5 Questions with Kelsey Wishik

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Kelsey Wishik; Photo: Jessy Cook

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Kelsey Wishik
Nominating committee: Mississippi State Committee / Consulting curator: Pat Pinson, Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center

1. What do you like best about working with metal? 

Although metal seems solid and cold, it offers a great range of malleability and receptivity to shaping processes. Different metals offer strength and softness. I enjoy the physicality of working with steel. Working with metal provides me with an outlet for physical energy.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work? 

I have been investigating form and force. I’m interested in observing universal forces and the imprints they leave on life. Such forces include things like speed, momentum, pressure, flexibility, mass, and buoyancy. These forces also enter into more ethereal realms of love, nature, compassion, culture, and exploration. Each of my pieces embodies a force or series of forces.

 3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?  

My greatest tool as an artist is curiosity. It precedes all physical tools. As I’ve grown as an artist, curiosity keeps me asking questions that bring depth to my work and to my process of creating. How can I serve with art? How can I invite uplifting, imaginative attitudes without adding to the chaos? Is this work authentic? What are my intentions?

Kelsey Wishik, Sprout, 2014; Mild steel, 17 x 50 x 22 1/2 in.; Courtesy of the artist

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence? 

They are infinite. I find inspiration through my surroundings, my intuition, and other people. I am influenced by literature, music, landscapes, and different vantage points. I am also inspired by rites of passage, especially those of the Indigenous cultures of North America. My interests include quantum physics, sci-fi, and energy fields (biological and geographical). Within the realm of women in metal arts, Lee Bontecou has always been a huge inspiration.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?  

The National Gallery in London’s paintings from 1600 to the 1700s, specifically works by Caravaggio and Vermeer, took my breath away. When I was younger and studying portraiture in art history, the subject seemed uninteresting. Seeing these portraits eye-to-eye was mesmerizing. Detailed faces from the past seemed alive. It was poignant to feel the passage of time preserved in a frame.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.