Skin Toned Garden Mapping

Joe Scanlan, 1991

Jessica Stockholder grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and has lived in New York City since graduating from Yale in 1985. Stockholder’s artworks over the past eight years have been an ever-intensifying creation of sculpture and installations, melding together such diverse materials as paint, lemons, plaster, old laundry, wicker chairs, stuffed animals, Asian rugs, car doors, dressers, lumber, light fixtures and light bulbs in surprisingly harmonious or discordant ways.

These “marriages” of such diverse and incompatible materials is not entirely a social or personal process, but one that is inspired simultaneously by the artist’s observation of the social world as well as the detritus of her personal life. Thus every object or color that Stockholder chooses has many functions or “lives,” depending on whether we look at it personally, socially, or aesthetically. A wicker chair may remind you of a broad, somewhat generic period or style, or it may evoke nostalgia for your grandparent’s house. It is the same for any number of objects, colors or materials: our experiences of the world are so varied and rich—and our cognition and memories so deceptively keen—that Stockholder’s works present a surfeit of stuff for one’s personal associations.

Stockholder’s constructions jar us out of our contemplative moments however, just as easily as they coax us into them. Her colorful, visually “violent” collisions and combinations always bring us back to the issue at hand, namely: more material refuse and social baggage than we care to address.

Most jarring of Stockholder’s devices is her use of color, not only which colors she chooses but how she applies them as well. Stockholder uses layers of color to blanket and weld contrasting objects and materials together, making them seem alternately connected, foreign, or weightless. Many of these colors already exist in the objects themselves: yellow detergent bottles, orange polyester curtains, or powder blue Formica counter tops are the result of countless design and marketing strategies, in turn the results of years of ruthless free-market competition. And while these colors may not be beautiful they’re certainly meaningful, in that they indicate the extremity of our material consumption and demands. Thus what is visually jarring about Stockholder’s work can become socially and politically so, when we begin to think about the material and psychological consequences of how we live.

Stockholder’s work, in her own terms, is a sort of coming to grips with the material world and the experiential phenomena of overlay, sequence, and lapse. The richness of Stockholder’s work lies in the multiple associations that such experience carries, from the real space/time of urban environments to the paralogical synapses of the brain. As physical beings we exist somewhere between those two poles, and balance both against our material lives. This struggle for comfort, for peace of mind, is the mortal element of Stockholder’s work. Although her site-specific installations are real and solid, they are not permanent. As she has stated: “The work…elicits the same struggle that goes into the making of it. It is a struggle between stasis, or completeness, and an on-going continuation.”