Of all the ways Mike Kelley has been celebrated for his pivotal contributions to contemporary art, since his death on January 31, 2012, his impact as an educator may be the most significant aspect of his legacy to go relatively unexamined, if not unsung. Kelley was a faculty member of Art Center’s Graduate Art Department from 1992 to 2007. And during his time teaching at Art Center, Kelley mentored such monumental talents as video artist Diana Thater (who now chairs the department from which she graduated), multimedia artist Pae White, installation artist Jennifer Steinkamp and Fine Art faculty member Jean Rasenberger.
In the above video, inspired by Kelley’s MOCA retrospective, these artists examine the ways in which Kelley influenced the kind of artists they’ve become, the work they create and, perhaps most importantly, how they go about crafting and sustaining a life as an exhibiting artist. Kelley has often been credited with helping raise the clout and visibility of LA’s art scene when his career took off and he declined to follow the well-worn path previous west coast supernova artists had followed to New York. As one of the first internationally acclaimed artists to root himself in Los Angeles, Kelley was, in essence, laying the groundwork for his students and their contemporaries to do the same.
If these artists’ upwardly-tilting career paths are any indication, Kelley’s impact on his students, his city and his creative discipline only gets deeper as time goes on.