Travel through the portal with me.
To my dear, dear friends, fans, supporters, advocates, and appreciators,
I have both a lot to tell you and not much to say.
It's a strange combination.
TL;DR: I'm in an art show, I'm sharing research over zoom, and I have Long Covid.
First off, there are 2 art things to mention:
1) I am in a wonderful group show (see below) in Minneapolis at Fresh Eye Gallery called "the bed beside me." This show is only up for 2 more days (today and tomorrow!). If you can make it over there, it's a really incredible show that has been thoughtfully and carefully curated by Drew Maude-Griffen. All of the artists in the show have created our works of art from our beds. And it is a special thing to me to be able to exhibit this work with this group of artists. Why am I making art from my bed and not my studio, you might be wondering. Well, I'll get to that soon, I promise.
2) I am doing a research share out in just a couple weeks on Monday, June 26 at 7pm CDT. In this virtual presentation, I will be sharing out about the research I did this past year and a half on these secret government tests that were conducted here in Minneapolis and in my hometown of St. Louis and elsewhere in the 1950s. I would love to see your face beaming back at me while I talk about radiological weapons, Cold War secrecy, ethically fraught human tests, and how this all still reverberates today as we have seen in the myriad responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. More details about how to join the zoom at the bottom of the email.
Ok! Now that we have got the big art things on the table, I want to talk to you about some harder things.
But I'm not sure how to say it.
Do I list all my new diagnoses or symptoms for you (it’s Long Covid, in a nutshell, but also it’s myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, orthostatic intolerance, asthma, and sleep apnea)?
Do I try to tell the story in a linear way or do I stick to the present moment?
Do I share with you the hardships, the supports I’ve received, or skip that stuff altogether?
I don’t know.
And that’s partly why this newsletter didn’t get to you in a timely manner, in a way that gave you more time to see the art show I’m in. But it’s also just that everything in my life is moving at a g l a c i a l p a c e right now. And at times, I can accept that, but I also feel incredibly frustrated by it a lot of the time as well.
For people who have diagnoses like mine, the medical industrial complex doesn’t really know what to do with us. Thankfully, I have had to suffer a lot less gaslighting and disbelief than other people who had post-viral illnesses pre-Covid or who have to also suffer the racism of our medical system or who are unlucky enough to be living in a deeply covid-denying area.
Despite this, I am still sick 13 months after first my Covid-19 positive PCR, still sick even though I had 4 vaccines in my arms before getting sick and one since, still sick even though I’ve been to over 100 doctors visits, so many types of therapy, and “alternative” treatments.
I also went from working as a teaching artist with the Science Museum of MN, Eagan Art House, and COMPAS to working from home as a curriculum designer to not working at all. I joked that going to doctors visits was a part time job, but in reality, getting better became my full time job.
And while I am still sick, I am also feeling better.
Is it because my schedule is 10% of what it once was?
Is it because I’m finally “pacing” my life the way my Occupational Therapist instructed me to do a year ago - which truly took months and months to actually figure out how to counteract my incredibly honed ability to push through?
Is it the medications, the bodywork and acupuncture, and the CPAP-machine assisted sleep?
Who fucking knows. But I can appreciate that I can sit in front of my computer again for an hour or two and work on writing this without it making me sicker.
I have other thoughts to share about this journey I’m on - like how it feels to have a diagnosis (ME/chronic fatigue) that was the brunt of jokes throughout the 90s and that I absolutely did not understand until I couldn’t move my body at all, even to get out of bed. And how it feels to be newly disabled and what that means for my art practice. And how much - oh so so much - I have to learn about my own internalized ableism and how incredibly lucky we are to live in a post ADA time that disabled people organized and fought so hard to achieve, and yet, it’s also still incredibly difficult to be a disabled person in our society.
So I’m proposing that I am going to do more of these newsletters. I’m feeling jaded about social media (who isn’t?), and after these last few deeply isolating years, I want to find ways to make authentic connections again. I also feel excited to tell you about what I’m thinking about, researching, making, and offering. I’ve got lots of ideas cooking, but it’s the slow cooker version of my life, so it will take some time.
