Caitlin Margaret Kelly: “Learning to Communicate with Absence”

We invited artists from Duke’s MFA EDA community to share work they have made in response to the coronavirus crisis. See the full “Home & Away” collection here.

Caitlin Margaret Kelly: “Learning to Communicate with Absence”

From “Learning to Communicate with Absence” by Caitlin Margaret Kelly. Polaroid SX-70 B&W. All Rights Reserved.

Artist’s Reflection

Learning to Communicate with Absence #6

I had the idea recently to see if the absence I am learning to communicate with is the same as the one she is experiencing, or if it is just too particular to our ages as to offer common ground.

I was relieved when she saw the same box, but she surprised me by opening it immediately. She held it tightly however, as I asked of her, following my requests to peer into it with a serious demeanor despite not fully understanding my metaphor. “There is a stick in here,” she said. “Oh,” I responded, “that must have been from the river last week.” “I’ll remove it,” she answered back, “otherwise it isn’t really empty.”

(Part of an ongoing Instagram project.)


Caitlin Margaret Kelly is an artist and director of the Power Plant Gallery at Duke University. In addition to her MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University, she also holds a MA in Anthropology and a BA in Journalism.