joe has participated in mentorship projects with EMMEDIA Production Society and making documentaries and educational videos for non-profit organizations like Vecova, and the Calgary Drop In Centre.
Jeff de Boer is a Calgary-based multi-media artist with an international reputation for producing highly original and well-crafted works of art. With an emphasis on metal, he is known for such bodies of work as suits of armour for cats and mice, armour ties and sword-handled briefcases, rocket lamps and pop culture ray guns, and exquisite abstract works called exoforms. Calgarians may best recognize Jeff’s many, large-scale public art sculptures like When Aviation Was Young (Calgary Airport), Rainbow (Stampede Park) and The Cowboys (CrossIron Mills).
The son of a tinsmith, Jeff was introduced to metal work from an early age. In the years following high school he studied his craft both independently and alongside a blacksmith before enrolling in the jewelry design program at the Alberta College of Art and Design. By 1986, Jeff created the world’s first and only suit of armour for a mouse, combining his new jewelry construction skills with his knowledge of armour-making. After graduating from ACAD in 1988 de Boer began establishing himself as a professional artist and by the fall of 1994, Jeff opened “Articulation”, a solo exhibition of some 140 works created over 8 years.
Working together, Jeff and Joe have submitted a kinetic sculpture proposal to create an acrobatic praxinoscope for the Historic Grand Entranceway cSPACE King Edward. When asked to summarize the proposed public art project Joe describes it as “a sculptural piece of pre-cinema media art that spans the history of the building and thematically embodies play, vitality, education and art.”
We caught up with Joe and Jeff to dig a little deeper into what inspires them and keeps him busy. Here’s what we learned:
Q: Besides your art practice, are you involved in any other kind of work?
Joe: I often make documentaries and educational videos for non profits.
Jeff: I teach, mentor and work on many projects such as wearable technology. And often lecture on professionalism in the arts.
Q: What mediums do you work with? How would you describe your subject matter? What themes seem to occur/reoccur in your work?
Joe: My medium is media art and the subject matter is the history of media and technology, the trailing and the leading edge of technology. How technology has affected our sense of memory and time is a theme that seems to reoccur.
Jeff: Though my main medium is metal, I would call myself a multi-media artist. My subject matter is random depending on the context of a project. My major theme throughout my work is the quest to arrive at a balance between something that is beautiful, that is well made and meaningful, something that connects people of all ages and artistic background.
Q: Pretend you’re pitching your cSPACE King Edward public art proposal in an ‘elevator pitch’: How would you describe the concept in just a few sentences?
Joe: A sculptural piece of pre-cinema media art that spans the history of the building, thematically it embodies play, vitality, education and art.
Jeff: The sculpture that Joe and I designed for cSPACE is intended to be a magical device to inspire the viewer to want to become creative. It is also intended to be an architectural feature that not only complements the building but looks like a combination of sculpture and light fixture.
Q: What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
Joe: Rebecca Solnit, River of Shadows
Jeff: I am always reading eastern philosophy books and watching science and history documentaries.
Q: What are your biggest challenges to creating art and how do you deal with them? How do you navigate the art world?
Joe: Finding time, I have a 4 year old and a small business, keeps me very busy.
Jeff: My biggest challenge is always defending the cost and value of my work. I deal with it by taking the time to explain the value of what I do. I navigate the art world by presenting myself as a professional of value equal to any other professional, such as architects and engineers.
Q: What advice has influenced you?
Joe: To be a thoughtful artist. Think about your work and think about the viewer looking at it.
Jeff: The words of my mentor, Art Froese, on the subject of project management, “Your word is your bond, never assume anything, make sure you are not solving the wrong problem, you can’t afford to do things cheaply.”
Q: What do you think cSPACE King Edward will mean for the Calgary community?
Joe: It should have a very positive impact: culture, creation, vitality and community in one convenient location.
Jeff: Whenever you have a sustainable place for creative people to gather and share ideas there is an opportunity to not just make great art, but also to bring meaning and purpose to the greater community. Places like cSPACE can change lives and culture.