26 March, 2024

I keep this picture of Joan Jonas on my studio wall as a reminder that it doesn’t take much to turn reality inside out.   I also have her nearby because I’ve been looking more closely at artists working in their 70s and 80s, reminding myself that the seeds I plant today may lay dormant for the next couple of decades before they poke up out of the ground. 

I first discovered Jonas through this Art 21 video about her drawing practice. She uses speed and repetition of daily drawing as an entry way into of other mediums like mirrors, masks, performance, and sculpture.  

I play guitar and sing.  Whenever I tackle a cover song, I always learn something new but inevitably end up making the song my own.  After watching this video dozens of times, I decided to do a Joan Jonas ‘cover’. So I bought a couple of glass goblets, added ink and made quick gesture drawings.  

She usually uses images of animals as source material. I used this great design book first published in 1932 that I got at a library book sale to riff on.  It’s so beautifully categorized. For example, “The Crescent and Its Combinations’  and ‘The Rhombic Variant’.

Each time I do this exercise, there’s always a couple of drawings that lead the way to something else.  I want to play more with these two from “Segments and Its Combinations” and “Rectangular Variants”:

Joan Jonas is getting a lot of press these days because she’s currently having her first New York retrospective at MoMA as well as a drawing show at The Drawing Center. This New York Times article has some good insights into her life and work.

The book for the Drawing Center show came in the last week the day after I did these drawings.  Flipping through it is like having her whisper in my ear.