SOLOS Spotlight: Jesse Harrod
by Evan Odoms, AAC Marketing Intern and Jen Noone, AAC Exhibitions Intern
AAC Spring SOLOS 2016 are in full effect! Each year, along with curated exhibitions, we also present the SOLOS series, a showcase of contemporary artists from the Mid-Atlantic.
With the help of jurors Michelle Ho and Jefferson Pinder we selected 14 (out of more than 100 applicants), and now our Spring SOLOS completes the 2015-16 season.
But the show isn’t over yet! Read on to learn about Jesse Harrod, then stop by to see her work. If you’re ready for the gray days to leave us in spring, Jesse Harrod’s show Soft Hardware featuring lively colors and intricate macramé work can’t help but bring a smile to your face.
Harrod’s work, a mixture between fiber techniques and “hobbyist” aesthetics, explores ideas and concerns surrounding gender and queer identity. One intern’s second-chance encounter proves that the DMV art scene is a small world after all.
Floor to ceiling collections of glittering sequins, mounds of used rope and fishing nets, shiny glass spheres and neon colored paracord captivated my attention when I visited Harrod’s Philly studio with my MFA class this past fall.
There were piles of fake flowers, stacks of stickers, and strands of plastic gems that I recognized from the craft store. I remember wandering around the magical space and privately agreeing with a classmate who proclaimed, “This place makes me smile.”
Imagine my pleasant surprise when I was touring AAC on the first day of my internship and recognized Harrod’s bold, colorful artwork in the Chairmen’s gallery!
The same vibrant neon paracord I saw in Harrod’s studio in the fall was being used in two of her pieces at AAC. Harrod uses the craft technique of macramé to knot the cord into intricate arrangements in her two pieces Rangers and Beads.
Use of traditional and contemporary craft is seen throughout Harrod’s work. She employs fiber techniques and a “hobbyist” aesthetic as a way to express thoughts and concerns surrounding gender and queer identity. By creating installations and sculptures using materials usually associated with hobby crafts and domesticity, Harrod explores craft as something secondary to traditional fine art.
“I want to challenge our associations of appropriate and inappropriate materials and techniques for art-making.”
Harrod also plays with the theme of contrast in her work. This is seen in Rangers in the juxtaposition between the organic forms that are created within geometric structures created from Plexiglas and steel. These structures are suspended between the natural and the artificial and are reminiscent of fetishized ornaments.
Color is also important part of Rangers. Harrod uses it as a tool to help guide the viewer through her show as well as challenge observers’ perception of the organic and the artificial. Plant shapes are also represented in Harrod’s work and while they don’t play a pivotal role, She does note that she is interested in how flowers and plants become metaphors for bodies and body parts. Harrod cites Georgia O’Keeffe and Judy Chicago as artists who’ve touched on this theme with their work, however her work focuses on feminism in the 1970s through “a queer intersectional lens.”
“I am also interested in the ways in which plants speak to or become stand ins for notions of femininity that are used to sell products and control women. So I like to subvert those things.”
Harrod sees her process as a relationship between materials rather than concept driven, it should also be noted that there’s a bit of research that goes into her work.
She likes to explore the history of her materials first, particularly focusing on the craft and textiles. “I ultimately work with and (sometimes) against the materials themselves to see what is possible and how far I can push particular materials, textures, and techniques,” she said.
When asked about the length of time it takes to finish her macramé work, Harrod points out an interesting trend with this type of question. Her answer:“I think the history of craft and its associations with (gendered) labor tends to elicit a desire to make that labor even more visible. Yet, the same questions are not usually asked in relation to other laborious processes, such as painting and drawing.”
Some may stumble upon this body of work and immediately grasp her concept while others just see beautifully woven macramé. That’s the interesting thing about Harrod’s work, it doesn’t hit you over the head with her “queer lens.” Instead it subtly challenges the viewer to cock their head to the side and say “oh I see it.”