Artist spotlight: Kelly Willman

Paul Karner

Where are you from and what is your major?
I am from the outskirts of Iowa City. I am developing a self-designed major that examines and displays the female voice as art, most foundationally through poetic composition and performance.How did you go about deciding on your major?
Well, I took about two years off from LU. Upon my return to Appleton last winter, I rekindled a fine friendship with my friend, Erin, who suggested that I self-design a major. It seemed a perfect idea, because my artistic interests were (and still are) broadly arranged. I want to examine aspects of voice, music, radical feminism, poetry, performance art, and fashion. In order to incorporate all of these passions into one self-motivated glob, self-designing a major makes perfect sense.

How long have you been involved in the arts?
Arguably, my whole darned life. I studied classical violin for over a decade and did a lot of stage-related stuff growing up – acting, dancing, singing, etc. I actually came to LU the first time around as a voice student in the Con, but I learned super-quickly that it wasn’t for me. I am glad to have some classical studies under my belt, because I feel (now) that I can break the “rules” without causing harm to my voice. More recently, I have performed my poetry in collaboration with musicians. I have also given readings in Iowa City of the three zines I have created.
Are there any artists or performers that have been particularly inspirational to you?
Yes! Daniel Bernard Roumain has to be my No. 1 right now. His vision/mission is so incredible! I also really dig Thoth, a NY performing artist. I am greatly inspired as well by Beth Gibbons of Portishead, by the words of Audre Lorde and Inga Muscio, and by the works and encouragements of Toaster-Schoster, Arhia, Sully, Nicky E., Harmony, and Angela.

Are there any projects you are currently working on?
I am proofreading and adjusting some poetry for my last zine, Resilience. It should be in final form in a handful of days. My most exciting project, however, has just begun. I am recording conversations, and will later be conducting interviews with women about body image, spiritual development, art, self, etc. I want to transform these interviews into a stream of music that is electronically based. I want to perform it this spring on campus … music, poetry, and sight … we’ll see what happens.

What do you hope to accomplish with your art, generally speaking?
I want to speak to women, to alternative folk, to all kinds of people. I want to share my vision confidently – in ways that are simultaneously atypical and intelligent. I want to encourage people to indulge in art as a form of self-expression, healing, and honesty. I want to make a life of art. I want my life to be art. I think that “accomplishment” will come gradually, as I open myself up to being human, imperfect.

What are your plans for the future?
I want to get through this Lawrence gig, for sure. After that? Well, the only things I know for certain is that I will occupy a solar-powered lighthouse, grow an incredibly lush collection of organic foods, and write until my hands grow old and old and older. Of course, I have lots of in-between wishes and goals, like the continuation of academic study, but I also feel an urge to travel and perform. Who the hell knows what order any of this will come in? Alas, I am trying not to live too far ahead of myself …