Interviewed by: Eliana Blechman
We asked Jessica Stoller a few questions about the relationship between porcelain and femininity and the balance between the desirable and grotesque in her work. Read on for more...
Art-in-Buildings: Your choice of medium reflects on the historical correlation between porcelain and the assumed fragility of women. How did you become interested in this relationship?
Jessica Stoller: I have always worked with ceramics, but in the past few years I honed in on porcelain and its sorted history, which is really interesting to me. My work has always dealt with feminist themes, and porcelain serves as an ideal material to investigate ideas of beauty, taste and desirability, and how these ideas also intersect with the body. The material is also full of contradictions – once emblematic of distinct imperialist taste and later dismissed for being decorative, hence "feminine," therefore, the shift to this material made sense with my interests and previous work's trajectory.
AiB: In what ways do you embrace or reject traditional representations of femininity in your practice?
JS: The body, specifically the female body, becomes the space where our varying cultural, and religious ideals, anxieties and fears are projected and enforced. The work becomes a dance of balancing, rejecting, broadening and reconstructing these ideas – it's a constant push/ pull.
AiB: Your sculptures blur the line between the desirable and the grotesque. How do you navigate this boundary?
JS: Yes! I think the material of clay intrinsically allows contradictions and lends itself very well to the paradoxes my work holds – it can be shaped to mimic anything from a big pimple to a strand of pearls. Not to mention, the line between desirability and the grotesque is often a very subjective and slippery space. I also think about desirability in terms of the audience, and historically, the audience has been rooted in patriarchal views of what is deemed desirable and acceptable to the status quo. The abject allows me to destabilize the notions of a fixed, static body and make transgressive works that subvert expectations and norms.
AiB: In what ways did working within the confines of the West 10th Window influence your work?
JS: I really enjoyed the challenge of creating a site- specific piece for the West 10th Window. It was an ideal size for my work and I liked the peculiarity of the vantage point. It was interesting to think about how I could create something unexpected and enticing for viewers. I was constantly asking, "What will get people to slow down and look?", "How can I pull people into the work"? The piece I made really worked with the space directly, the nails mimicked the arabesques on the building's ornamental frieze, and I wanted the legs to look as if they were dangling from the apartment above.
AiB: What's next for you?
JS: I am working towards my next solo show with my gallery P.P.O.W. (NY) which is slated for next year – stay tuned! With that said, the work I make is time consuming, it is a slow and tedious process but I am well on my way with conceptualizing how the show will be laid out/installed – really excited to flush out a new body of work!
Learn more about Jessica Stoller on her website!