Ever in flux...

My childhood in Tennessee, enfolded in a large family, was shaped by the rich texture of mountains, swamps, lakes, woods and creeks. Dull hours never crossed my path. And the habit of careful observation of nature, instilled by my father, inspired curiosity and resourcefulness that lead to wonder, to inventiveness. This was pragmatic as well as fantastic. Also, of profound influence were years spent in the Low Country of South Carolina, where the culture of story-telling, tall yarns, ghost stories, and the space for mystery thrived.

We are both animal and symbol maker. The practice of painting and sculpting is both a reckoning with my own body and the urge toward language. Language embodied and ever in flux — devouring, digesting, regurgitating, absorbing and reflecting desire. The longing for the sacred, merging with another, the clamoring of interiority, the porosity of boundary — these are states of being whose tensions seek me out. Also, being a twin has propelled me to create imagery of body doubling and shifting sexes to invite a ripe confusion. My animal imagery acts as the sacred — the bridge between ourselves and nature, the offering to divinity as well as sacrifice to our voracious appetites.

In 1998, painting, my first interest, needed a more performative incarnation. Music, dance, video projection and lyrics began to enable me to bring my paintings to ‘life’. Time spent in West Africa (1993-4), where traditionally community, art and spirituality are one, was an irresistible inspiration. Dance has also been a constant — an energy that informs my work. Syncopation is the interval between the beat, the delay, anticipation and provocation that allows for the lost moment. In this spirit, “Conversation in the Grotto”, “33 Swoonings”, “Sewing Songs”, and “Parabolic Arc” were performances realized during these years.

Having numerous deaf family members became a touchstone for my interest in non-verbal communication and the barriers of spoken language. As homage to oral culture and universal rituals, “Grupo Cuerpo”, an international call and response, knits together numerous communities as participants introduced themselves through gesture only.

With “Precise Breathing” (aboutthebuzz.com), a multimedia project about the honeybee, I explored our relationship to this extraordinary animal. In “The Beekeeper’s Journal” the marvels of the hymenoptera are laid out in contrast to imagery of the stark vanishing of the honeybee. With the most recent projects, “Zoopsia” and “Why This World”, composed of painting and ceramic sculpture, the animal is herself, as well as our mirror.  The non-human animal is sometimes playful, sometimes savage, often contradictory, but also standing in for something much larger than the human species alone. 

—Jenny Lynn McNutt 2014

photo above: Karl Nussbaum