Q+Art: Artist Jamie Rose Implores Us to Worship at the Altar of Love
Multidisciplinary artist Jamie Rose wants to talk about love. “Love, or a lack thereof, is a difficult topic to discuss,” she admits in her artist statement. “The word itself has been so misused, watered down so greatly, that it has lost much of its power.”
Through cast sculptures and site-specific installations, Rose takes aim at our casual corruption of the four-lettered word. Her work illuminates superficial applications of love—corporate slogans, emotional manipulation, or just plain overuse—that skew our understanding of its depth. Avoiding literal interpretation, Rose explores our perception of love through visual metaphor, crafting seductive works that appear artificial on second glance. Flowers, a reliable symbol of love—and death—appear repeatedly throughout her work. But Rose crafts her flowers from brittle glass and glittery pink frosting. When real flowers do appear, they’re inverted in a vase, submerged in water. Without someone to help, they’ll drown and die.
The specter of death is never far from Rose’s creations. Her cut flowers will die, regardless of their position in a vase. But with death comes life, and. Rose constructs an eerie, hushed stage where her creations act out the grand drama of being alive through light and shadow. In some cases, even the shadows are artificial, made from scorched silhouettes on wood. “Materials such as wood, fabric, and foliage convey a sense of time and mortality,” she notes. “They can be burned, frayed, and decompose rapidly.”
Rose’s treatment of wood and glass suggests a fascination with preservation and destruction. “Glass is inherently beatific and delicate, yet it can endure for thousands of years if left untouched,” she writes.” Consequently, her work appears frozen in time, petrified with age and perfectly preserved, like a holy relic. In the real world, flowers die and love fades. But Rose’s work suggests we’ll kneel before the altar of love indefinitely, devoted to the cause long after the bloom is gone.
In Today’s Q+Art Interview…
Jamie Rose discusses the nuances of love, braving grad school during a global pandemic, and the vast collection of art hiding in museum basements.
Which books, art-related or otherwise, belong on every artist’s shelf?
Jamie Rose: All About Love: New Visions by bel hooks. This is an exceptionally well-written and thoughtful book that explores the nuanced definition of love…the understanding of which I believe is the crucial foundation for self-reflection, and therefore, ultimately, being a thoughtful and emotionally adept artist.
What are you trying to express with your art?
JR: It varies from piece to piece, of course, but the underlying message in most of my work is, “You are not alone.”
Would you work for free in exchange for exposure?
JR: This question immediately makes me bristle, because it gets at the core of a lot of what I think is wrong with our society’s view on art as “not work.” There is such an obscure and, in my opinion, incorrect view of artists’ practices, and this is true in any artistic field. Art is seen as a hobby at worst or a passion at best (insinuating that it is something worthy of suffering and not money); rarely is it seen as difficult and stressful work or as a skill that requires honing, just like everything else.
Very few professionals in other fields would be asked this question so casually. To answer it, however, I would say that it depends. If the exposure was great enough and the work was not incredibly stressful and demanding, then sure. But I am a place now where I know the value of my time, and I am no longer willing to break my back for what often ends up being a rather hollow reward.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
JR: Going for long runs followed by bubbly wine (I like the cheap stuff; I’m classy), a deep-conditioning hair treatment, a face mask, and a long-ass bath while watching some horribly indulgent Netflix show. I almost never do this, but when I do, it’s great.
What do you consider your greatest artistic achievement?
JR: I suppose I should say winning some grant or something, but I think my greatest achievement was creating and executing a virtual exhibition. I made the website, did the publicity for it, sought out jurors, helped with the jurying process, and will soon be organizing artist talks with a few of the artists. It has been a lot of work, but it’s been so rewarding to offer other artists—who are from all over the word, which is awesome to see —a platform to show their art. Check it out: The Digital Hole.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
JR: “Don’t get a puppy. You work too much.” This was great advice that I did not listen to.
Is a formal arts education worth the money?
JR: Great question. I think this can vary SO much based on where you go and what your expectations are. For me, yes, it was worth it—but I also did everything in the cheapest way possible. I went to community college (where I had some of the best and most influential instructors in the arts), then an in-state school to get my BFA, and when I looked at grad schools, I only applied to my top choice, partially because it had a tuition-waiver + stipend set up for all accepted Sculpture/Dimensional Studies graduate candidates.
So, to keep this answer short (for I could go on about this for a long time, in both a positive and negative manner), I will say this regarding MFA programs: If you are considering high education in the arts, consider it a gift to yourself. Having the actual MFA degree in the fine arts won’t do much for you. The job market is brutal and there are a LOT of amazing artists who hold an MFA. What grad school will do for you, however, is offer you a two- or three-year period of time where you are allowed to be selfish. You have that time to focus on your work, fully. You will be challenged by professors who just want to see how far they can push you, and encouraged by fellow grads who know exactly how you feel. You’ll make lasting friendships and learn so much, both good and bad, especially about academia. It’s an exhilarating and exhausting time. But if you find the right program, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. Do your homework. There are assistantships out there!
What is one thing you would like to change about the art world?
JR: Oh god. Just one? Okay. I suppose I would go with the way major museums are often structured. I worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a while—pre-COVID—and it’s astounding how much artwork that institution owns. A huge percentage of it is never even seen. Walking around the underbelly of that museum felt like being in the depths of a dragon’s den. The knowledge that there is so much artwork there that honestly shouldn’t be (another topic that’s way too large to dig into here) felt…wrong. Short answer: I would change the unnecessary hoarder-like tendencies of major museums.
Would you rather be a historically significant or commercially successful artist?
JR: Either of those could align with my goals as an artist, so it depends. What I really want to do is make artwork that helps people, whether that’s having an impact on them as a viewer, or because the proceeds of selling the work go to an organization that I believe in and that makes a difference. That can be done by being commercially successful or historically significant, so I would be happy with either.
What are you listening to in the studio right now?
JR: I’ve been really into FKA twigs lately.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your practice?
JR: It might be better to ask how it has not affected my practice. I graduated with my master’s degree in May of 2020, and I think I speak for everyone who graduated with an art degree at that time that the pandemic hit us really hard. Like many others, I was kicked out of the studio right when it was “go time”; I didn’t get to have a thesis exhibition, and so much of my in-progress work ended up being thrown away, never finished or documented.
To say it sucked is a huge understatement. 2020—2021 was supposed to be “the year”; the year of using that documented, installed thesis work to apply to residencies, fellowships, things like that. Everything fell apart and almost all of those typical opportunities were cancelled. I ended up relocating from NY to NM because that was where I could get a job in my field. It took months for me to get a studio up and running again. The pandemic drastically altered my art practice. I am still reeling from it.
What are you working on that you’re excited about right now?
JR: I have a show coming up in July that I am really excited about. I raised some money for a project called Flowers for New Mexico where I am making a series of drawings/glass work that will be for sale, with the proceeds all going to S.A.F.E. House, a nonprofit based in Albuquerque that supports survivors of domestic abuse. I have a lot of work to do between now and then, but knowing that it will help raise awareness for an issue that has gotten significantly worse during the pandemic feels great.
S.A.F.E. House: Donate
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist.
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