Briefly describe the work you do.
The unreal becomes tangible through my sculptural forms. My interests include rare phenomenon, ancient mythology, monster theory, and spirituality. Based on research into these topics and observation of human behavior, concepts evolve into animal sculptures. Over the last four years, the work has focused on the dark and light side of personality. Human behavior is complex because it is driven by both instinct and cultural influences. As social creatures, instinctual forces are derived from our primal selves, while cultural influences stem from the history, religion, science, media, and literature of the place we live. Therefore, humans are domesticated animals. Each artwork utilizes human-like eyes and smooth skin to provide viewers with clues to the introspective nature of my ideation. I am interested in the ways our social, creative, and psychological development relates to animals. The sculptures represent archetypes.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
After completing my BFA degree at Minnesota State University Moorhead, I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota to pursue artistic employment. Within two weeks I was working at “Tivoli Too” a three-dimensional design and fabrication shop. The first couple of weeks consisted of working several days in each department. Soon my time was dedicated to the mold making area. Under the direction of Professor Martin Meersman at MSUM, I had learned to make relief, box, and brush-on molds. I utilize these processes constantly to create sculptures. In fact, this skill set has led to many employment opportunities for myself, so I have dedicated my Sculpture III and Ceramics III curriculum to students learning mold making and casting.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
A year ago I received an Iowa Art Council grant supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. It supported experiments to shoot clay with a variety of bullets to see the projectile effect. Expanding my studio practice to the firing range was exciting. Watching the clay burst and expand as it reacted was heart pounding. Otherwise, my practice requires traditional spaces from a sculpting area to a woodshop for crate building.
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?
When I began making art my goals included providing viewers with sensory experiences through interactive sculptures. The artworks were activated with tactile materials or soundscapes. This work was focused on notions of fantasy. Now, my work is a blend of fantasy and reality. It focuses on the complexity of human behavior driven by both primal instincts and evolved socialization. Some sculptures feature mutations or blurred motion. Most recently, studio experiments have focused on current issues. Over the past thirty years, twenty-one mass shootings have occurred in the United States. These shocking one-day events have death tallies ranging from eight to thirty-two individuals according to CNN. Recent events include the movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado; the gunning down of twenty-six people in Newtown, Connecticut; and the Washington Navy Yard killings. This string of violent events resulted in the desire to create sculptures that would represent the shock felt when one hears the news. Plus, question the mass murder’s motivation and how these individuals can be helped before more tragic events occur. Several clay torsos were sculpted and transported to a firing range. A rifleman then fired a variety of bullets from handguns and assault weapons at the objects. The resulting forms record the effect of the projectile. One of these sculptures is titled “Impact (38 special).”
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?
My sculptures are labor intensive and most take months to create. During summer months and holiday breaks, I dedicate weekdays. As deadlines approach my hours extend accordingly. During the academic calendar, I typically work nights and long weekend hours to create new work.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I have developed three series of works: “We are Animal,” “Meeting Our Shadow,” and “Creation” in the last five years. Each addresses different concepts. The “We are Animal” series began with investigating current spiritual beliefs and the lineage to ancient religions. I have utilized technology in some sculptures to create unexpected encounters. “Apparition” is a life-sized mountain lion lying on a pedestal. The large cat cries physical tears. Wooden church window frames are hung behind on the wall. These works vary greatly in physical form from those in the “Creation” series, which began in 2013 on a whim. Resulting artworks have stemmed from mythology, which has led to general wonderment regarding rare phenomena. What discovers will be made in the next century? “Chaos” questions what we know to be “true” as the combination of forms violates the rules of nature. These sculptures combine natural plant and tree life with animals. The overall style of my work remains sleek. The animal sculptures have smooth surfaces relating to skin and human-like eyes.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
In 2009, I was hired to create commissions for internationally known artist Siah Armajani. Since, Armajani has become a mentor. He attended the reception for my Master of Fine Arts exhibit at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and followed up with a one-on-one critique. Each time we meet at his studio or talk on the phone, Siah always has words of wisdom to foster my career. On a recent visit, Siah said, “Tell yourself everyday the work you make is important, everyday!”
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
When I began undergraduate school at MSUM I was interested in pursuing either a fine arts or chemistry degree. Being a chemist requires higher-order thinking and problem solving skills. The most engaging courses in high school included physics, psychology, and mathematics. Luckily, as a three-dimensional artist and professor, I utilize knowledge of these subject matters often. Since then, I have also thought a career in forensic science would have been very engaging.
Jessica Teckemeyer maintains an active studio practice and is an Assistant Professor at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in May 2010. Teckemeyer’s artworks have been featured in six solo exhibits and shown in over forty group exhibitions. Viewers in many cities have experienced the work, including: Monoco, France; Montevideo, Uruguay; New York, NY; South Orange, NJ; Santa Ana, CA; Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Tallahassee, FL; Cincinnati, OH; Minneapolis, MN; and Des Moines, IA. Recently she has received Second Prize at the “Tallahassee International” hosted at the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, the Three-Dimensional Award at the “36th Annual Rock Island Fine Arts Exhibition” at the Augustana College Art Museum, and two Iowa Arts Council Grants supported through the National Endowment for the Arts.
Teckemeyer has fabricated sculptures for internationally known artist Siah Armajani since 2009. Prior to graduate school, Teckemeyer worked in the sculpting, mold making, and painting departments at “Tivoli Too” a 3D design and production studio located near Minneapolis, MN. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2004.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.