Born and educated in Canada, Jess Atkinson came well prepared for her spring residency with her warm tri-colored flannel shirt and her fleece scarf, accompanied by her compulsive need to keep her hands busy.
She arrived in mid February and will be with us until mid April. During this time she has taken the role of book-making resident artist and has been working primarily in the silkscreen studio. She is laboriously working on a book entitled Eavesdrop. The basis of these silkscreened, limited edition books are the quips that Jess, as an eavesdropper, collected in public places during her travels through New York City, where she now calls home.
Although Jess’s education revolved around graphic design, she always felt a need for the tactile. The beginning of her silkscreen process actually starts with the manipulation of Plasticine on a light box. The Plasticine is silhouetted onto a reproduction, played with in Photoshop and finally silkscreened. I asked her how she got into working with Plasticine and she recalled her first experience when her Dad brought some home so she could make a diorama for a school project. She has now rediscovered it as an exciting and playful medium.
From overtly outrageous commentary to normal everyday dumb-talk, Jess has created a very good excuse to listen in on people’s conversations and keep notes. As she puts it, people in New York City treat public arenas like private space. Understandably so, due to the overwhelming lack of privacy in such a populated and frantic city. There is a lot of knowledge to accrue by just being half awake on a subway trip. Her choice of phrases to publish were those that stood out most to her and will be an adjunct to the location of where she overheard it- “Much of the content in this book is taken out of context – just the way I heard it – and could be interpreted in multiple ways.”
Recently developing a knack and warmth for video, she still harbors a love for sculpture and bookmaking. This is not Jess’s first book. She has made many others covering many different topics. But a reoccurring theme in her work involves common, overlooked objects. As a WSW bookmaking resident, she was obliged to fill our gallery with work this March. Being the go-getter that she is, she chose to show hang 3D sculptures, about Lhasa Apso size, that are abstract portraits drawn from imagining the personalities of everyday objects; for instance, a comb, a pillow and a cactus. These sculptures are made from fabric, twine, batting (a fiber used to fill pillows) and candle-wax, then their “skin” is sewn together, stuffed and painted. They all have what look like small, painted versions of tentacles that make it impossible not to stop and stare.
This chick will work with anything from beeswax to Photoshop or from molding clay to silkscreen. Not to mention she came to us from a job with Wendy Nichols making leather designer hand bags. We can’t wait to see the finished product and we also can’t wait to get our own Plasticine in the mail so we can join her in the fun. So, listen in and keep notes on this one.