Alchemists in the Garden / by Jen Harris

The process of making the work is a series of responses. Each new layer is a response to energies and relationships present in those underlying. As I made Alchemists in the Garden, the architecture and stained glass windows of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity, the Gothic revival church where it was to be installed, functioned as a kind of additional meta layer to which to respond in my mind.

Installed in the nave of St. Ann’s, this piece is in conversation with the existing stained glass. The universe depicted in the windows is quite different from the one I’ve pictured, but both are representations of cosmological (rather than physical) space. In Alchemists, the two large diamond structures on the right and left seem to converge, intersecting or colliding, perhaps actively generating the central event, in which the figure of a skeleton presides over blooms and branches.

This piece and other recent ones are made with ink on geometric sheets of paper, which are later mounted on wood. The process involves a tug-of-war between the commitment required by the ink and the flexibility afforded by the diamonds. Laying down the color requires commitment because it cannot be erased or covered over, while working with the diamond shapes allows me to reconfigure, discard, and invert individual pieces until the logic of the whole piece asserts itself and the diamond shuffle ceases.

As described by the curators, the theme of the exhibition was “resurrection reimagined:”

This exhibition seeks to cast a wide net by considering resurrection from a broad range of references (beyond existing tropes) as well as defining it from varying social, cultural, or political conceptions. In particular, we are interested in alternative readings, including reappearance, rebirth, restoration, revival, resurgence, and reawakening.

In my work simultaneous events and meanings exist in a single space. My response to the theme of resurrection was a meditation on the interplay of destructive and creative energies embedded in our technological society which is reflected in the structure and iconography of the piece.