Julie Ann Nagle
Jersey City, NJ
ARTIST STATEMENT: My work explores the intimate relationship between ancestry, mortality, animism, transcendent mediation through making, and the expansiveness of the universe through delicately balanced sculptures. I employ the tools of archaeology for studying the origins of our ancestors, to excavate the material traces of my own personal heritage and interrogate my own mythology, beliefs, and identity. As time goes on we invent new tools to study the distant past, while paradoxically finding ourselves further removed and disconnected from our roots. I prefer to examine recent events and their open wounds against this past; the evolution of personal narratives alongside the transformation of physical remains in order to ground myself. “Inheritance” began as a farewell to my family home through an archaeological dig and ceremonial object making. My grandparents are elderly and our time together is finite. Someday when they are gone the forest I grew up in will be sold. In the summer of 2016 I excavated our burial ground for farm animals to exhume our prized equine, Dama. After laboriously digging for 5 grueling months I spent another year casting my horses’ remains in resin, then crafting an extremely intricate shroud for her out of tens of thousands of tiny glass beads. Through this immense labor I processed grief into ornamentation. “Bella Dama” contains the spirit of my horse and myself entwined in an animistic object. Ornamentation acts as a form of preservation in “Bloodlines,” a pair of saddles which are replicas of both my grandfather’s saddle for his horse Dama and the saddle for my pony Silver. I elaborately beaded their delicate steel frames to imitate the patterns of leatherwork on the originals, which are dry rotting away. This is one way that I can keep the memory from decaying. In-between the beads I am growing moss harvested from the horses' burial site on my families property, while ivory colored glass beads strung like roots and mycorrhizae (the symbiotic fungus that lives along tree roots) hang beneath the saddles. The saddles sit side by side on saw horses, with the roots connecting to each ends, as symbols of concurrent generations feeding resources back and forth to each other. Each project is an opportunity to immerse myself deeply in new subjects. Through sculpting I digest things that are hard to understand, reifying complex emotions or intellectually difficult ideas. My sculptures are intricately crafted and often tentatively balanced as a visual testament to the struggle of learning something new. Orrery and Astrolabe support objects on the ends of thin metal rods, defying stability. Land masses hover in Congress; a corporeal model, dimensional diagram, sketch of what may have been or could come to be. The fragmented vessels in Orrery are sculpted from diagrams in an archeology textbook. As I work from mediated sources of information, I mimic the archaeologists’ attempt to understand ancient cultures through the resource of surviving objects. These reinterpretations exist as a faux archaeology in which I recreate things I never found.