"Art has always been my calling. Never for one second have I questioned this. My journey has taken me from painting and drawing, to ballet and modern dance, to exploring the theatrical possibilities of film and video, to the power of song. A dramatic convergence of these seemingly disparate threads into an ephemeral but legible tapestry is to me logical. My works attempt to utilize all the options as a creative artist and performer. I aim to channel emotions, to affect the senses, to live and work in the heightened moment. I pride myself on being a non-linear storyteller. My goal is to express myself, and to simultaneously engage and communicate with my audience."

Actor, countertenor, painter, performance artist, dancer, director, and choreographer, the protean John Kelly makes worlds as much as he makes inventive, moving solo and ensemble works. Often described as a performance artist, Kelly has called himself "an artist who creates live performances of mixed-media dance theatre and song." As he updates the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice or portrays, really becomes, such characters as Egon Schiele, Joni Mitchell, Jean Cocteau, Maria Callas as they live through a rite of passage, audiences are reminded that at the root of theatre and performance lies magic and transformation.

"Gravitate toward the thing you loveča book, a charm, a song, a body, a corner, a view, a pose, a mood. Get there, find yourself there. Try to observe yourself there. How do you feel? Savor the feeling, you don't need to identify it, but try to own it. It can be a mere notion, or a hurricane eye. Find the fire – and don't be afraid, it can't burn you, and it can feed you.

If you wanted to show or to tell the world about this thing, imagine what that would feel like. Cathartic? Restless? Reckless? Irresponsible? Joyous? Try not to judge it – allow yourself to honor it – it's yours – it has never been seen or heard by the world before – this urge – it is your response, it is your voice. If you really go there, it's yours to own.

Many things have been said by different people over time – and a lot of it is stuff that has been talked about, mused on, before. The thing that can make it different, what can make it new – is that it's being now heard in your voice – whether that "voice" is a word, or a scrawl, or a gesture, or a grunt, sigh, or howl – it's your relationship to the world and the challenging hurdles and sweet surprises you may encounter in your life. Two hundred years ago, we didn't have root canals and cell phones – but we had feelings, and found ways to express those feelings. Some of these things have filtered down to us – paintings, music, words, structures, tools... Why? Some might say because it's great art or craftsmanship. But the real goods are in the vestiges of humanity we can see, hear, or sense in these objects, or in the absence of certain other objects...

I read somewhere in a survey that kindness is what people value the most – kindness to oneself can vent a fury, lighten a heavy load – kindness to another can conjure a smile. These are acts of creating. Dabs, smears, punctures, warps, folds in the texture of a day in the life. We can create. We can impact. We breathe – whether we're conscious of it, or not. To be aware of a breath we take is to be in the moment. To uncover and express how you feel about such a moment is to create something. To create something is to give something back to the world. Be kind."


Born 1954, Jersey City, New Jersey
Lives in New York City

  2001 Brother
  1999 Moondrunk (Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire)
  1999, 02 Find My Way Home
  1997 Paved Paradise
  1995 Constant Stranger
  1993 Light Shall Lift Them
  1986, 95 Pass the Blutwurst, Bitte
  1992 Akin: True But Dour
  1992 Divine Promiscue
  1991 Maybe Its Cold Outside

Love Of A Poet

  1999 Rockefeller Foundation New Works Grant
  1991-6 National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellowships
  1991 OBIE Award for Love of a Poet
  1989 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
  1988 New York Dance and Performance Award, [Bessie], for Find My Way Home
  1987 OBIE Award for Pass the Blutwurst, Bitte
  1987 American Choreographer Award
  1986 New York Dance and Performance Award, [Bessie], for An Extended Body of Work
  1985, 88, 89, 91, 92, 99 Art Matters, Inc.

  Yale Repertory Theatre; PS1 National Studio Artist, The Clocktower;
French Cultural Residency, Paris (Decroux Corporeal Mime); Academia Musicale
Ottorino Respighi, Assisi (Vocal Studies); Yaddo; The MacDowell Colony

  2002 Rare Chemistry, images of John Kelly by photographer John Dugdale, Aperture (in progress)
  2001 John Kelly, an Artists Monograph, published by 2WICE Arts Foundation,
distributed by Aperture (fall 2001 release)

  2001 2Oth Century Vox, John Kelly solo CD, Produced by Hal Willner
  2001 Music of David Del Tredici: Songs, (4 songs from Brother, lyrics and performance by John Kelly), CRI Records
  1998 Ime Na Koncu Jezika (The Name On The Tip Of The Tongue), Chamber Opera by Mitja Vrhovnik-Smrekar
  1995 Out Loud, Knitting Factory Works
  1994 Jazz Passengers In Love, produced by Hal Willner for Windham Hill Records