Julia Jacquette

Julia Jacquette Knot in My Stomach, 1996.
Enamel on wood, 25 x 29 inches.
Courtesy: Holly Solomon Gallery
When I was about ten years old, my mother gave me a book on women artists that included a reproduction of Frida Kahlo's painting, Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair. It made a deep impression on me. In it, Kahlo depicts herself sitting in a chair, dressed in a man's suit, with a short haircut and scissors in hand. Locks of long hair are strewn over her lap, the chair, and the strange surrealist field she sits in. At the top of the painting are written two sentences, both in Spanish, and one line of music. The caption for this painting in my book informed me that the lines in Spanish were from a popular Mexican song of the time (1940) which, when translated, said, "If you loved me, it was for my hair, now that I have cut it off, you will no longer love me." I was riveted. Who was this woman? Who was it that stopped loving her? Was it truly only because she no longer had long beautiful hair? The painting also scared me (as did the other Kahlo painting reproduced in the book, the gruesome Henry Ford Hospital). The space she sat in was so empty and weird. But I was fascinated by how it looked, and I loved (even as a kid) that there was writing put directly on the image.

Julia Jacquette: Knife in my Heart, 1996.
Enamel on wood, 241/2 x 20 inches.
Courtesy: Holly Solomon Gallery
Later on, as a teen-ager, and as a young painter in my early 20s growing up in New York City, I started to get very interested in the contemporary art scene. This was the early to mid eighties and the reigning queens of visual-art- incorporating -language were Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger. I think I felt discomfort with work like theirs, work that used text as social critique. My reaction at that time was to avoid words in my paintings at all costs. I found their work to be as alienating as their text was saying society and culture was. This may have been intentional on the part of the artists but it certainly put me off as a viewer.

I started to make paintings that attempted to describe personal anguish (my own) using visual metaphors (usually some object sitting in some sort of undefined space). At some point I realized that to make this work as clear in intention and yet as rich in meaning as possible, having text in the paintings was going to help. Text could be my ally. And much to my surprise, I became a painter who uses language in her work.

Besides Kahlo's use of song lyrics in her self- portrait, I think the other influential use of language in painting was that of Magritte, especially in his well-known painting The Treason of Images, or in The Key of Dreams, where four objects are labeled "incorrectly" (a clock is labeled 'the window'). These works too seemed incredibly strange yet intriguing to me when I first saw them as an adolescent. The way the images were painted, and the way the words were painted on (hand-written script) were incredibly appealing in their loving yet awkward rendering, seemingly right off a cigar shop sign. His paintings may be about a feeling of disjunction and the slipperiness of reality, but this didn't make the paintings off-putting to the pre-pubescent me. Their execution was, and is, too pleasing. Realizing this was important to me in the age of letraset, heat-transfers, off-set printing, and computer generated images and text.

Julia Jacquette is an artist living and working in New York City. Her most recent one person show was at the Holly Solomon Gallery.


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