Jill Slosburg-Ackerman’s sculptures develop from familiar forms of furniture. She subtly bends and transforms known objects causing a reconsideration of use, class and period. She riffs on vernacular and derivative design itself; her work is far from sly, but full of quiet humor, respect and wonder. For Art+History Jill is interested in how the combination of places and things extend or alter meaning, tethered to the collections of Chinoiserie china, in particular, and the life of a family. Jill has come to understand this house as a set of overlays and iterations. For all of its elegance, there are hints of disjuncture in the Nightingale-Brown House, and it is in these inconsistencies that her work is focused. Repetitive labor, which loosely references aspects of imperialism (slave trade and imports) and destruction (rot and termites), are both important aspects of the NBH history. However turbulent the history, Jill’s work also responds to the love within the Brown family, evident in the archives she has researched. The tensions these multiple inspirations represent draw our attention to the complicated memories and histories of the NBH.
Jill’s Artist Statement:
My work is a response to what is represented by the Nightingale-Brown House—a history of America told by photographs, architecture, objects, style, –Chinoiserie, in particular, and the life of a family. I have come to understand this house as a set of overlays and iterations. For all of its elegance, there are hints of disjuncture. The evolution of style, from that of the 18th Century Post-Revolutionary to 19th Century Neo-Classical, and finally to the early 20th Century Neo-Colonial isn’t seamless; there is evidence of parts that don’t fit together perfectly (reproductions, facsimiles, additions that are so new that they don’t match their surroundings in age and patina.) I can’t stop thinking about the differences between a renovation and an addition, a restoration and a reconstruction.
Much of my working process for this project is dependent upon repetitive labor, which loosely references aspects of imperialism (slave trade and imports) and destruction—rot and the termites. I have also taken away with me the love within the Brown family; it’s memories, collections and celebrations. Ghosts.
Just as conjunctions in language join separate linguistic elements within a single sentence, one of my goals is to join disparate and often opposing elements—nature to artifice, crafted objects to manufactured products, high art to low culture, art to design and craft—into hybrid sculptures. My work is simultaneously additive and subtractive, handmade and manufactured, precious and pedestrian. It conjoins beautiful and weird and ugly things, challenges good taste, questions hierarchies, and exhibits a small history of art and culture. My practice includes hybrid sculpted drawings (Framing Drawings) that incorporate their frames and Restless Shelves, works that are simultaneously furniture and sculpture that require collaborators to use them. My methodology is dependent upon mediation.
I am influenced by material culture and the decorative arts as well as the history of art. In particular, I have been inspired by how Brancusi revolutionized sculpture by creating works in which the pedestal is at once sculpture and support. My goal is to extend the venues for encountering sculpture by placing hybrid works of art (sculptures which combine hand wrought forms and discarded pieces of furniture) in locations that are outside of conventional art spaces with the purpose of collapsing conventional boundaries between works of art and the mundane. I would like to promote encounters with sculpture that give people more time for understanding it, if only because the work is displayed in a particular context that enriches its meaning and presence.
A very special thank you to Jessie Chafetz for her hard work and thoughtful insights.
Learn more about Jill and her work here: