ABOUT THE ARTIST
Shelby is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Wyoming. Born and raised in Springfield, Missouri, Shelby received his BFA in 2003 from Washington University in St. Louis and his MFA in 2006 from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
A two-time recipient of the Visual Arts Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council, Shelby actively exhibits across the nation. His more recent exhibitions include LIKE AND SHARE IF YOU AGREE!!!, a solo show at the South Bend Museum of Art, DRAWN at Manifest Creative Research Gallery in Cincinnati, OH, and DRAWING DISCOURSE at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Shelby was awarded a solo exhibition at the APEX Space at the Portland Art Museum in OR in 2016, and his work is included in their permanent collection.
For his research sabbatical from 2021 – 2022, Shelby has accepted the Manifest Artist Residency Award, and he is currently making new work at their Gallery and collaborating on educational opportunities at their Drawing Center in Cincinnati, OH.
I am making drawings of gut piles from game animals such as pronghorn, deer, and elk. The work is a natural progression from previous creative research exploring personal and collective fears and anxieties. The impetus for depicting these subjects is my interest in the ethical implications involved around the act of hunting and in the consumption of animals more generally. Although I am part of the hunting community, I am trying not to be didactic or moralizing with the work in any way. Instead, my aim is to be visually poetic, drawing attention to conflicts in the human condition and asking viewers to question preconceived notions on all sides of these and adjacent issues.
I continue to examine ideas of low and high status in artistic subject matter as well as normative experience. These drawings may illicit feelings of disgust or revulsion and awe or ecstasy simultaneously due to the contrast between the vulgarity of the imagery juxtaposed with its meticulous rendering. This effect is what I refer to as a kind of reverse sublimity. I am also thinking about how base bodily functions, like eating or mating, are intensely strange, grotesque, and almost alien when thought about in a certain context. Nevertheless, nature compels us to engage in and relish these activities since our continued existence depends on it.
There is a connection between the works’ form and content in terms of fragility. Charcoal, made of once living things, is a tenuous medium at best, prone to structural decay over time, while animal viscera, left in the field, is absorbed back into the ecosystem almost overnight. Both are deeply ephemeral concepts in relation to life, death, and the precariousness of existence. I am also challenging tropes in western art more broadly by depicting these animals from the inside out as opposed to the romanticized versions one sees in countless landscapes throughout history. As opposed to documenting the hunt through a posed picture, or “grab and grin” as hunters may refer to it, I choose to honor the animal by documenting less utilized aspects of their bodies in a symbolic attempt to let as little as possible go to waste.