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The Work of Jessica Calderwood

We are thrilled to usher in 2016 with our first exhibition, Flora and Flesh: The Work of Jessica Calderwood.

Jessica Calderwood is a Wisconsin-based mixed media artist who creates wall reliefs, freestanding sculptures, and wearable objects that explore women’s roles in society. Flora and Flesh will feature the artist’s oeuvre in its entirety including enamel jewelry and ceramic sculptures.

Sparked by Calderwood’s desire to understand and establish her place in society, and after giving birth to her first child, the artist created a series of large-scale sculptures that were human/plant hybrids. Calderwood, an artist, educator, wife and mother, wanted to express her conflicting emotions through these “self-portraits.” The flower/botanical forms are combined with fragments of the human body to create, what the artist calls, “anthropomorphic beings [that] are at once, powerful and powerless, beautiful and absurd, inflated and amputated.”

A large ball of flowers acts as a stand-in for a woman’s head or body, either resting on her shoulders or on a pair of dainty legs. These flowers are meant to be “beautiful, overwhelming and suffocating” — an expression of the artist’s emotions. Calderwood carefully chooses the flowers based on their symbolism and meaning, each bloom evocative of the feelings that she is trying to convey.

This exhibition will also feature Calderwood’s jewelry. Recognized for her mastery of enamel, Calderwood is interested in working with media that is considered to be a “marginalized craft”. This is what initially attracted her to enamel, a material that is historically part of the woman’s sphere. Recently the artist has started to incorporate polymer clay, porcelain, wool felting, and glass beads, materials that are also attributed to a woman’s hand. Calderwood first started using these materials in her sculptural work but they have slowly become a part of her jewelry making vocabulary as well. The foundation for this recent body of work came to fruition during Calderwood’s Residency in the Arts/Industry Program while at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, in Sheboygan, WI.

Flora and Flesh will feature work that is darker; the figures more “contemplative in their stance”. Interested in examining the grimmer side of gender roles, Calderwood is exploring the tension between bright florals and dark gestures. For the first time she is including a male figure in her work, hoping that this would spur a conversation about relationships and domesticity.

Although trained as a metal smith, Calderwood first made jewelry as “maquettes for the larger work”. Her jewelry has since become an essential part of her work.

Calderwood received a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and an MFA, with an emphasis in Metalworking, from Arizona State University. Her work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and internationally, in curated and juried exhibitions. Calderwood’s work will be featured in Dreamscapes at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI, opening on February 21, 2016. She has participated in artist residencies with the John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry Program, Ferro Corporation, and the Mesa Arts Center. Her work has also been published in Metalsmith Magazine, American Craft, NICHE, Ornament, Lark 500 Series, and Art of Enameling. She is currently Associate Professor of Art at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh.

Flora and Flesh: The Work of Jessica Calderwood – Will be on view from
January 21 – February 28.

Please join us for our Opening and Artist Reception, January 21st from 6-8pm.

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