STUDIO VISIT JESSE HARROD

JESSE HARROD

July, 2017, Philadelphia, PA

“Taught Tight Tender Sway” Sculpture Center, NY 2017

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

My family is from South Africa, but came to Canada and I grew up in Toronto, but I went back to SA a lot as a teenager. All of my siblings but one of them are there.

WHAT IS THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND YOUR WORK?

My work travels down three different contiguous roads or paths, they’re all being traveled at the same speed and at the same time. The end result is different for each path, but the driving force for all three of them is an investigation of materiality, q theory, feminist theory and ideas around pleasure, withholding, restraint, and expression or freedom.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE THE AVERAGE ART VIEWER CAN TAKE FROM YOUR WORK?

some people get really excited about the inherent labor apparent in the work. I use a lot of color that can be enticing. Oftentimes people will see colour, materials and technique and not the form, and really engage with some of those surface elements as opposed to the content which is totally fine with me.  My videos, animations, and drawings are a little more explicit, and I think can be a little more challenging for the viewer. For me there’s a consistent thread throughout all of my work.

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If I lived on a desert island, I would still make work. There are so many ways artists work- some have a particular idea that gets explored in a project that has a beginning, middle, and end and then they wait until the next idea or project arises. There are other folks who just tinker in their studios on a daily basis,  I’m that kind of person. There’s tons of things that I make that no one ever sees, but that process of making–the physical engagements with materials is hugely important to my well being.

There are a couple folks in my life who are my touchstones and I think about them a lot while I am working – I often am making work for them as much as for myself. I want to make them laugh, cry, feel sexy – all the feelings! As well as challenge their ideas and assumptions. If those things are visible to other folks that’s great but it can’t be the force behind my making or I will start to cater to people in a way that I would imagine would dilute the work and make me too self conscious

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST STRUGGLE IN THE STUDIO?

Time is always a struggle, but I think I have a pretty good handle on that, I have had to work really hard to develop systems in the studio to make sure I accomplish all the things I want to.

When I start to question things in a negative way and let the self-doubting critiques in my head have voice then I have to quickly shut them down.

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Oftentimes, one of the biggest issues is just having the money to make the things I want to make. I want a woodshop, I want more resources to make bigger and more complicated things. There’s also the  administrative side of being an artist that comes into the studio. I do a lot of administration in my job, about 80% administration, so I get really bitter when I have to do administration for my art practice. It’s super time consuming, the least fun part of it, but it’s important and necessary and they go hand in hand. I would really love not to have to do that stuff!  

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DO YOU HAVE ANY ROUTINES, RITUALS, OR COPING MECHANISMS YOU USE REGULARLY IN YOUR STUDIO PRACTICE?

I am a very routinized person. I get up early, exercise, go to the studio. I set my clock hourly in the studio, I will stop and do stretches, get water, have a snack. The macrame work in particular is  really bodily and physically challenging therefor systems are really helpful for me to make sure I protect my body.

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I like to do lots of warm ups such as taping a piece of chalk on the end of a long stick to draw with and loosen up.  I think it’s useful for me when I can take some of the control out of it, and let things be free.

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DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES OR INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF YOUR STUDIO PRACTICE THAT HELP KEEP YOU SANE?

Exercise.  Everything is physical.

The stereotype is that artists aren’t good at sports but I always thought I was really good at sports!  I don’t have a lot of interest in watching sports, but I love playing sports. In Canada, I used  to row and  I used to be a kayak instructor. I love to be in and on the water. I love to read fiction and think about music and structures in music, music is really key in my work not just as something I listen to that sets a tone but also as this other form of art that I feel really connected that ties into my work,  but really most of my time outside of teaching is in the studio or its studio related.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TEACHING AT TYLER AND CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE PROGRAM?

I came to Philly three years ago this coming September. I went to school in Chicago at SAIC, then got a job in Virginia. I speak of this often because it was really hard for me, Virginia was a really hard place for a Queer person to be. it was super homophobic, transphobic and racist –but I did get to work with some wonderful individuals. Everyday felt like a battle, but it was absolutely worth it, I learned so much about this country, myself, it further radicalized me and provided me so many opportunities to think about teaching in an inclusive way – and how and why race and gender are fundamental parts of Fibers. It was also because of leaving my bubble in Chicago that I started reading bell hooks, and baldwin and more writers and I really started to learn about critical race theory and the history of chattel slavery in this country I have so much more to learn but I realized I had to know about America to be not only an artist here but also an educator. That being said I was thrilled to move to Philly and be in a bigger city, but racism and homophobia are in all institutions.  

DO YOU HAVE ANY PROJECTS OR EXHIBITIONS COMING UP THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO PROMOTE?
I just published a book called Low Ropes Course, which was a ton of work and really interesting to do, I did interviews with all sorts of artists and musicians who’s work has influenced me like Lisi Raskin, JD Sampson, Allyson Mitchell and there are essays by some of my favorite writers, artists and historians. The first one hundred books come with a soundtrack because so much of the book talks about music in relationship to making. I have residencies, and a show coming up at the Leslie Lohman Museum in New York in February and then at Fleisher/Ollman gallery in Philly next summer that is a collaboration with Lisi Raskin and myself

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