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Jody Dunphy: Generating hope

Jody Dunphy working in WSW's papermaking studio

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. . . If that is true, then how much more is an experience worth? The work of Jody Dunphy is experiential art that beacons to all the senses, transmitting a life-generating message.

She is making handmade paper jewelry. The translucent paper forms contain various types of seeds. They look fragile like leaves, petals, pods and flowers. The seeds are embedded in them like precious jewels; which serves as a perfect metaphor as she aims to “make precious” the seed. She hopes that people will realize how amazing these little forms are.

 artist Jody Dunphy handmade paper seed necklaces

All the individual necklaces and bracelets are gathered into one larger piece to be worn by the artist at a dispersal happening. Since the Spring of 2012 she has had six dispersal happenings. Her chosen venues include the library, the mall and the post office on tax day. She chooses a “democratic” location where people from all walks of life convene and where some kind of dispersal of information or knowledge is taking place. It is important to Jody not just to “preach to the choir”, but that she share her experiential art with a diverse audience.

At the dispersals she approaches random strangers and offers up her jewelry as a gift. Her ultimate goal is that the seed jewelry be planted in the ground and the seeds be cultivated. The jewelry piece that she created would disintegrate for the seed to germinate. However, even if people decide to treasure the jewelry instead of plant it, she feels it still performs an important function, serving as a symbol of life.

She recalls some memorable moments from past dispersal happenings. An urban dwelling high school boy on the the subway responded to her project with the enthusiastic exclamation, “that is dope!” A woman at the chamomile dispersal happening relived a fond memory from her childhood with stories of teatime with her mother. These types of personal encounters are energizing to Jody, who wants to have a real impact on society. She has chosen to move outside the limited scope of the gallery and museum hoping that her work would have a greater reach.

While most responses have been positive, not everyone receives her work enthusiastically. Some people are just dismissive, too busy, or not interested. Sometimes such encounters end in a surprising turn of events. “I was at the mall in Claire’s Boutique, which sells crappy costume jewelry. I approached a lady there whose first response was, ‘I don’t want any. What are you doing? I’m not interested. Talk to my sister, she’s into that kind of stuff’’. Jody was not dissuaded. She did talk to the sister, passionately describing the Egyptian Walking Onion bulbs that are a family heirloom passed down through her grandfather. Her passion was contagious, the story moving, and the once reluctant participant, left a “convert” wearing an onion bulb broach.

Jody Dunphy handmade paper

Jody Dunphy desires to create rather than consume. “There is already too much stuff in the world. I came to the conclusion that if I’m going to make stuff that it has to give back, to be a positive contribution to people and the environment”. “We are all part of the web of life”, she says optimistically. Jody wants her audience to understand the connection that we have with nature and take notice of how amazing a single seed is. Generating hope is also very important to her work and comes from a personal struggle to overcome depression. “Seeds are a symbol of hope and of life itself. Nature will help you realize that winter always ends in Spring.” This life giving message would do us all good to sink into our souls.

Jody Dunphy was a WSW workspace resident in the paper studio during the month of April 2013. She lives in Portland Oregon where she received her MFA in Applied Craft and Design at the Oregon College of Art in Craft. She currently works at the Museum of Contemporary Craft and in her home studio.You can find out more about her work by visiting http://jodyv.tumblr.com/.

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