The Observation Deck @ the mood room

Lena Klett: To Have and to Hold

The works of Lena Klett explore the myriad of associations that are called to mind by different objects, the use of disparate artistic mediums and their connection to both human and non-human histories. In her video piece, “To Have and to Hold”, we find allusions to the ceremonial, and even the matrimonial, because the title of the work evokes a rather well known pastoral question, “Do you take…”. But of course, the bridge of the question selected by Klett is split between a preposition and the conclusion of a heartfelt inquiry, and perhaps, even between the joining of two very different lives. If any single phrase could imply a greater series of consequences, it would certainly be hard to find. Nevertheless, we still wouldn’t want to overlook how the matrimonial is tied to the patrimonial as well as the inherited set of meanings that are connected to it, be they patriarchal, appropriative, legalistic, etc.

Perhaps, that is why the power of the image in “To Have and To Hold” is also related to the weight of gendered oppositions, bodily juxtapositions, and the resolute act which is implied by the cropped contours of a Klett’s physique straining to sustain the abiding presence of a rather rough-hewn rock. Could this be another matrimonial metaphor for the ideas, people, places and things we are married to in this life? Afterall, in marriage and close friendships we often refer to that special someone as being our “rock”, i.e., as a seemingly essential or foundational element of our lives. Or, is this kind of supporting role demonstrated by Klett herself with regard to how she interacts with various elements from the natural world? Part of the answer lies in knowing that Klett traveled with this particular rock to various locations throughout the Valley, not only in order to highlight the relationship between the human body and a segmented part of the earth, but she has also created a series of drawings and sculptures about how this relationship developed over time.

And indeed, time is a key element in the work, as the very experience of holding a hefty weight for any duration, not to mention the prolonged strain and commitment that is given over here to a singular task, are both evidenced in “To Have and To Hold” in no small measure. A precarious connection between the organic and the non-organic, the desire for continued possession, and the inertia of projected loss, are all pictured here in real-time. 

But it is important to note that they are not depicted in order to be narrativized. Instead the performativity implied in “To Have and To Hold” stands out as a kind of visual paradox by giving us an image of impossible partners that must eventually uncouple. Just as the stark outline of the red rock has to be painted onto the wall of the gallery in order to act as a literal surface for the image to be projected onto, Klett’s art practice could be said to act as another kind of substrate, or even as an investigation into the psychological substratum that allows for the proliferation of our own projections, not to mention those slippages in meaning that enter into any isolated mise-an-scène of uneasy compromise. 

And perhaps, it is really the larger series of conflicts between life and love, or the animate and the inanimate, or even humanity and nature writ large, that Klett’s work highlights so well. Thinking about this rather weighty space of inquiry, which includes our congress with each other as well as with objects in the world — not to mention the kinds of commitments that we are able to bare in life — remains an abiding concern behind these kinds of perennial questions. Only Klett’s work adds a critical twist about what the the politics of dispossession mean in the early 21st century by allowing us to see how the specificity of object relations, both psychological and actual, can be cast anew through the most direct and uncompromising of gestures. 

Bio: Lena Klett is an interdisciplinary artist currently based in Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2014 with a dual BFA in Fiber and Art History, and an MFA from Arizona State University with an emphasis in Fiber in 2019. Klett has exhibited in Kansas City, Missouri, Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona, and internationally at Shiro Oni Studio in Onishi, Japan. Her work is included in the private collection of Gregory M Glore, and in the KCAI Fiber Department Collection, both located in Kansas City, Missouri. She is a recipient of a Herberger Enrichment Grant, an international 5 week residency in Onishi, Japan, and the Friends of Contemporary Art Emerging Artist Grant in 2019. Most recently, she was an artists in residence at Monson Arts in Maine.