Forging a Work of One's Own
Artwork by Jodiann Strmiska and Jessica Hughes. On display November 3, 2016 - January 1, 2017.
I have an affinity for working with organic shapes that echo those found in nature and find a sensual, tactile satisfaction in drawing from a model I have made from fabric and other fibers. Creating my own soft-sculpture models from foam rubber and fabric that I can pose or manipulate at will references the use of stuffed toys by young children as “transitional objects.” These objects function as touchstones of emotional comfort independent of parental influence and can take on a life of their own, like the velveteen rabbit of the classic work of children's fiction.
The bunny heads in this exhibition are part of my Dyad series of graphite drawings, an ongoing cycle of works on paper whose subject is the relationship between artist and studio model. With their crudely stitched-together craniums and floppy ears, they symbolize the psyche and the essential vulnerability of human nature. In dyad form or in the context of the imaginary, biomorphic landscapes they sometimes inhabit in my drawings, the bunny heads are engaged in the eternal battle of self vs. “other.”
In multiple form and color, the soft-sculpture heads represent the never-ending proliferation of ideas that often exist as “things-unto-themselves” without any larger context or meaning within the confines of the artist’s imagination, i.e., “multiplying like bunnies.”
My work focuses on a self-made, highly personal visual language. As a child, my inability to learn from auditory methodology made a negative impact on my grade school education. I have Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), which makes it difficult for me to process language as it is spoken. Words often become twisted and confused. This doesn’t make me deaf, and it certainly doesn’t mean that words go “in one ear and out the other.”
Through elementary, middle, and high school, 90% of my teachers used talking as their primary and overused method of teaching. As a result, I had very low grades because I was unable to keep up. Many of my teachers didn’t use visuals to enhance their teaching, or they used poor visuals. They often became exasperated and even angry when I requested them to repeat something. Being called lazy and told I would be a “burger flipper” was part of the norm for me. I didn’t learn about APD until late high school (2003), when I had already been told I probably wouldn’t go to college.
When I attended graduate school at Salem State University in 2009, I finally figured out that I needed to focus on APD in my own work, and communicate my experiences through my own visual language that was indecipherable to viewers. What the viewer sees here are bright, fast, often cluttered works on paper, which, if retranslated through an auditory fashion, is what communication has been like for me when nearly everything is verbalized.