Sheldon Museum of Art Main Content


Kathleen Kelly

  • Judy Dater, Kathleen Kelly.

Selected by Michelle Waite
Assistant to the Chancellor for Community Relations
Office of the Chancellor

Seductive, determined, strong, feminist, Kathleen Kelly captures the essence of a self-assured woman who values her independence and desires to be taken seriously. When I first viewed this photograph, I assumed it was old—perhaps from the 1920s. I saw the woman as flapperesque, given the style of her headscarf and hair and her confident, direct gaze. I imagined her to be a modern woman who challenged the era’s societal norms with wild dancing, high hemlines, short hair, makeup, drinking, smoking, and a nine-to-five job. 

As I spent more time with the image, the model’s exotic presence grew increasingly familiar. I began to recognize her traits as consistent with those of the women I grew up with in the 1970s. Although her appearance reflects a fashion and hairstyle revived from a previous generation, the strength of her facial expression and gesture reveal continuity in women’s pursuit of independence. 

I’m struck by the photograph’s suggestion that history repeats itself. I wonder whether something as simple as the way the model holds her necklace is an indication that she, like generations of other women, has experienced conflict in her desire for self-determination as compared to traditional expectations and in wanting to be sexually provocative while also holding a strong faith.