Briefly describe the work you do.
My primary focus is sculpture and I work to create immersive sculpture environments that invite viewers into imagined biological systems. I intend for the works to be moved through and experienced both visually and spatially. I also work on related drawings that involve a process of cutting and layering paper. The drawings started as a bi-product of the installations but they’ve emerged as an important counterpart in my studio practice.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
My liberal arts experience at Hamilton College was transformative. It provided an essential foundation that was rooted in making connections across disciplines, and seeking news ways of synthesizing ideas. I majored in Art, minored in Anthropology, and took a range of courses, from Discrete Mathematics to Islamic Thought. Pursuing art within this context offered so much fodder for creative inquiry and the experience continues to influence my thinking. It was here that I learned to see art as a powerful access point into anything and everything, and as having the capacity to revolutionize the way I see and experience my surroundings on a daily basis.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I’m a maker. I value hands on interaction with material and the kind of experimental problem solving that can happen in a studio setting. The studio is a place where I can be completely engrossed in the present and I live for those elongated moments when I’m in the thick of it. Grappling with the work and the ideas is invigorating and leaves me feeling more alive and more in tune with my sense of self and the world around me.
It’s also important that the works continue to change each time they’re installed, so this idea of “being in the studio” extends to each exhibition space where I install the work. I think of each installation as a frozen moment in the life of the work and exhibitions are a way of thinking through each system. They allow for the works to shift and expand in vital ways.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Developing an installation requires both design and engineering. There’s a push and pull between my desire to fabricate an imaginative landscape and the physical limitations of the space itself. I need to consider the technical logistics early on in the process and resolve how the forms are going to exist in space. I also have to determine how the parts are going to break down so I can efficiently transport the work and then reassemble it quickly on site. As a result, I work to design compact parts that readily expand in volume to fill and activate the exhibition space available.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
There’s not necessarily a certain time of day that’s important but I have noticed a cycle to my practice. Each installation takes about 12 to 16 months and there’s an arc to the evolution of each work. Momentum builds slowly as I test initial forms and then I’ll have a stretch of high activity where I’m working every day, often more than once a day, for weeks on end. This momentum builds towards a series of installations where the work continues to grow, move, and expand. I also find that stretches of time between bodies of work are necessary. This critical distance allows me to shift gears and gain a better understanding of how the work is evolving.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Each installation is an extension from the previous work and adds to this ongoing dialogue about biological flux and potential for growth. I’m starting to see the systems as symbiotic parts to something larger and I’m currently in the process of combining the installations into one massive growth.
From a macro perspective, I’m interested in taking on the role of bioengineer and splicing the systems together. I’m painting everything white and in a sense, I’m bleaching the forms as a means to knock them back and let them grow anew. Color will seep through in select areas, referencing the history of each work, and serving as a visual link between forms. I see this as the final stage in the life of these works and I’m excited to see where my studio practice might go next. I recently moved to Maine, which has this incredible coastline and seasons that are both beautiful and fierce so I’m excited to see how living in the Maine landscape might influence future work.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
On a personal level, Rebecca Murtaugh has been instrumental. Rebecca is an active artist and Chair of the Art Department at Hamilton College. Her mentorship has been indispensable and she’s been cheering me on for over ten years. I’m so thankful for our friendship and I think this kind of mentorship is extremely valuable for young artists to seek out.
An author whose work has been meaningful is Oliver Sacks. He writes about anomalies of the brain and he makes a compelling case for how neurological conditions offer exciting glimpses into the brain’s capacity for adaptation and transformation. His books fueled my interest in the biological early on and have continued to serve as an important pivot point for my work.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I have it made. I love being both an artist and an educator and the two are inextricably linked.
Jackie Marie Brown has been featured in group and solo exhibitions across the United States, including installations at the Saratoga Arts Center and the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. She was an artist-in-residence at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC and most recently, the West Collection invited her to install Ignition Sequence at SEI Investments, where the work was on view from November 2013 to May 2014.
Brown also recently joined the Visual Arts faculty at Bowdoin College and relocated to Brunswick, Maine. She was previously based in Philadelphia where she served as full-time faculty at Ursinus College and as an MFA mentor for the University of the Arts. She received her BA from Hamilton College and her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.