[Apollo and Daphne. Jessica Joslin. 2012. Via]
I recently came across the exquisite creations of artist Jessica Joslin and was taken by their resemblance to - and reformulation of - the hybrid bodies in traditional grotesque art.
Joslin composes her sculptures from a wide variety of materials, including "antique ceremonial collar[s], antlers, bone, velvet, antique hardware, glass eyes, universal joints, springs, brass standoffs, casters, mink collars, saxophone keys, antique shoehorn, beads, lamp fittings, glove leather, music wire, cast pewter feet." She takes care with her sourcing of bones, explaining that:
"With the exception of replicas and common domestic species (eg. chickens) animal bones are acquired from licensed distributors, the sort of company that a natural history museum might work with if they were putting together an exhibit. I have a strong affinity for animals and take care to deal only with reputable companies, whose specimens are legally and ethically obtained."
Many of Joslin's creatures mimic the ornate hybrid anatomy that is characteristic of the early grotesque style in art.
[Grotesques by Agostino Veneziano. 16th c.Via]
In particular, they exhibit a merging of organic and inorganic materials combined with stems, flutes and lavish curlicues.
[Claro. Jessica Joslin. 2012. Via]
[Phineas. Jessica Joslin. 2010. Via]
While she does not explicitly reference the grotesque (at least, not that I've read so far), Joslin states that she finds inspiration in a variety of places, images and bodies during the creative process. As she says in this interview:
"Inspiration is slippery, it generally doesn't like to be pinned and mounted for inspection. My sparks come from many and varied sources. I often draw from circus imagery, mainly from the late 19th-early 20th century [...] I love to look at images of animals and to watch them move, whether in the flesh or in nature documentaries. Bodies are stunningly perfect machines…and there is such strong variation in the characteristics of different species. I am also drawn to the particular/peculiar stylistic organization of the natural world, as found in old-school Natural History Museums (and perhaps more aptly, in Cabinets of Curiosities). This is a fascination that dates back to when I was a small child and still captures my imagination."
[Joslin at work. Via]
Joslin encourages viewers to see her work as a kind of cultural composite; drawing together circus and museum, fantasy and fact, document and imagination.
"In the visual arts, there is the potential to communicate ideas and to make layered associations, which language cannot tidily convey. My work encompasses a broad range of my interests, spanning the many years that I've been making these sculptures. Those layers are there to be excavated, but that is not strictly necessary for appreciation of my work. I make my beasts because they are what I dreamed of discovering, but they didn't exist anywhere, so I had to make them myself."
[Egon. Jessica Joslin. 2008. Via]
[Valeria. Jessica Joslin. 2006. Via]
I love finding new forms of grotesquerie that link with the past, yet have their own unique contemporary flavour.
If you're interested, I highly recommend checking out Joslin's website, where you can see her whole fantastic bestiary and buy prints. She also has a book available, Strange Nature, which you can purchase here. So good.