Jennifer Stoneking-Stewart

Artist Statement

Packed Up

My work is a complex, multi-layered and multi-faceted response to the rural southeast with its dilapidated and abandoned homes being reclaimed by natural forces. The absence of the former inhabitants, in what once was a warm sanctuary, inspires questions of why a family would discard what was previously cherished and prized. These structures are manipulated so the formerly rigid and geometric forms constructed by man’s hand are warped into organic arcs as the houses lose their footings and start to collapse back into nature. Flat, vintage wallpaper patterns become the vines and trees that now call the structure home, further distorting and disguising the structures. These homes, in some pieces barely discernible from the flora and environment, become a representation of loss, such as personal losses I have experienced, the loss of the unknown family that used to reside in these places, and the loss of rural prosperity, potentially the catalyst for a family to leave.  As I explore these homes hidden in the recesses of the Appalachian landscape, I construct stories based on the objects that are left behind and the deteriorated structure. While my pieces do not have a specific narrative quality to them, titles are used to inform the viewer about an aspect of the experience with a place that I want them to likewise question, and in the end hopefully construct their own tale.

This collection is the photographic documentation of homes and places from across the southeast that I have used as inspiration for my work.  While I generally envision photography to be a source for finished works, there is a poetry and poignancy to many of these images that I have captured that cannot be ignored. It is true that a picture can say a thousand words.  These photographs are ones that were combined to create the installation Constructed, Loved, Abandoned, Resurrected (2011) at Leu Gallery in Nashville, TN.

Inevitable Forces
My work is a complex, multi-layered response to the surrounding environment, the relationship between man and nature, and perception of human impact on it.  It is a depiction of my uncertainty and anxiousness about experiences through external sources, such as the media, interactions with the environment, and people.  The desire to control apprehensive occurrences manifests itself as a tendency to depict order in my work.  I try to reach a balance with my own doubts and fears, relating to growth and spreading on the micro and macroscopic level, passage of time, death, and change.  My passion for the environment drives the concepts that relate man to nature, comparing two living organisms and forming a relationship.  The work is an orchestrated snapshot of a cause and effect relationship, a scenario where two different forces are combined to insinuate a query.

The main concept in the body of work revolves around alteration of the environment to conform to human needs and the futile attempts to control natural and/or inevitable forces.  Organic forms represent harmful and invasive diseases, indicative of death, uncontrollable events in the natural work, and unconstrained spreading or sprawl.  The organic shapes do not conform to the grids and structures that are organizational constraints imposed by humans in an attempt to regulate.  Geometric forms represent the contained elements of human presence and systems of organization.  Grids and structures directly related to the use of architecture, urban sprawl, and mapping, chiefly topographical maps.  The use of different printmaking processes is representative of my control or lack of control over uncontrollable phenomenon in life that I attempt to control through process and the use of geometric grids and structures.  The struggle of organic versus structure, and the desire to control the uncontrollable, is the unending battle that I am depicting.

Copyright © 2019 Jennifer Stoneking-Stewart