Jo R. Bennett
The inevitability of change present in nature is a familiar subject. It is a reliable constant throughout my life and has so far provided plenty of experiences both positive and negative. Change has taken me on a journey through relocation and travel, my education and career, and through my own identity. But just as in nature, moments of experience are fleeting and unstable. With a life in constant transience, I find myself persistently fascinated with the ephemeral but fixated with finding stability.
My work explores this fixation in the ‘act of preservation’ by treating found objects with reverence, much like Doris Salcedo in the way she treats the materials or subjects used in her work. The decisions I make are with the intention to safeguard, pausing the natural cycle of time, and create a sense of significance and permanence. The end result is an often desperate attempt to interrupt mortality and make lasting these fleeting moments.
The materials in my work, whether found or refined, are elegantly composed with simplicity and drama in mind, a similar approach influenced by artists such as Sarah Hood and David Chatt. Many items are pieced by contrasts, such as organic vs. geometric, stability vs. instability, warmth vs. coldness, hardness vs. softness. The resulting work appears in many forms of interest to me, each for different reasons. Reliquaries exist for the purpose of preservation, tucking things away and exposing only clues to its contents. Jewelry, on the other hand, exalts the ephemera and forces the wearer to actively participate in its preservation. And finally, I'm interested in repairing dilapidated objects. Not to restore their function but to preserve history and memory, existing as both memorial and memento mori.
The inspiration for my work is derived, in part, from my appreciation of repetitive processes. Kinesthetic activities such as working in a kitchen and building have always come naturally to me. Producing objects made from clay is an exercise that I find satisfying in a way that is similar to these other tasks. There are many steps to a finished piece of my work that few people will ever see; throwing the clay, pulling handles, trimming a foot, and the development of the two dimensional design. In manipulating the surface of the ware I achieve one more gratifying step. Since childhood I have been attracted to, daydreamed of, and drawn a variety of obsessive linear patterns. The action of carving a complex pattern onto the surface of a leather hard piece of pottery provides a level of stability and calm for my otherwise erratic mind.
How my work feels in the hands of the person holding it is an important component that I consider during production. The sense of touch is a fundamental part of our daily experience. It is crucial in creating our unique human existence, and it will differ from one of us to the next. This is the thought process I consider in order to achieve a functional pot. The form of the object and the composition on the surface can be derived from all areas of life; those we are close to, the nostalgia of childhood, experiences we have had with our environment; each of these connections can be interpreted in some way visually. The elemental form of the vessel along with the surface design is intended to represent a contrast between two worlds: the bulk and delicacy, refinement and physicality, and control amidst chaos are all things I struggle to balance within my own personality.
The concept of my work is to be functional as well as visually stimulating. In a way similar to artists such as Matt Metz and Kathy King, I wish for the participant to be compelled to examine the piece in order to understand the story behind its conception, to pick up and hold it in their hands, and for the item to find a meaningful place in the user’s daily life.
“The goal of design is to raise the expectation of what design can be.” – Paula Scher
Even the most humble products deserve to be presented in an extraordinary and elegant manner. As a graphic designer I have the ability to use my art to communicate to the world on a regular basis. I feel it is my responsibility to contribute to making the world a more beautiful and interesting place through my designs. Unleashed Pet Boutique explores the boundaries of branding humble products – dog treats and care items for dogs in an extravagant manner because even these products should be presented beautifully.
Unleashed investigates packaging and design in a method that makes the customer feel like they are buying something special for their pet through the way the product is displayed. I have always been drawn to packaging and designs of Margo Chace. I feel that in this series much of my patterning in these packages is directly inspired by her use of organic illustration in her packaging work. Her design style of using hand-made illustration in her packaging work rather than photography engages the viewer more because it adds a hand-made and unique quality to the work.
This series incorporates mesmerizing patterns layered as green monochromatic print on the green papered packaging that allows the pattern to add a whimsical nature to the packaging without it being overwhelming. This aspect of the packaging has a hand-drawn quality that also gives the feeling that the products are original and one of a kind which is an aspect I want to be prominent in my work. The variety of line and shape within my illustration between the layer of the brown belly band and green box of the packaging creates contrast and allows the viewer to distinguish what is meant to be decorative and what is informational. The packaging, tags, and bags all incorporate a layer of a brown recycled paper on top of the green kraft paper in a different way which creates diversity within the brand and keeps the eye moving. The brand uses specialty paper which adds texture to the packaging as well as creates a quality of being more expensive, one of a kind, hand-made. The colored papers that are used are earth tones associated with healthy products that are all natural. The posters that advertise the brand incorporate the packaging displayed with the ingredients lying out around the products emphasizing the natural and fresh quality. The Unleashed brand exemplifies the idea that even humble products deserve to have unique design that can elevate them to new heights.
John Jarrett Kinsland
Age and lack of time was a constant problem for my family and a personal concern for myself growing up, maybe because I am the only person in my family under the age of 55. Lack of energy became neglect for my family’s 142-year-old farm and 40-year-old tire business. Growing up, I became all too familiar with visions of decay in what once had been a thriving place of growth and order.
