Memory Ware Flat #24 and Memory Ware Flat #25, both 2001
Mixed media on wood
Lent by Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland
Mike Kelley first encountered the southern folk tradition of memory ware in 2000. He loved the way these objects evoke the joys and traumas of past lives, “disconnected morsels of information” that tell incomplete stories. He made his own memory sculptures and wall pieces (“flats”) by assembling buttons, charms, beads, badges, bottlecaps, pins, and coins in collages that combine a thrift store sensibility with the visual sophistication of abstract art. Kelley’s fascination with memory coincided with a growing public interest in repressed memories of early trauma, in the wake of child abuse scandals. Throughout his career, he used the most disarming, delightful materials to challenge authorities of every type.