On Nov. 14, artist Jade Townsend gave a talk to the Hamilton College community, discussing a number of the installations, sculptures and drawings he has created throughout his career. An Iowa native, Townsend currently lives and works in Brooklyn. He holds a B.F.A. from Iowa State University and an M.F.A. from Hunter College, and his unique works have been displayed across the country and around the world.
One of Townsend’s installations, “Rugged Individualism,” is currently on display in the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art as part of the exhibit, A Sense of Place. Townsend’s talk was held in the Overlook of the Wellin Museum as part of the museum’s “Artists in Conversation” series.
During his discussion, Townsend provided a synopsis of his career and described his particular artistic style. He explained that his pieces attempt to convey deep sociopolitical issues and complex ideas through a variety of means including narrative, metaphor, symbolism, humor and theater. They are intended to leave viewers with a strong sense of emotion or with something to ponder, and often evoke feelings of awe and discomfort.
Townsend presented a slide show of many of the pieces he has created throughout his career and explained the motivations, themes and creative processes behind each piece. His works span a wide array of mediums including massive sculpture installations as well as smaller drawings.
One of the works Townsend discussed in his talk was a piece titled “Yard Sale,” a large installation that imagined a house turned “inside-out.” The installation was exhibited in 2008 at the Priska C. Juschka gallery in Chelsea, (Manhattan), and featured a collection of white-washed wood sculptures of consumer household products. Townsend described another of his installations, “Leviathan,” as “a box truck imagined as a white whale left to rot.”
Speaking about his distinctive style of artwork, Townsend emphasized his mission to reconnect art and craftwork. He argued the artist must be involved in every step of the process, from concept to creation, and described the variety of production processes he has incorporated into his installations. Townsend’s art incorporates a diverse assortment of mediums ranging from carpentry to metalwork to plastic casting.
In his talk Townsend discussed the piece “Rugged Individualism” at the Wellin. He described it as a depiction of “suburban banality in a distilled fashion,” inspired by his experience growing up in the Iowa suburbs. The installation invites visitors to walk through a series of elevated doorways, each one offering a glimpse into a conventionally manufactured household. Townsend said the installation is “intentionally designed to feel imposing and uncomfortable… making the viewer question “the banality of suburban life.”
A Sense of Place is on display in the Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College through Dec. 22. The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public.