Intrigued by how sensory awareness affects the experience of visual art, Kelly Jean Ohl uses texture and sound in her sculptural ceramic work to promote engagement with the senses. “This is my way of acknowledging that the work was meant to be touched. It’s part of the experience,” she states. Many of Kelly Jean’s pieces function as rattles. They remind people of things they have found on the forest floor, touched in a tide pool or viewed under a microscope. “My ceramic pieces aren’t any of these things in particular,” the artist explains. “They are small abstract objects that reference many biological entities without being any one specifically.”
Kelly Jean starts her surfaces with applied textiles, kitchen utensils and household tools. Each piece is hand carved, burnished and sanded, going through multiple firings as layers of hand-painted oxides are applied. “Texture is a great way to invite the viewer to use their senses other than sight to experience my work, not only to look but to touch and listen and explore the work in ways we are often not encouraged to,” says the artist. “When someone picks up one of my pieces they see the detailed carving, feel the unique tactile quality of the surface and then also realize that the piece makes sounds.”
Kelly Jean holds an MFA from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and an MA from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has won multiple grants for her work, which has been featured in several solo exhibitions. Her clay pieces are included in the collections of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Ann Arbor and the Touchable Art Gallery at the Duke Eye Center, Duke University, Durham, NC. Her work appears in the books Create the Space You Deserve, Jill Butler and The American Ceramic Society’s From Mud to Music. Kelly Jean lives and works in Lanesboro, MN.