In Focus: Kelly Heaton’s “The Parallel Series”


Short video of Kelly Heaton’s Restless Bird Chatters, Still Bird, 2012

This is the last week to catch a fantastic exhibition of new work by one of our Emerging Fields grantees: Kelly Heaton‘s The Parallel Series at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts (closing October 27). An M.I.T.–trained artist who uses original software and found objects in her sculpture and installations, Kelly received the Creative Capital grant in 2002 for her project Bibiota, in which she dissected Tickle Me Elmo dolls, sewing them into a vibrating, bright-red, ankle-length coat.

With her latest work in The Parallel Series, Kelly has created an immersive experience of sight, sound and soul within a painterly context. Heaton’s new images literally come to life with pulsing, chirping, breathing and heartbeats. What’s truly remarkable about this work is that the noises that intermittently fill the gallery—responding to movement near each piece—are not recordings. The sounds are made by analog electronic circuits, painstakingly tweaked by the artist to reproduce sounds in nature and then attached to the surfaces of the paintings. Each piece also includes the artist’s drawings diagramming the circuitry.

The critic Jerry Saltz offered this insightful review in New York magazine:

“Sculptor, seer, scientist, spiritualist Kelly Heaton allows us to glimpse the ghost in the machine. In “The Parallel Series,” numerous small-scale, intricately wired wall-mounted abstract tangles generate sounds of the world: chirps, insect calls, rainfall, a beating heart. Mixing this with strange drawings of trees, portraits with lights and odd notations, piles of transistors and transformers, and a possessed mad-hatter intention, Heaton replicates the world while seeming to tap into the cosmic mainframe. Conjuring objects that have life but that are built to die one day makes her cryptic work akin to witnessing engineered Emily Dickinson poems come to life.”


Kelly graciously gave Creative Capital’s staff and board a tour of the show on October 10. In this video, she talks about her piece, Portrait of Jesus Christ.

Kelly demonstrated how she connects electronic circuits attached to a painting of a tree to bring the piece to life.


As she works, Heaton makes drawings of the circuits in progress, noting what worked or didn’t work, what to try next. Her sketchbook is an integral part of her creative process, and many of her finished pieces include drawings that map out the completed circuits.

Kelly Heaton: The Parallel Series is on view at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York through October 27, 2012.

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Jenny Gill

About Jenny Gill

Jenny Gill is Director of Communications at Creative Capital and editor of The Lab. Prior to joining Creative Capital in 2010, she produced educational programs and digital content for the American Craft Council. She has worked at numerous commercial and nonprofit galleries, including as Gallery Director at the University of the South (Sewanee, TN), Gallery Manager at Joan B. Mirviss Ltd. (New York) and Assistant Curator at Vanderbilt University’s Fine Arts Gallery (Nashville, TN). She also worked as a letterpress designer/printer at the historic Hatch Show Print, studied at the International Workshop for Ceramic Art in Tokoname, Japan, and was an artist assistant for Nashville sculptor Alan LeQuire. Jenny holds a BA in art and art history from Vanderbilt University, where she was awarded the Hamblet Award for studio art, and an MA from Bard Graduate Center for Decorative Arts, Design and Culture.

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