Mike Kelley's pentagonal Snowflake (Center and Peripheries #3) is part of a series of works that the artist undertook in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and which examine the nature of caricature. Consisting of five panels radiating out from a central element, each panel is painted with an image of one of Kelley's inimitable cast of characters that populate his oeuvre. This idiosyncratic group consists of two detailed renderings of a child's and an adult's head, a depiction of a child's toy rabbit, a more simply drawn human figure together with a portrayal of a black trash bag slumped across the surface of the square panel. This incongruous mix of images, joined to the central panel by a series of spoke-like wooden batons, recalls the incident room boards used to track victims, suspects, and murder weapons in TV detective series.
During this period Kelley started working increasingly with ideas that were sparked by his own life. Many of the images he used were gleaned from personal recollections, which then combined with areas of empty space, referred to by Kelley as "repressed space." Kelley has long been fascinated by the emergence of spaces, real or imaginary, which act as points of intersection between fictions of memory. As such, Snowflake (Center and Peripheries #3) becomes the physical manifestation of the artist's psychological road map as he deals with traumatic incidents in his childhood. By basing his work on a regression to troubled periods in childhood and adolescence, he underlines his view of art as a dysfunctional reality which, through a re-enactment of traumatic events, can lead to therapeutic ends.
This theme of returning to a troubled youth is one which as has produced some of Kelley's most exciting and provocative work. Ranging from architectural installations to film and photographic works, this theme of re-viewing the traumas of youth through the experienced eyes of adulthood has provided a rich seam of inspiration for the artist. From the "mug-shot" style images of soft-toys in his iconic Ahhh...Youth,1991, to his more recent cinematic epic Day is Done, 2005, Kelley's attempts to come to terms with the demons of his childhood have provided some of the most challenging and compelling works in contemporary art.