History redefined

Work by Jessica Brandl

Using ancient to contemporary techniques, OFA Ceramics Program artist in residence Jessica Brandl exits with gallery exhibition.

History redefined

It's early morning and Jessica Brandl is busy installing her solo exit show in the Ceramics Studio's Gallery 224.  The walls display large terra cotta platters with narrative imagery; the pedestals offer forms reminiscent of Ancient Greece and Rome. Techniques go from the ancient skill of sgraffito (carving into earth) to the contemporary procedure of 3D printing. The gallery space begins to sit somewhere between the contemporary art world and the ancient wing of a museum.

3D combo by Jessica BrandlFor this exhibition, entitled Wishful Thinking, Brandl created a series of objects informed by the Harvard Natural History Museum. Based on her admiration for the history of collecting, Brandl took full advantage of access to all of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture during her residency. “By examining the way we know things about our world," she notes, "I have sought to excavate and tumble the tidy boundaries of scientific and museum art display.”

Access to the museums fulfilled her scholarly research, but Brandl shared a great deal of her own knowledge and experience during her time at the Ceramics Program. She was an instructor of traditional printmaking techniques applied to the ceramic medium; she taught blue and white painting techniques to Humanities students studying ancient Chinese porcelains; and under her instruction, Anthropology students tried their hand with early-American slip-decorating techniques similar to those found in the Harvard Dig. Brandl was also instrumental in assisting many Graduate School of Design students in creating prototypes, one of which just won a local, environmental prize.

"Buttons" by Jessica BrandlBrandl believes that “objects can tell a fantastic story, but simply looking at artifacts of human culture with a scientific view does not always animate the full experience.”

For the Gallery 224 exhibition, Brandl 3D-scanned shards from Pompei and combined the printed version with the hand hewn plates. Objects depicting myths done in the Etruscan fashion are paired with a hand-sculpted skeletal bull’s head that speaks to the fall of Rome. These juxtapositions are just a few of the works that provide a rich, new view on historical objects through a contemporary lens.

Wishful Thinking will be on view at Gallery 224 at the Ceramics Program Studio, 219 Western Ave., Allston, Tuesday, August 18-Friday, October 16. Gallery hours: Monday-Friday, 10 am- 6 pm, or by appointment. Information: 617.495.8680.

See also: Ceramics, OFA News