I have been creating work about Butte for the last ten years or so and inspired by it for over 20. This current show came into focus over the last two years. If it is in focus. I am constantly trying to get to a place of unfocus. Where things are effortless and there is no me. That’s where the cracks open up and there are spaces to wander.
Like memories, some of these images are detailed and some are broad. All are themselves but also bits of other things as well. A fence from down the block here. An added shutter there. Mishmashes. Like all of us. Like the buildings themselves, as most of them were cobbled together from pieces stolen/borrowed from the mines.
Over two short/long years, what was an act of capturing has changed into preservation. Street lights have changed from warm incandescent glows to bright LEDs. Pink houses have turned a more respectable blue. Buildings are gone. More empty teeth to fill. New siding is up. The push and pull of preservation and progress continues.
I thought about what makes Butte—Butte now, Butte then. What you can see and what you can’t. The in-between spaces. The empty places. The crowded houses that are also so individual, but also the open field that grounds them.
I hope these images capture Butte, but I also hope they can step out of time. And contain memories from other places. The empty lot at the end of the block of your childhood street. The curtain that never opens on that house down the street.
The words are by Adrian Kien, if not otherwise noted. We’ve been creating work together for almost 20 years. His words bring a dimension to the work that I cannot anticipate. And finish the started sentence.
These series of drawings have nothing to do with the pandemic, but were created during this strange time that doesn't end. They are a collection of works based on the architecture and cityscapes in western and southwestern Montana. They are intimate portraits of passed-over places. I build on their exposed layers and draw upon details of the specific place, but also impart a sense of many places and many memories.
I was selected as a short stay resident at the James Castle House in Boise, Idaho. I lived and worked at the house January 17 to 27, 2020. James Castle is a fascinating figure who created enigmatic work. It was a magical time and I was able to create a small body of work based on the shed where James lived and worked for 30 years.
It is only possible to catch glimpses of James Castle’s shed due to its protective cover. I let these incidental croppings guide my focus. And then I went inside.
Its state of entropy led me to think of Gordon Matta-Clark and his work dissecting buildings. What are the important bits? What do the bones look like? The layers of the shed are laid bare. But the mysteries remain. I grasped the handle of the drawer that is holding the roof together and pulled. I color washed. I whitewashed. I mined. I added lies and sparked on truth. I added another layer of pink and shadow to help it hold together for a bit longer.
It was so loved. It is still.
The works in this collection have been rescued from the trash bin. They were created and judged inadequate: their colors awry, their solids blotchy, their registrations askew. But in these mistakes are the foundations for reimaginings. There are flowers in the bulldozers' wake.
Much like the ravaged landscapes that inspired them, each piece needed some yellow kindness and a smudged green finger tilling until they could be deemed "useable". Each had holes to fill and bridges to repair. But when is "enough"? What is "finished"? When can one live here?
This work is about opening up. About vulnerability. About glimpsing clarity and letting it irradiate your insides. It’s about color and shape and flying. Or, at least, moving, hesitantly, up the weed stalk. Or, at least, holding a pose in that direction until it hurts. “Incline the Potter-Bucky diaphragm 23 degrees towards the patient’s feet, and adjust its position so that the film is centered to the tip of his chin.” This is about Salpingitis and comparing broilers to spent hens, impacted crops and axial views. It is the bleed necklace. It is of teeth and the sacrum in the sacred yard beyond the hen house.
Inspired by Butte walkabouts and historical photographs, the work in this exhibition is a blend of contemporary buttescapes and tracers from the past. The work draws on the architecture of home and the rooted layers interred beneath. Vibrant color is used to set scenes of portentous (or fallout) skies, contrasting with an oppressive presence of mountains.
This work was shown at Enso Artspace in Boise Idaho September/October 2014.
These are snapshots of ghost facades, propped up on borrowed walls. They are assemblages of buildings excavated from photographs of the quick-to-thrive, quick-to-perish mining towns of the West. What remains in these images is the oppressive presence of the mountains, isolation, shreds of wallpaper, rust and splintered wood. Here, men sought to stake their claims, but the mountains, however wounded, reclaim everything.
Reclamation in these parts comes in the form of plants as noxious as the mercury and hoses that tore through the mountains' bellies. These plants, their colors are aggrandized, augmented and garish. Harlots belying little of their poisonous innards. In these painted get-ups, they are hardly recognizable from their field guide counterparts. These are the darlings of our Western inheritance.
This body of work was shown at Enso Artspace in June 2012. Pieces for the series also appeared at the Danforth Gallery.
Look Up features large scale drawings, paintings and small works on paper in Packer’s inventive palette of vibrant colors and forms. The exhibition includes poems by Adrian Kien that create a dialogue with the imagery. Together they explore and breathe life into the mysteries of anatomy though verse, structure, line and color.
This series consists of drawings and paintings of the unprecedented body. These studies are flashbulbs popping apart the whole. Here I am. Bye. They are Constructors derived from a Prototype, but each with their own focus and rhythm. They enjoy spending time alone, or being absorbed in the group. Stop. Progression. Stop.
Works completed during 8th Street AiR, an artist-in-residence program at the 8th Street Marketplace in downtown Boise, Idaho. The residency was from February to April 2009. I shared the space with poet Adrian Kien.
Works completed while I lived in Chambery France in 2007 and 2008. The pieces are small drawings on paper and my inspiration was my surroundings: French cityscapes from Paris to Grenoble, the French countryside and a little bit of Italy.
A collaboration of 40 drawings & poems, by Adrian Kien & Kelly Packer 2007 - 2008. Our process for this project was that I would complete a drawing and Adrian would use that as his point of departure for his poem. Together they form small prayer cards to the various saints of our choosing. Through these prayers we found access to certain strange areas between language and oil pastel rubbed over the finger. And like the meditative act of prayer - these pieces represent our communion with art and each other. The bones that make up our hands as we create will eventually decay into a powder and we will know no authority.
(2006-2007) A collaboration between Kelly Packer and Adrian Kien. In this project we are working in a loose fashion. We started with a theme centered around taxidermy and progressed independently outwards. They are drawings of animals in various fragmentary states, unfinished animals with styrofoam guts and limbs attached and wrapped with string. Layers of skin and cloth glimpse an underlying structure of wire and glue. This is about trying to hold on to life, recreating it with everyday materials. Piecing a life back together with twine, plaster and bones. It's not supposed to be pretty. But it is. A different kind of beauty. A terrifying beauty.
(2005) The monopoly paintings are based on a poem by Adrian Kien. For each stanza of the poem, I created a painting that incorporated those lines.
(2004 - present) This series deals self-portraiture in the context of contemporary abstraction. By elevating myself and those around me to saintly positions, I artificially grant us credibility, a higher status. We are all saints at certain moments of consciousness. Those instances where we see glimpses, as de Kooning says, "of something, encountered like a flash."
We may not be aware of these kairos moments between cups of coffee and clipping our toenails, but a world exists just at the edge of our consciousness. And this is the world I seek in these paintings - the moment before redemption when we feel all of our mortal weight.