Heather Ryan Kelley

Heather Ryan Kelley is a professor in the Department of Visual Arts at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana where she teaches painting and book arts. Her work was a part of the Cracked Lookingglass print portfolio organized by the Graphic Studio Dublin for the centenary of Ulysses. Kelley’s work based upon Finnegans Wake is in the collections of Cornell University, the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection, The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, and the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her work has been featured on the James Joyce Quarterly, the James Joyce Broadsheet, and the James Joyce Literary Supplement.

The Midden Heap Project

One reading of Finnegans Wake is that it is a massive recycling machine transforming its sources to create a grand collage, containing fragments of nearly everything. Joyce’s sources are well-known; they include: jokes and stories told by his father, historical events, world mythologies, popular songs, sacred texts, children’s games, and dozens of works of literature.

A touchstone for the Midden Heap Project is a passage from the seventh chapter of the Wake. This chapter, sometimes known as The House of the Haunted Ink Bottle, describes the house of the artist Shem. Shem, an “alshemist,” has an enormous midden/dung heap. From this midden he makes ink and writes upon his body. With this idea of transformation in mind, Heather Ryan Kelley is making a series of collages in response to each page of the text using as raw material her own midden: paper ephemera, found objects, etching and relief proofs, reproductions of her paintings, printed matter, and the general debris of her studio.

Based upon these works on paper are a series of artist’s books. The book pages are cropped and manipulated versions of the collages with some additions of text. Completed thus far are the collages and corresponding books for pages 3-216 of the Wake.

Heather Ryan Kelley will showcase some selections of her Midden Heap project at Diasporic Joyce in June 2017.


The books are printed with archival digital ink on Moab Entrada rag paper. Each page is 5.25 x 4 inches. The binding formats include accordions, coptic binding, and a deck of cards. Each book is presented in a slipcase.


Spines of the slipcases. 


Chapters 1 and 2, slipcase and closed book, coptic binding.


Chapters 1 and 2. 


Quiz Show, set of 43 cards and box. 


Chapter 4. 

doublin their mumper--1

Doublin Their Mumper, maze book, 2.75 x 2.75 x .5 inches (closed). 

doublin their mumper 2

Doublin Their Mumper, maze book, 10.5 x 16 inches (open).


All the collages are 15 x 11 inches, mixed media on paper.


FW Page 67 (ink, watercolour, wax, collage, image transfer).

FW 156

FW Page 156 (relief print and collage).


FW Page 169 (collage). 

FW 178

FW 178 (ink and watercolour). 

FW 194

FW 194 (collage, solvent transfer, and ink).

Photos courtesy of Heather Ryan Kelley. 

To see more of Kelley’s work, please visit her website.