For Kelley Anderson, the cultural and musical force of the city of Memphis lends itself to the multi-disciplinary explorations that inform and inspire her work as a musician, sound engineer, songwriter, and organizer. A creator of richly layered concepts and in tune with the city’s genre-busting spirit, Kelley cuts across the boundaries that separate music, visual art, and conceptual art.
Kelley records and performs under the name Crystal Shrine alongside some of the finest musicians in the city. The music explores ideas of guilt, grace, salvation, and femininity. By fusing the familiar tropes of pop music–including modern contemporary pop–with insurgent expressions derived from punk rock and ’60s girl-group pop, Kelley is re-imagining ideas of Southern identity in ways that are thoughtful and innovative, not to mention rule-breaking, and more than slightly subversive.
Kelley makes connections between the practice of art and the subversive aspect of art, as exemplified by the name Crystal Shrine itself. One of the most allusive sites in Memphis is the Crystal Shrine Grotto in Memorial Park Cemetary, an artificial cave filled with sculptures–one of the most memorable is “Transfiguration Jesus,” which depicts Jesus as a space alien– that push at the edges of Southern Christianity. In a city noted for its strange and alluring approach to art and religion, Kelley is busy turning the time-honored symbols of religion on their heads, giving them a much-needed, post-modernist makeover.
A superb guitarist and inquisitive songwriter who is also an accomplished sound engineer, Kelley has recorded a series of new songs that combine her love of rock ‘n’ roll with her finely tuned critical sense. In a sense, the Crystal Shrine concept scrutinizes culture by viewing it through the lens of Memphis and the South. If society too often marginalizes the voices of people who challenge its assumptions, artists strive to counteract that process, a tendency Kelley examines in her Crystal Shrine recordings.