Kelly McCallum graduated from the Goldsmithing department at the Royal College of Art; a jeweller’s interest in scale and attention to detail is apparent in her sculptural pieces. Her work is influenced by both story-telling and natural history, employing Victorian taxidermy as well as insects, precious metals, and other found objects, culminating in artworks that are disturbingly beautiful.
‘I’m fascinated by insects feeding on death, and boundaries between life, metamorphosis and rebirth. You could say my work is a reflection on time ticking away’. Her current series of saddled birds explores the anthropomorphic potential in the animals she re-fashions, plundering the human narrative attached to animals with otherwise uninhabited personas.
She has exhibited across the globe, including Canada, the United States, France, Korea, and Poland, as well as here in the UK where she was featured in the critically acclaimed Telling Tales exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her work is innovative, as it refuses to fit easily into one category; it is conceptual, and challenges the viewer’s assumptions and preconceptions.
Starting at a young age Kelly found beauty in almost anything. She enjoys natural history, which is what prompted her degree in science. Her studies at RISD began in photography, a subject she has always admired. She enjoys works by Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Mark Ryden, Frida Kahlo, David Wojnarowicz, Annette Messager, Joel-Peter Witkin and Simon Ward. Comparisons may also be drawn between the Victorian taxidermy works left by Walter Potter and Kelly's own whimsical creations.
Aside from the full-scale use of Victorian taxidermy, Kelly has made numerous wearable pieces of art in her jewelry. Her attention to detail is impeccable and ultimately the hands-on aspect of creating is what prompted her to go back to RISD and study metalsmithing. Despite her multi-layered CV, the use of taxidermy single handedly puts her in a category with several very popular contemporary artists such as Polly Morgan, Damien Hirst, and Kate McGwire. Her inspiration comes from the stories of how things decay or are preserved. It is this interest in the controversial line between life and death that links Kelly to artists like Tim Noble and Sue Webster and brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman. In a way this has made it difficult to categorize her work because although it uses Victorian taxidermy and goldsmithing, it is also juxtaposing and celebrating the interplay or preservation and disintegration.
She has been included in numerous group and solo exhibitions across the globe. Places include: Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Germany, France, Korea, the United Kingdom, and Poland, and has been displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Goldsmiths Hall, Sotheby's, Selfridges and Liberty's. Her work is also held in a number of private collections worldwide. McCallum also headlined the exhibition "Telling Tales" at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2009