Kelley's work centers on themes of failure, adolescence, art history, pop culture, music, and psychoanalysis. He often mocks the Freudian characterization of the artist as neurotic and questions the idealistic concept of childhood innocence. In this series, Kelley rewrites the biblical Creation story with scatological materials, satirizing the divine importance of the artist by depicting his own hand drawing on the page. "Mortal coil" is a term used in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet to designate the troubles of daily life and the suffering in the world, while "coil" is a verb meaning "to lay down in spirals." Kelley refers to both meanings in his story of human creation.
Gallery label from Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection, April 22, 2009–January 4, 2010.