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Eli Kessler

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts


As a visual artist, I approach sculpture as a way to examine particular artifacts, rituals, and conflicts in the world. Through the use of various processes, I invite the viewer to contemplate the symbolism and materiality within, inciting one to question the embedded concept. The value of my artwork is in its ability to create a discussion beyond the edges of its form and address ideas beyond the walls of the gallery.  Examining forgotten narratives and obscure subcultures allows us to probe the world’s subconscious. Over the years I have reveled in distant concepts, ranging from the history of Vaudeville to Amish culture.  These distinct concepts are connected through a continued interest in fading or lost cultural phenomena. The sculptural environments I created during 2005-2007 immersed the viewer in a peculiar Vaudevillian past. These installations invited the viewer to transgress the boundary of the stage, becoming a voyeur privileged to the world of exiled props and role reversal.  A Once Suspended Tableau, Drama Club DressRehearsal, and The Tranquil Sea and the Ships Deck all embody references and tropes from the history of theatrical productions. Programmable electronic automatons, video performance, and archaic props were embraced in these works.  During 2008 my work developed and began to examine how theatricality is intertwined with contemporary culture. I became interested in fashion as a social signifier. When looked at from a sociological perspective, clothing and style plays a crucial role in defining gender, class, and even philosophic views.


Eli Kessler is a practicing sculptor and educator. He grew up on a farm just outside Pillow, Pennsylvania. He ventured from the family farm in 2002 to study Fine Art at Tyler School of Art, Temple University. In 2008 he graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University’s MFA Sculpture program. He has taught fine art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Seton Hill University, Westmoreland County Community College, and California University of Pennsylvania.