Jessica Stockholder is most readily known as a sculpture, but she brings a complex history and distinct approach to the discipline. Her remarkable sensitivity to color combined with her attention to pictorial space are in many ways very painterly, and in fact she began her artistic career as a painter at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Eventually her work crept off the canvas, across the wall, over the floor and then finally, in some instances, out of the exhibition space altogether.
Her creative process embraces chance, humor, and imaginative problem solving, and the work itself embodies these things. Stockholder feels her art “is indexical of the process of coming to knowledge and understanding,” and in many ways the art’s physicality remains an integral aspect of its ultimate meaning.
Stockholder’s attraction to readily available, human-scaled objects for use in her sculpture and installation has been impacted by her relocation to Chicago where she is Chair of the University of Chicago’s Department of Visual Arts. When asked if and how having new materials at her disposable has affected her recent work she commented:
“It is taking me a while to find places to find stuff here in Chicago. I am living in Hyde Park which is definitely not oriented around consumption! Thus far I don’t find the kinds of materials available here to be substantially different than elsewhere, though I’m sure there are all kinds of eccentric nooks and crannies here yet to be discovered!”
Back in 2005, Stockholder was featured in Art21’s “Play” episode, and her work does often “play” with dualities. But looking back at her segment, she had this to say about the characterization of her work:
“I was very happy to have my work featured by Art21, and didn’t at the time see that it was useful to discuss my mixed feelings about ‘play.’ But now that some time has passed—and in the context of this one-on-one discussion focused not at a group of artists but only on my work—I will say that the word ‘play’ feels a little threatening. Within the hierarchies of value that we live with, being a woman is already something to deal with. Adding the childlike connotations of the word ‘play’ to the mix doesn’t feel productive from my point of view. How about the words ‘experimental’ or ‘exploratory’? I also enjoy talking about my work in relation to chance or serendipity.”
In both her sculpture and installation, Stockholder relishes destabilizing the dichotomies between dynamic and static; tangible and immaterial; and ephemeral and fixed. In each of these instances, her work traffics in the third dimension of space as well as the fourth—of time. It is meant, in her words, “to be experienced.”
Jessica Stockholder was featured in Season 3 of Art in the Twenty-First Century; watch her segment here.
Thea’s interview with Stockholder was conducted via email in March 2013. Per the artist, the initial image in the video above is not of “Color Jam” but of a work in Madrid titled “Peer Out to See.”