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Heather Ryan Kelley

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Heather Ryan Kelley is a professor of art at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana where she teaches painting and book arts. She has a BFA in printmaking from Southern Methodist University and an MA in painting from Northwestern State University. In 2009 she established The Midden Heap Press. The press is devoted to prints, artist’s books, and collaborative ephemera related to Finnegans Wake.

Kelley’s work based upon Finnegans Wake is in the collections of Cornell University, the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection, The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, and the State University of New York at Buffalo. It has been featured in exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, The American Irish Historical Society in New York, and Antenna Gallery in New Orleans. Her retrospective titled Quiddity was presented in 2019 at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette, Louisiana. Kelley is represented by the Baton Rouge Gallery, Center for Contemporary Art.


The Midden Heap Project
Book One, pages 3-216 of Finnegans Wake

In order to create Finnegans Wake Joyce mined a personal and cultural multi-layered midden comprised of historical events, family stories, world mythologies, popular songs, jokes, children’s games, and dozens of works of literature. One reading of the Wake is that it is a massive recycling machine, transforming its sources to create a grand collage, containing fragments of nearly everything.

Collage was at the heart of Joyce’s writing methods. He wrote: “I am quite content to go down to posterity as a scissors and paste man for that seems to me a harsh, but not unjust description.” The goal of this body of work is to investigate Joyce’s methods of creation and to impart to the viewer a sense of the expansiveness and mystery of Joyce's great work. A touchstone for the Midden Heap Project is a passage from the seventh chapter of the Wake. This chapter, sometimes known as The House of the Haunted Ink Bottle, describes the house of the artist Shem. The character Shem, an “alshemist” and a stand-in for Joyce himself, transforms the objects that litter his house into art.

With this idea of transformation in mind, I am making a series of collages in response to each page of the text using as raw material my own midden of paper ephemera, found objects, etching and relief proofs, reproductions of my paintings, printed matter, and debris of the studio.

Based upon the collages are a series of artist’s books. The book pages are cropped and manipulated versions of the collages with some additions of text.

Description of elements in clamshell box
Chapters One and Two, pages 3- 47, coptic binding
The Trial of HCE, pages 48-74, accordion
Chapter Four, pages 75-103, accordion
In the Name of Annah the Allmaziful, pages 104-125, accordion
The Quiz Show, pages 126-168, deck of cards
Shem the Penman, pages 169-195, accordion
The Washers at the Ford, pages 196-216, accordion
House of the Haunted Inkbottle, audio CD, sound collage by Jonathan Nelson

Clamshell box made by Sjoerd Hofstra

Books and slipcases are printed with Epson Ultrachrome ink on Moab Entrada paper.
Each page is 5.25 x 4 inches
The edition size is eleven.


The most recent work of the Midden Heap Project is based upon the second chapter of Book Two of the Wake. Storiella is the name Joyce gave to this section, which is also known as The Study Hour. The chapter concerns the homework studies of the book’s three siblings: two warring twin brothers and their clever sister.

Roland McHugh described this section as “the chapter of the ineffables.” Joyce expands the children’s study hour far beyond mundane history, grammar, and math homework to themes that include esoterica, the kabbalah, and myth, forming one of the densest chapters in his enigmatic book.

Storiella is composed of 48 collages corresponding to the 48 pages of the chapter, pages 260-308. The collages use the format of composition notebook pages, and based upon the collages is an artist’s book bound in the manner of a school composition book.


Project Descriptions

Midden Heap Project, clamshell box - closed

Midden Heap Project, clamshell box - open

Midden Heap Project, slipcase spines

Chapters 1 and 2, coptic bound book, 5 x 4.25 x .75 inches

Detail of In the Name of Annah the Allmaziful, pages 123, 124

Shem the Penman, accordion book, 5 x 4.25 x .75 inches

The Quiz Show, cards and box, 5 x 4.25 x .75 inches

Collage, Finnegans Wake page 156, 15 x 11 inches

Storiella, 2018, artists book, 8.5 x 5.5 inches

Storiella, Finnegans Wake page 294, 8.5 x 5.5 inches

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