The objects we collect and accumulate serve as vehicles to both cling to and let go of our identities and personal experiences. JACINDA RUSSELL reveals the nuances of this continuum in her photography, sculpture and installations. Some collections are extensions of her own body—fingernail clippings, old swimsuits and a broken comb she used for 25.5 years—while others present the obsessions and fixations of others. Jacinda received her BFA from Boise State University in Studio Art and her MFA from the University of Arizona in Photography. Her work has been exhibited at Texas Gallery, DiverseWorks, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Houston Center for Photography and the Academy of Fine Art & Design in Wroclaw, Poland. Faux, also featuring the work of Alexis Pike, opens on September 5, 2014 at Boise State University Visual Arts Center in Idaho. She a member of the Board of Directors and participant in the Postcard Collective. Jacinda is an Associate Professor of Art at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
OtherPeoplesPixels: You've said you come from a family of collectors. What kinds of collections did you witness as a child?
Jacinda Russell: Growing up, my father's major collection was balloon tire bicycles. At one time, there were nearly 200 inside the house, suspended from the ceilings or propped against any available wall space. He also accumulated soda bottles, porcelain signs, rusty toys, wheels, odd pieces of metal and wood, photographs and old advertising signage that he someday hoped to use in art projects.
OPP: Do you remember a favorite collection from childhood?
JR: My favorite collection as a child is so hard to answer! I owned a lot of small wooden boxes that contained pins, stamps,tiny toy animals like plastic elephants and old rings. I also saved artifacts from places I visited: shells, rocks and purple-tinted glass worn and shaped by waves. Those are the items I still remember and even have one representation in a display case in my living room today.
OPP: There are probably as many idiosyncratic collection practices and purposes as there are humans, but I see collections as falling into two primary categories: collections that can be completed and those that can't. Thoughts? Do you tend towards one or the other?
JR: That's an interesting question, and I've never thought about it in that manner. I can see how that pertains to a comic book collection where someone owns every single issue of a publication, however, my collections exist as finite units. No matter how many objects are accumulated, when I say it is done, that is it. For instance, I don't need all the teeth my brother and I lost as a child photographed on a white piece of cotton. I only use what I have, and that is fine.
OPP: How do you decide when it is done? Is it a strictly artistic decision or is it something else?
JR: I stop when a collection overwhelms me. The best example I can give is of a small series of photographs that I am currently working on that features every single list I saved from June 1, 2010 - May 31, 2013. I kept them as long as I could before the stack made me physically uncomfortable and took up too much space on the shelf. I am currently sorting these into categories and photographing each pile individually and in small groups. There are 1045 of them.
OPP: Your project A Tale of Two Obsessions: David C. Nolan & Marilyn Monroe and Arline Conradt & the Cat Scrapbook, 2011 - 2013 investigates the collections of two strangers. How did you first encounter these collections? How did they become part of your work as an artist?
JR: I've known about the David C. Nolan photographs of Marilyn Monroe for years. They have haunted me since I was a teenager. I never thought to make art about them until my father gave them to me. He has always been a great source of material, perhaps knowing better than I do that I will someday turn it into artwork. If you would have told me when he first gave me the cat scrapbook that I would make an installation featuring 7500+ cats as a serious art project, I would have scoffed at the idea. I love this series because it is a step away from myself, a look at two individuals from a different era that are not too dissimilar in the manner in which they organize and structure their collections. The source of their material is very different, and I feel connected to—and repulsed by—both.
OPP: In what ways are you a documentarian? In what ways are you not?
JR: I define documentary work as an objective viewpoint, and everything I do is subjective. I have always considered myself a pseudo-archivist rather than a documentarian. I fiddle too much with the truth, preferring to manipulate what I see rather than leave it alone. It is very difficult for me to take a photograph that is not staged in some manner and consider it artistic (although I appreciate documentary photographers like William Eggleston and Robert Adams).
its beauty, Nine Fake Cakes and Nine Bodies of Water comes from a dark
place—one that was momentarily forgotten as I traveled across the
country searching for pristine water." That's a mysterious statement. Will you tell us more about the beginning of this
JR: I allude to the "dark place" at the beginning of the project statement: "Spring 2010 featured several personal and career-related disappointments, and for the first time in my artistic life, I was devoted to a project that’s main premise is beauty, escapism and desire. . . Complete immersion in finding inviting bodies of water to float Styrofoam and acrylic-tinted, caulk cakes was a coping mechanism to come to terms with loneliness and unhappiness with place." I have a habit of saying too much with my artwork and this series was a challenge to step back and not explain everything in detail. I wanted the photographs to stand on their on and for the most part I think they do.
OPP: This project gets at the idea that collecting can be a consciously or unconsciously evasive maneuver. But it can also be an opportunity for transformation. Where did the project lead you?
don't consider the cakes a collection, rather a depiction of an action
or performance. Nine Fake Cakes and Nine Bodies of Water consisted of
many components which I documented extensively on my blog: the construction of the object, choosing the locations, the travel
mishaps that often took place because so many variables were out of
my control, the encounters with the general public that interfered
with the documentary process, the begging, bribing and excuses I made
to explain my actions. They are all part of the series though not
evident in the end product.
The following summer, I received a grant for a project entitled From Venice Beach to the Venice Biennale. It involved many failures but led me to several series that I am currently working on: my explorations with water and stalking artists. The Venice Beach portion featured my attempt to meet Ed Ruscha. I had a couple weeks in between my trips to California and Italy to create art in response to whether or not I met the famous conceptual artist. Whatever came from it, I would bring to the Venice Biennale. I sent him a letter before flying to Los Angeles, outlining my plans and included nine postcards of the fake cakes. Needless to say, I did not meet him but a couple days after I returned from California, I received a postcard from him stating: "Jacinda - Thanks so much for 'Nine Fake Cakes: . .' Those cakes never had it so good and niether [sic] did those bodies of water! Rage on! Ed Ruscha" I would like to think I took his advice seriously (or at least I am still trying).
OPP: You recently completed a summer residency, correct? Where did you go and what did you make?
JR: Since I finished Nine Fake Cakes and Nine Bodies of Water,
I have often wondered if I were to redo it, how could it be better? The
answer lies in the location. Although many of the bodies of water in
that project had a purpose, they were not as meaningful as they could
be. I started a series last summer based on my autobiography as told in
water (the opening image on my website is the first photograph, but the series
is in-progress and currently untitled, hence not referenced anywhere
else yet). I have a list of 14 locations that I must document and
collect materials from in order to finish this work. They range from
locations important to my family history to destinations I have longed
to visit because I thought they would change the way I perceive water
and thus, my relationship to the world (the glacial melt of Lake Louise
is an example of the latter).
I was invited to attend a residency at Surel's Place in Boise, Idaho, which is conveniently located next to five of the locations on my list. I spent the entire month of May revisiting many of the places where I vacationed as a child. I collected water samples, made sound and video recordings and took photographs. I am halfway done with the list and hope that I will have completed it in two years. I am still editing and thinking about the images I acquired. Some will exist as photographs while others will be featured in a mail art project, an artist book and a mixed media installation. I have always wanted my work to extend further into the third dimension, and I hope this series will be a breakthrough in that direction.
Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based, interdisciplinary artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an instructor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2012-2013 Mentor-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan) and Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery in Chicago. Stacia recently created a site-responsive collage installation in her hometown. NEXT: Emerging Virginia Artists runs until October 12, 2014 at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. Here|Now, a two-person exhibition curated by MK Meador and also featuring the work of Jason Uriah White, is on view at Design Cloud in Chicago from July 25 - October, 24, 2014.