Sculptor and jewelry artist Jessica Calderwood recently took the time to answer some questions about her practice, her work, and her exhibition, Everything But The Kitchen Sink, currently on view in our Gerri Kay Exhibition Cases. Read on to learn about Jessica and how her experiences as a woman, a mother, and a human inspire her work.
And make sure to stop by to see her work, before Everything But The Kitchen Sink closes on March 11.
We have Everything But The Kitchen Sink currently on view here at CC. Can you tell us a bit about this work, including the inspiration for these pieces and the title?
During the pandemic, I started creating these sculptures that were psychological portraits. I would take forms, such as drapery or weird stylized forms to hide the head and torso of the figures. It became a negation, in a sense. Sometimes the figures look empowered through the abstraction, but sometimes the figures just appeared frightened or like they are hiding. I have found that working in a miniature scale can allow the viewer to access the work with empathy, but also with dominance.
While working on this series, I began a parallel grouping of works revolving around interpretations of textile patterns by meticulously arranging and firing glass seed beads on an enameled surface. I used any fabrics from my home as inspiration. They were the things that I was encountering for hours each day. The melting of the beads permanently fuses the pattern but also encourages distortions. The creation of repetitive patterns is a meditative process that was born out of the need to create order during a chaotic moment.
Coming up with titles is really challenging. Everything But the Kitchen Sink is a reference to the wide range of materials used, but also that this is a lot of work about gender and identity in this series and the reference to ‘the kitchen’ and the domestic space, without being too overt.
You work a lot with enamel, fiber, and glass beads. Can you tell us a bit about how these came to be your primary mediums and why you enjoy working with these materials, especially in relation to each other?
My schooling focused almost entirely on enameling and metalsmithing processes. I was really attracted to enameling because of the color range and painterly applications. I consider that medium to be my home base, the material that I compare with all others. I found that once I learned one material’s properties really well, I can learn a new material more quickly. I started to dip my toe into ceramics, fibers, and most recently, glass. I enjoy learning where these materials overlap and where they differ. I also appreciate weird crafts, that are lower on the totem pole, like polymer clay and felting and love the textural depth that I can get when combining them on one piece.
Can you tell us a bit about your practice and where your ideas for new work come from?
All of my ideas come from my own personal experiences as a woman, a mother, a human. I look around, observe, write and photograph references. I also like to think through ideas with material play and experimentation. I usually set up a few objects and images to respond to and see where it takes me, what associations I can create.
Your body of work includes sculpture, wall work, and jewelry. Do you prefer creating one over the others? And if so, why?
I love all of it! My studio practice really thrives when I triangulate between those different formats. I find that they inform each other. I also get bored pretty quickly, so this allows me to change scales, change format, with the content being the thread that connects it all. When I am in the thick of studio work, I will often have 7 or 8 projects going all at once.
Do you have a favorite piece? And if so, why is it your favorite?
I don’t have favorites usually and I don’t even get very attached to what I make. I am totally invested in the work during the moment of making, but once it’s done, I am usually happy if I never see the work again.
What is your least favorite question you are asked about your art or art practice?
How long did it take to make that?…..It’s a totally fair question, but I never count the hours or the days and never really know what to say. It’s all craft process, so it takes a really long time.
What other artists inspire you?
Lately, I am really loving the work of Liza Lou and Nick Cave. I have also been looking at different indigenous groups that use beads over sculptural forms, such as the Huichol artists of Mexico. I also look to a lot of historical craft artists for information regarding their processes and use of design and ornamentation, such as European portrait miniatures.
What role do you think artists have in society?
I think that artists carry a lot of responsibility with the work they create and how to choose to ‘frame it’ for public interaction. At my most optimistic, I hope that my work creates dialogue around important issues of the moment. I also wish for this particular series to communicate something about what we have all just lived through, to be able to connect and reflect on the intensity of contemporary life.
For example, a piece in the show right now is titled ‘Pinned’ which I created after Roe v Wade was overturned. I was so angry, I still am, and had to make something in response to it. The sculpture shows a woman sitting on a pink fleshy sphere and her head has been replaced with a pin-cushion that is filled with pins going in all directions. It has soft delicate textures and colors that are meant to be a foil for the fact that the figure is under attack, headless and armless. Her knees are locked together. I don’t expect everyone to get the reference, but it’s there if you look long enough.
Photos by Jessica Calderwood