The story behind Keith Edmier’s The Kelly Bag (Salmacis) begins with a Google search made by the artist into the relationships between Mythological lovers, a search which would unexpectedly guide Edmier down and through a rabbit hole that emerges in an entirely opposite corner of the internet. The result of an intricate web of word association, Edmier’s initial investigation would lead him from Hermes (the God) to Hermès (the French luxury brand), and one step further with the brand’s iconic “Kelly” bag and Grace Kelly, the princess for which the bag was named. The Kelly Bag is a cast of the bag in question, reproduced by Edmier in clear glass and subsequently filled with a bouquet of flowers. What the sculpture comes to represent is Edmier’s passion for finding relationships between subjects that are seemingly unrelated at first, yet come together in ways that are serendipitous as much as they are organic.
Having read about a photograph taken of Grace Kelly using the Hermès Kelly bag as a protective tool to shield her stomach while pregnant with her first daughter, Edmier began to envision the bag as somewhat of a “surrogate womb.” Edmier explains that impact of the story surrounding this supposed photograph was the primary catalyst that spurred the artist to recreate the bag in a state of transparency. Edmier finds mythological roots to the origin story of the Kelly bag and its relationship to Grace Kelly, an “American Goddess”. More mythological property is assigned by Edmier to the piece with the inclusion of the name, “Salmacis”: a nymph from the tale of Hermaphroditus, who is the offspring of the god Hermes. Furthermore, the bouquet with which Edmier fills the body of the sculpture is a life cast of the Lily of the Valley, a hermaphroditic flower that also happens to be the make-up of the bridal bouquet carried by Grace Kelly in her wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco.
The passion Grace Kelly had for flowers is something that is particularly underscored by Edmier in the extensive research that preceded his creation of The Kelly Bag, and flowers continue to serve as a motif as seen throughout the additionally available works below. The group of sculptures maintains the delicate spirit of The Kelly Bag, with flora emerging from vases and sitting atop bases of limestone and marble, as well as one dominating piece which sees a luscious wreath emulating a canvas atop a steel easel, painted white. Finally, two sculptures of figures taken from mythology and real-life history are included, bolstering the initial inspiration of The Kelly Bag and Edmier’s interest in providing physical accounts of preexisting tales that have endured for centuries.