The Map Preceeds the Territory

Like [Nancy] Blum, Jeanne Quinn creates wall-mounted sculpture comprised of repeated forms. As a source of inspiration, Quinn cites Gesamtkunstwerk (the complete work) presented by Richard Wagner in his 1849 essay The Artwork of the Future. In Wagner’s era, use and beauty were paramount; the aesthetic was the ideal. The decorative arts engaged many of the senses, especially sight, touch and taste, and had the potential to define domestic space, from furniture, to lighting, to wallpaper, to carpets, to tableware. Quinn brings that possibility into the twenty-first century and creates sensually encompassing exhibitions, bridging the gap between the decorative arts of over a century ago and today’s installation art. In both, the viewer becomes a participant in, and actually enters into, the work of art.

But in order to do this, Quinn engages the mind as well as the body in a postmodern strategy that nineteenth-century ceramicists and metal smiths did not have access to. For example, in Perfect Lover and Suspended, Quinn capitalizes on our associations with domestic uses of cotton swabs; they come into contact with the most intimate parts of our bodies. By combining actual swabs with cast porcelain ones Quinn not only plays upon our perception of the real and the fake, but also stretches our expectations of the materials for drawing, since the swabs and their remakes compose lines; their shadows are actual rather than illusory. Quinn’s symmetrical composition is monumental but delicate. Because of its paleness in an initial glance, it can almost be overlooked; its grandness takes hold once it has registered visually. It connects the life of the body to the life of the mind, that which is real to that which is perceived or imagined.

Excerpted from "Nature, Manipulation and the Hybrid: Ceramic Sculpture Today," by Kate Bonansinga. Published in the exhibition catalogue for Full and Spare, Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, 2008.