Not Just Another Pretty Face 2019

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Meet Jacqueline Surdell

orange 2: leaping (studio shot & WIP), braided cotton cord, nylon cord, acrylic, threaded steel weight bar, meat hook, 15lb free weight, 5’x8′ (5′ threaded steel weight bar). 

We had the chance to connect with one of our exhibiting artists, Jacqueline Surdell. Her work is currently on display as part of the exhibition Beginning to See the Light, on view through July 27th.  Find out more about Jacqueline’s work here or on insta @jaquelinesurdell.

1.-In what ways has this exhibition helped you connect to the Art Center’s community?,

Every one of my interactions with the Art Center’s community has been a new connection and a new conversation right from the start. After a thoughtful and productive studio conversation with Ariel Gentalen, the Beginning to See the Light curator, my excitement about the exhibition grew and I knew I was in for a marvelous event. Soon after, I connected with Andi Crist who, after kindly walking me through some details, single handedly hauled my 10ft piece into a truck for Art Center delivery. This open, communicative, and hard-working culture of the Art Center community became more evident at the “Super Sunday” opening.  I met with peers and teachers from SAIC as well as new artists, curators, and arts admin individuals all enthusiastic about the work being shown and the conversations being had throughout the day’s events. Open studios was taking place at the same time and I had the opportunity to walk around the studios and connect with artists about their work, processes, and experiences at the center. Everyone I connected with spoke with sincerity and openness — the center practically thumbed with a warm, welcoming energy. Needless to say, I look forward to a long relationship with this generous community!

2.-Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can share with us?

  • Yes ! I have an exciting roster of shows lined up this year and I am thrilled to share my work in different contexts. I am working away in the studio – so let me know if you are interested in seeing some WIPs or meeting 😀

Exhibition Schedule:

3.-What mediums do you work with? How would you describe your subject matter? What themes seem to occur/reoccur in your work?

I consider myself interdisciplinary, but as of late I have been focusing on making a series of macrame-tapestry-paintings made using cotton cord, nylon cord, and acrylic paint. These works come from in  an intimate place and speak directly to my spirit — connecting the seemingly disparate life experiences of art and sport. My grandmother (Oma) is a landscape painter and I have vivid memories of exploring the nooks and crannies of her studio or watching her complete a plain air painting. Following in her footsteps, I always painted — I was a portrait painter for a long time. On a seemingly variant note, I entertain memories of running football plays in the alleyways with my Father and younger brother. From a young age sports made me feel strong and capable. I am proud to say that I can still throw a perfect spiral. I played competitive volleyball for ten years and was recruited to play at Occidental College in LA. It was at Oxy that I participated in my first sculpture course and it just clicked. The idea of making a physical form through the repetitive actions of the body made sense to me–particularly, macrame (a technique also inspired by my Oma) and the idea of accretion. The building up of something small to make something large mirrors the repetitive motions and small movements of an athlete to fully formed, controlled, technique. And here we are ! The laborious process is physically demanding while the forms themselves echo organic topographies and historic landscape paintings.

Themes then, flux around, through, and between: memory, family, lineage, labor, craft, endurance, material culture, gender roles, etc.

4.-What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?

  • When reading or listen to books I alternate between fantasy/historical-fiction/dystopian novels (something to really let my imagination run wild) and a contemporary biography or NPR or something current (something to keep me grounded in reality). Currently, I am alternating between J. R. R. Tolkien’s, Twin Towers, and Michelle Obama’s, Becoming.
  • I am researching various Hudson River School artists and themes. The idea of the expansive “American dream” being represented in these landscapes continues to intrigue me. Within these works there are issues of history, politics, ecology, and identity that I believe can be applied or linked to the divided America we see today. Complete with conflicting ideologies the the paradoxical rhetoric of “progress” versus a blind devotion to keeping things as they are or were.  

5.-What does having a physical space to make art in mean for your process, and how do you make your space work for you?

I am so grateful for my studio. Having a physical space to work in is so important to me and to my process. There is a psychology in stepping into a physical space to do work. I have always worked best in quiet spaces free from distraction. When I played volleyball in college we used to step up to the court, kneel, and thump our fists on the lines of the court. That motion signaled that after stepping into this space, we were focused, dedicated and ready to give our all to the work yet to come. I feel the same way stepping into the studio. The door swings open, I step in, the door swings shut, and I am in my own game — with a new set of rules, laws, and inevitable problematics.

6.-What three things never fail to bring you joy?

ahhh I have nothing too profound to say here… I try to find joy in the small things: an overdue phone conversation with a far off bff, all-day breakfast+mimosas, being alone with an epic art piece (Robert Morris’s Untitled felt at Dia Beacon comes to mind), puppies, kittens, conversations with my mom, discussions with my Oma: to glaze or not to glaze?! and, long, extremely long, (10+ mile walks) with my partner. Chicago summers are particularly special — those first few days of warmth seem to melt even the sourest of personalities. The city and everyone living here comes alive — there is palpable joy in the air — I live for those moments.

untitled vi {full} naturally nasty goes dark (front view), Braided cotton cord, enamel, bronze, L9’xW8’ (10’ bar), 2018.