Jessica Harvey Artist Statement
Through my art, I explore anthroposemiotics, gestural behaviors, and how memory shapes our interpersonal interactions originating from my interest in psychology with a focus on non-verbal communication. I ask, what does it mean to be human and can our unique humanness be captured in forms of kinesics? The intent of my work is to prompt introspection among the viewer of their individual gestures and how these contribute to their communication with others. Many of my sculptures mimic the innate and habitual movements we make each day that are essential components of communication and in the creation of my pieces, my own body and gestures are often projected onto them.
My sculptures often replicate the mundane yet fascinating movements of everyday life. The gesture could be a variety of different actions; it may be composed of a small wave of the hand, large movements incorporating the entire body, or simply a state of being, posture, or stance. I explore the explicit and universally understood nonverbal communication gestures people make with their eyes, mouth, hands, and other body parts to portray unique emotions and convey messages. All viewers are familiar with gestures such as a wink, come hither finger curl, or a raised eyebrow which brings self-awareness to their own bodies. I can’t help but curl my own tongue inside of my mouth as I pull on the knob that connects to the wooden tongue on a shelf that I am manipulating as it also curls. Some of the movements I create are that of a leg tapping anxiously, a winking wooden eye, a head slowly turning while appearing to scan the room looking for a friend, or a puppet hand that beckons one to interact with it.
I refer to many of my pieces as puppets and explore ideas with the Locus of Control which refers to an individual’s underlying perception of the events in their life. Do you believe that destiny is controlled by yourself or by external forces such as fate or a higher power? My puppets have to rely on external forces to make them come alive, but is this similar to ourselves? I hope people can reflect on the greater strings in our lives that pull us while also recognizing the control we have over our own lives. Viewers can observe their own human-like movements in the sculptures that connect to their own emotions by means of pulleys, cranks, and motors capturing synergies between humans, robots, and puppets.
I create contemporary perspectives using the traditional medium of wood, a material that has an inherent life as it was once alive to carve figurative sculptures and resurrect the material into a semblance of human gestures. Connections are drawn between the history of the material I’m working with to the history of our own lives. How society, culture, and family history have shaped us similarly to how time, circumstances, and human interaction affect the material.
The audience and my artwork work in tandem as my sculptures require physical interaction, whether it be flipping a switch or determining how quickly to turn a handle to produce a gestural movement. For my pieces that have a pull string or turn crank, the way in which it is manipulated determines the meaning and often reflects the viewer’s own mannerisms. My sculptures require human interaction to function and that relates to all of us as we all need the connection with others.
I come from a lineage of craftsmen woodworkers and feel innately drawn to carrying on the artisan family tradition with my own work. Carving wood feels nostalgic as I reminisce on the care and appreciation I learned from working with my father and the appreciation for the wood he learned from his own father and grandfather and so on. Wood is a material that allows you to appreciate time; the time it took for the tree to grow, the time spent carving, and the time spent interacting and viewing the finished piece.