Kelli Connell: Embrace

October 11–November 8, 2020

Location: 3317 West 4th Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76107

Hours: daylight

Blind Alley projects is pleased to announce Kelli Connell: Embrace

We have been enamored with the work of Kelli Connell since first encountering Double Life

almost two decades ago. The intrigue and ambiguity of Connell’s photographs is matched only

by their sheer beauty. They offer a lonely comfort that is rich and complex, something akin to

but more than melancholy. The genuine care evident in every aspect of the works making, from

conception to presentation, elicits a connection with the artist that only enhances the

inevitable affection felt for these images and their subject. Time spent with this work is

reflective, perhaps a nod to time spent with one’s self.

With the following statement, Connell gives a generous and clear-eyed account of the nature

and history of the work seen in Embrace:

My first solo exhibition of images from this series took place at Barry Whistler Gallery in Dallas in

2002. The large-scale, color photographs in Double Life appear to document the lives of two

women in a relationship, when actually these images are digitally created montages of the same

model, Kiba Jacobson, seen doubled as she plays both characters in each scenario. Using the

computer as a tool to create a believable situation is not that different from accepting any

photograph as an object of truth, or by creating a story about two people seen laughing, making-out, or quarreling in a restaurant. This work is an honest representation of the fluidity of the self in regard to decisions about intimate relationships, sexuality, gender, family, belief systems and lifestyle options.

Kiba Jacobson and I have been working together for almost twenty years. I took these images

with her in Chicago on March 12 as news of the pandemic was spreading. Kiba was in town so

that we could record a podcast at the Museum of Contemporary Photography about Double Life. We built in time to photograph during her stay, and as we walked to make pictures at the lake that Thursday, Kiba and I passed Loyola University students moving out of their dorms. Parents carried heavy boxes to the U-Hauls attached behinds their cars. Friends frantically hugged each other on street corners. Students walked by talking feverishly into their cellphones. So quickly had their independence been swept away. So quickly had life, as they understood it, vanished. All of this was happening while a pick-up rugby match was being played in the crowded field across the street. The loud laughter and physical play, with all the sweat and touching, was a strange juxtaposition to the chaos. Kiba and I photographed at the lake together that day. I played the stand-in, as I usually do, so that later I could composite images using Photoshop. We took several pictures, not knowing that each embrace would be one of the last we would have with a friend for a long time. Friday morning, we recorded the podcast and made a few more images together that afternoon. In that short amount of time, fear grew greatly across the country. We cancelled our remaining photoshoots for the weekend, and she flew home early. Since then, I have been walking to the lake daily watching spring unfold into summer and now turn to fall. 

Kelli Connell is an artist whose work investigates sexuality, gender, identity and photographer /sitter relationships. Her work is in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los

Angeles County Museum of Art, Columbus Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and

Museum of Contemporary Photography, among others. Publications of her work include

PhotoWork: Forty Photographers on Process and Practice (Aperture), Vitamin Ph: New

Perspectives in Photography (Phaidon), Photo Art: The New World of Photography (Aperture)

and the monograph Kelli Connell: Double Life (DECODE Books). Connell has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, PLAYA, Peaked Hill Trust, LATITUDE, Light Work, and The Center for Creative Photography. Connell is an educator at Columbia College Chicago and an editor at SKYLARK EDITIONS.