My aging family’s lack of energy was a main ingredient in the state of decay but economic flux and failure to keep up with the times were also to blame. Witnessing this decline planted a seed of desire to see progress and a way out from the current state of things. “Ad-hocism” and off-the-cuff construction using materials that were readily at hand to solve utilitarian problems became a wellspring of inspiration and creative opportunity for me. Growing up, fences, roofs, mailbox stands, gate latches, and feed troughs name but a few of the things made from old tires I found; from tarps made from inter-tubes to chairs made of steel wheels, the list could go on.
As an artist, I continue the essence of my family’s ingenuity combined with my physical and mental need to improve and build. In some of my recent sculptures, I make use of tire parts linked and woven into forms that simultaneously seem to be on the verge of falling apart while having a noticeable structural integrity. I hope to portray to the viewer a foretaste of the atmosphere from which the resources came and a sense that a new possibility for the materials is being found. The idea of struggle and acceptance of limitations and failures in the construction process can be seen in my work and serve as important references to the reality of what is possible as I quest for new possibilities. These intentions spill over into my ceramic work with the tower-like forms built from loops of clay, mimicking the shape of tires. Juxtaposing play, structure, and defiance against forces that overwhelmingly oppose their creation is a goal of mine.
I strive to create works that have an open ending or a kind of ambiguous existence, leaving the viewer free to impose their own narrative on the forms. As guiding rails to that narrative, I implant elements of hope, somberness, playfulness, and urgency. An influence on this approach is historic Cabinets of Curiosity that speak on the nature of wonder and humanities desire to both understand and not know. Indeed wonder is very often found in the things we feel a kind of connection to without having an understanding.
Alwyn O’Brien‘s ceramic work has also been an influence of mine in terms of its playfulness, fragility and urgency. Sterling Ruby and Leonardo Drew are also large influences on my work due to the raw and unkempt aesthetic of their sculptures along with conceptual themes of masculinity and its fragility.
The content I prefer to work with typically deals with the ideas of nature and our place as humans inside of it. This exhibition, Ramble, shows the branding of an outdoor company that encourages a person to exist in nature that is different from our often urban and ordinary lives. By allowing viewers to either think or feel that they are in an outdoors store environment I am attempting to create the desire to go hiking and camping.
This body of work is rooted in creating an interaction with the viewer, whether that interaction be design-based via packaging or signage or using illustrative means to invoke a feeling. I use three-dimensional processes such as packaging design as well as two-dimensional processes such as silkscreen and digital printing to create an overall cohesive brand that largely focuses on convincing a person to buy their product to begin their adventure.
I often look at work by artists who pull double duty as both illustrators and designers. Currently I find the work of James Gulliver Hancock and Jessica Hische influential; Hische’s work inspires mine by adding illustrations as an accent to a typographic design, and I use limited color palettes in a similar manner to Hancock’s work.
Value primarily defines the subjects in my work, I use a graphic style employing blocks of color and value while also occasionally using line illustrations that accent elements. I make realistic and recognizable imagery with illustrations. When working outside of an illustrative style, I create typography based layouts that balance readability and creativity as well as using photographs to effectively convey an idea to a viewer.
How do we understand the various structures that sustain our consciousness? How do these structures form, evolve, and eventually fail? Geologic layers of experiences and memories accrete, evolve, and erode continuously. Microscopic genes mutate creating new iterations of life; diseased cells multiply to a critical mass. The interplay of the seen and unseen, and the space between what is tangible and the shadow it casts fuels my research. Exploring biological underpinnings provides opportunity for communicating about the force, delicacy, and ambiguity of life even through its decay.
The small sculptures are intimate tableaus about presence and absence, outmoded ideas, as well as memory creation, loss, and authenticity. Enameled forms layered with decals of Victorian-era engravings, patterns, and/or hand-drawn imagery evoke a sense of wonderment through not understanding everything, as if piecing together a mystery or reading between the lines. Is the whole greater than - or, conversely, less than - the sum of its parts? The use of found objects and other non-metal materials lends more contextualization and spirit to the work. The art and craft of metalsmithing itself brings with it historical significance, materiality, and emphasis on process that melds with the work’s conceptual potential. I look to contemporary metalsmiths Myra Mimlitsch-Gray, who creates ambiguity and cultural commentary by mutating traditional forms, and Haley Renee Bates, who innovates with her studies on structure and perception, as they set high benchmarks for conceptual development without compromising craftsmanship.
The jewelry works present small-scale narratives and contrasts in form. The Vanitas Series brooches strike a balance between the familiar and the unrecognizable using cast natural objects placed in formal portrait-like settings. Matte finishes suggest a latency and “frozen in time” quality. Placing these objects within such constraints examines their preciousness and potential in an absurd way, seeking a nostalgic experience of biology. Other jewelry pieces explore perceptions of structure through conflating the natural with the machine-made. My attraction to this contrast in form is inspired in part by Lee Bontecou’s wall sculptures that appear at once mechanical and anatomical. They strike a subliminal chord. Jeweller Cristel van der Laan is also influential for her astute marriage of geometric and organic forms.
This body of work invites the viewer to spend time contemplating what constitutes and changes our conscious lives. There is a melancholy naturally associated with themes of loss, but my hope is that the work evokes a sense of embracing the unknown in a curious way.