Kelly Marie Houle
I remember the first time I saw a brilliant and complex page from the Book of Kells. I was in the fifth grade reading about a scribe sitting alone in a stone building on a misty hill silently copying a book by hand with great skill, mental presence, and imagination. I secretly wished I could have the contemplative, serene, creative life of a Medieval scribe.
That wish never came true, but that same year I received a calligraphy pen and instruction book for Christmas. When I started doing my homework in blackletter, my teacher employed me as the class calligrapher. That was how I found out that my homemade weather station had won the school science fair that year. Penning my own name on that certificate was a strange experience on many levels. For the first time I felt torn between science and art. It was the beginning of a lifelong desire to find a way of living in both worlds.
As a teacher, I found ways of including art in the science classroom. When I worked in the public program at Lowell Observatory I incorporated visual and literary elements into my lectures. When I was a science teacher I conducted independent research on optical illusions, anamorphic mirror art, origamic architecture, pop-up structures, paper engineering, and natural history illustration. I found ways of introducing art to my science students.
I was happy as a science teacher, but the pull of the arts was strong. After three years I left teaching to pursue what I felt as a deep desire to paint and write poetry. I studied realistic landscape and wildlife painting and enrolled in an MFA program in creative writing. Creating images from words felt like the ultimate optical illusion. I was drawn to the work of the great nature poets and landscape painters. Towards the end of my program of study I learned the basics of bookbinding and letterpress printing, which brought me one step closer to finally marrying art and science.
In 2008 I founded Books of Kell’s, a private press under which I published a few handmade miniature editions and one-of-a-kind books. That same year I saw an exhibit of the St. John’s Bible. Seeing the handwritten pages of the Bible brought back memories of my early love of calligraphy and reminded me of how attractive the combination of painting and the written word could be. Serendipitously, it was also the year that events were being planned all over the world to celebrate Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. The two ideas merged. By Darwin’s birthday in February, 2009, I had made the decision to focus my time and energy creating a monumental illuminated manuscript based on The Origin of Species.
I feel I have finally found my calling as an artist, scribe, and illuminator working in the service of science. I look forward to spending the next five to ten years creating a beautiful book in celebration of nature and human endeavor.
Miniature Book Society Traveling Exhibition, 2008
Stenden University, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, 2008
Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts, Chicago, IL, 2005
Denver Public Library, Denver, CO, 2005
Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, 2005
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, 2004
Mesa College, San Diego, CA, 2004
Brookfield Craft Center, Brookfield, CT, 2004
Arts Centre Washington S. Kensington, England, 2004
University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 2000
The Kunsthal, Museumpark Rotterdam, Holland, 1999
Museo Laboratorio D’arte Contemporanea
University of Rome, La Sapienza, Rome, Italy, 1998
Flandrau Science Center, Tucson, AZ, 1994
Introduction to Genetics and Evolution by Duke University on Coursera. Certificate earned on March 22, 2015
Master of Fine Art, Arizona State University, 2005
Courses in Botanical and Natural History Art, Desert Botanical Garden Tempe, AZ, 2008-2010
Teacher Certification Coursework in Secondary Science Education Northern Arizona University, 1995
Bachelor of Science in Atmospheric Science, University of Arizona, 1991
AWARDS, GRANTS, AND FELLOWSHIPS
Distinguished Book Award Miniature Book Society, 2008
Virginia G. Piper Summer Creative Writing Fellowship, 2004
Professional Development Grants Arizona Commission on the Arts 2001, 2003, 2008
Barbara Karlin Grant Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 2003
Guild of Natural Science Illustrators (GNSI)
Linnean Society of London
American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA)
Miniature Book Society
Movable Book Society