Mike Kelley

More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin

Not on view



Stuffed fabric toys and afghans on canvas with dried corn; wax candles on wood and metal base

Overall: 120 3/4 × 151 3/4 × 31 3/4in. (306.7 × 385.4 × 80.6 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee

Rights and reproductions
© The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid is a chaotic assemblage of handmade dolls and blankets that Mike Kelley found in thrift stores. Kelley does not designate to whom more “love hours” are owed, but simply puts forward the condition of loving something too much, or of receiving too little in return—like the cast-off items that make up the sculpture. The title also conjures associations of guilt: when parents and relatives create these toys and blankets, are the countless hours of stitching, knitting, and crocheting a kind of penance, and for what? Do we expect children to repay the time and love lavished on them? Using Jackson Pollock’s large drip paintings as his compositional model, Kelley transformed the orphaned handicrafts into a swirling mass of unrequited affection that is beyond human reciprocation. Similarly, the collection of melted candles in the related work, The Wages of Sin, becomes an altar to the power of teen angst and implies a child’s rite of passage into the adult worlds of labor, debt, and atonement.

Visual Description

The work consists of a horizontal canvas about 7 feet wide and 6 feet tall. The surface of the canvas is covered in a busy arrangement of colorful stuffed animals and knitted or crocheted afghan blankets, tightly packed together and protruding from the surface. The canvas is predominated by shades of brown, and muted blues, greens, and yellows with spots of red, pink, and white.