If you’ve read this far, I’m really impressed. And if you want to reach out to me just to say hello, that would be amazing. I was reading over who opened this newsletter when I sent it out last summer, and it really warmed my heart to see so many names on there, including people from all over the country, artist friends I’ve met on residencies, old pals and profs from college, and the incredible amount of friends I have who are not on social media! I’ve been reading Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism for the last few years (it’s a serious tome, y’all!), and I commend all of you who have resisted or let go of the tentacles of Meta and its ilk. Tell me your favorite thing about it, I truly want to know.
In love and solidarity,
Opening April 3, Hair + Nails Gallery
Come see my new installation, Fallout Shelter. The show will run from April 3 through May 1. Upstairs are fellow artists Kieran Myles-Andrés Tvebakk and Lamia Abukhadra. Look for my encompassing, subterranean experience in the basement of the gallery.
Fallout Shelter | Kelley Meister
April 3-May 1, 2021
Hair + Nails Gallery 2222 E 35th St., MPLS, MN 55407
Other Artists Exhibiting on Main Floor:
Kieran Myles-Andrés Tverbakk
Saturday, April 3, 7-10pm
or by appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org
Limit of 10 occupants in gallery
HEPA air filters in all rooms of the gallery
Backyard open for masked social distancing hangout during opening while waiting for limited entry into show
The exhibition is on two floors. The main floor is wheelchair accessible. The basement exhibition space is reached by 12 wooden stairs. Images and descriptions of the basement portion of the exhibition are provided. A single-stall ungendered bathroom is located in the basement.
On Wednesday, April 14 and Tuesday, April 20, I will be hosting a Live Virtual Visit at 6pm CT for anyone who wants to experience the show virtually with me. I will provide a gallery tour of the space and answer any questions. Please fill out the registration form here to attend and let me know of any accommodations you will need.
"Meister's work makes visible the invisible, and while many of the topics feel terrifying, the artist also wants people to feel connected and empowered through community engagement."
- Alicia Eler, Star Tribune
Upcoming: Art(ists) on the Verge Summer 2021
Postponed from 2020, the 10th Art(ists) on the Verge cohort (Candice Davis, AP Looze, Kelley Meister, and Sarah Nassif) will present our work this spring and summer. My mobile experience, Hot Zone, a 100-mile bike ride from Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant to Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant along Hahawakpa/Misi Ziipi/Mississippi River will take place in 3 segments on Saturdays throughout the summer. Participants may join up to ~15 total for each ride (TBD due to social distancing and other COVID restrictions at the time of the ride), all others will be invited to watch via live stream. We will be doing environmental monitoring of the river valley, using radiation monitoring equipment as well as our eyes, hands, and phones to draw and photograph our observations of the flora and fauna along the way.
Stay tuned for more details about how to join and/or watch! And please get in touch if this sparks any interest!
Beaming at you from the southern shores of France in the small ville of Cassis. The sea is captivating. Look! See more about my residency here > Camargo Foundation <
Beaming at you from the future to a point in the past to talk about my September 2019 artist residency at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, MN.
In case you missed it, I've got big, big drawings up at 801 N Washington Ave. in Minneapolis. I'm really proud of these giant drawings, and I really want you to get to see them in their giant glory! They're all part of my larger project, Last Vacation Before the End of the World, which is a multimedia exploration into life in the nuclear age.
801 Gallery doesn't have open hours, so if you want to come see my work (and the other 3 artists: Jaffa Aharonov, Josie Winship, and Marc Lamm), here are your options:
P.S. All work in the show is for sale!
At least It's Not a Nuclear Winter...
Come out, come out, this Saturday to see my new drawings! (SCROLL FOR DETAILS)
Find out why I'm erasing so much!
See why I've been buying all the yellows Wet Paint has to offer!