Caley Dennis Artist
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, artist Caley Dennis has been living and working in Santa Fe for the past few years. In May, she completed her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, where she received the Jeremy Thomas Sculpture Award in 2014. Since graduating, Caley’s been keeping busy working two jobs and setting aside time on the weekends to make her art.
She works with concrete, metal, and other building materials to create minimalist sculptures that explore ideas of space and emptiness. “I’m interested in whether emptiness inherently has this tension or connotation, if you will, of the need to be filled,” Caley, twenty-four, told Pasatiempo. “I’ve always been attracted to sculpture and the three-dimensional world. Strangely enough, I’ve started to draw recently. But my first love was sculpture.”
Caley fabricates sculpture marked by a consistent use of circular forms and round holes. “I think sculpture inherently deals with space and negative space. I’ve definitely taken influence from the minimalists and the land artists like Michael Heizer. I think academically dealing with sculpture and what it is and what it isn’t probably led me to the formal aspects of space, and the metaphorical aspects followed.”
The void spaces in her works are contained, or framed, by the sculptural forms. Whether they are concrete slabs or wheel-like welded metal shapes, emptiness lies at their center in the form of a hole or concave depression. On her website, she writes that her practice “investigates the question of whether or not an object can convey emptiness more than emptiness itself.” Caley looks on void space as full of latent possibility. “The void has modal force,” she writes, “implying the potential, and sometimes need, to be filled. It is often this discomfort, this longing for what is lacking, that acts as catalyst in many universal processes, as well as my personal process of making work.”
While in school, Caley worked in the studio of sculptor Tom Joyce, but she has since left to take a position at SITE Santa Fe. As the public programs assistant, she works with director of education Joanne Lefrak. “I started working here at SITE and I couldn’t balance all of it, so I let Tom go,” she said. “It was a great experience to be in his studio to help and also to be able to observe how another artist works and observe his process and how he uses materials. I think I definitely took some influence away from Tom.”
At SITE, Caley organizes public lectures and other events, and she also works part time at the Mad Framer with proprietor Beth Hill. “It’s a nice balance of working in a large group in a museum and then fabricating for Beth and making custom wood frames. I’m learning a lot from working with her, but I have not had a lot of woodworking experience before working with her — mostly metal.”
She is a process-oriented artist. The wooden frames used as jigs for making her sculptures have their own visual appeal. “I kind of consider them drawings,” Caley said. “They start to acquire welding spatter and evidence of the process of putting metal pieces together. But they are not drawings in the traditional sense. They are 3-D drawings.”
Caley has a home and studio in a warehouse space off Airport Road. Skilled with construction materials, she built herself a loft and shower in the space. She still works with concrete but has recently been exploring drawing as a medium, inspired by a trip through Arizona. “My interest was first sparked when I was coming back from Flagstaff, Arizona. I was driving back from Phoenix. We passed Meteor Crater, I think it’s called, and I didn’t go but I’d like to someday.” The forms of impact craters are her current focus and relate conceptually to her sculptural practice. “Looking at my concrete relief pieces that have a central hole in them, I realized that the forms I’m so attracted to exist in nature already in the form of craters,” she said. “The displacement of matter around an impact crater, the compaction of it, interests me. I’m still working with casting concrete and with drawing, but I’m not currently working with metal.” — Michael Abatemarco
THE VOID HAS MODAL FORCE, IMPLYING THE POTENTIAL, AND SOMETIMES NEED, TO BE FILLED.