Jessica Joslin: steampunk taxidermy

Silvio, 2005
turtle shell, brass hardware, beads, bone, antique vestment trim, leather, glass eyes
Jessica Joslin

I sat down on the Metro this morning and read a most inauspicious horoscope:

"Your interest in things unusual, unexplained, bizarre and at times tasteless is likely to make it difficult for you to find a friend."

Hey! That's not nice!

But then I realized that next up on my blogging to-do list was the new book by artist Jessica Joslin, Strange Nature. Joslin makes incredible sculptures fusing dead animals, scrap metal, and eerie staring glass eyes. And I began to wonder if my horoscope doesn't have a point - Joslin's work is definitely an acquired taste.

Enzo & Donato, 2004
Brass, bone, fur, cast/painted plastic, glass eyes
Jessica Joslin

I know I have a scary horoscope, but I bet Jessica would be my friend anyway. Here's what she said about dead art materials in an interview at BeinArt:

". . . back when I was in college (at the Art Institute of Chicago) birds would often fly into the school's mirrored glass facade, breaking their necks, and then drop into the fountain beneath. I used to wade in and collect them. I sometimes used the wings, feet or heads in my work. When I first met Jared, we quickly discovered that we both had dead birds in our freezers. I offered to give him taxidermy lessons and wrote my phone number on his hand. We've been together ever since."

Hey! I have dead birds in my freezer, but that has NEVER happened to me. No fair!


If you're in the vicinity of Scottsdale, AZ, Jessica is having an opening reception Thursday April 3 and a book reception Saturday April 5 at Lisa Sette Gallery. I wish I could go.

I blogged about Jessica's work about a year ago, and this is what I had to say then:

Jessica Joslin's work is exactly what this blog is about: straddling the awkward rift between biological specimen and art object, and doing so with grace and charm. Her sculptures are chimeras of real and simulated bone, metal, found objects, and wistful glass eyes.

Joslin just finished a winter show at the Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. From the Lisa Sette Gallery newsletter:

While each piece she employs in her eerie animal reliquary is delicately beautiful, it is also the detritus of human engineering and design: old brass buttons and gold braid, glass beads, clockwork cogs and velvet ribbon. Such items are reminiscent of the whimsical technology of a century past, one's grandparents' house, the dark interiors of old fashioned movie theatres - and as such they have an intriguing, wistful quality. In other words, Joslin collects the things that all of us secretly want to, the shiny pieces that we might comb through, handle and admire, but ultimately force ourselves to put down; what would we do with such things?

I love that in Joslin's pieces, bone - the most enduring part of an animal - seems like the ephemeral, fragile component, snugly caged in traceries of metal. It's as if, in some steampunk future, the souvenirs of our biological heritage have been lovingly preserved and gradually repaired Tin Man-style, until the metal patches become the bulk of the beast.

Antique hardware, brass, bone, leather, glass eyes
Jessica Joslin, 2005

View more pieces from Joslin's four collections (Brass Menagerie, Flights of Fancy, Aves & Mammalia, and Cabinet of Curiosities) at her website.

Interview with Jessica Joslin from Art&Design.

Jessica Joslin's page at Lisa Sette Gallery.

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Yep...totally get the birds in the freezer thing; if you'd like to offer me taxidermy lessons and write your number on my hand, I promise I won't even consider objecting. =)

Amazing stuff, Jessica.... Thanks for the wonderful, fascinating post (as always)!

Ain't nothing wrong with cool dead things in my book! I found a greeting card in my shop today which said 'The only normal people are the ones you don't know.'Or words to that effect. I think a bit of oddness, eccentricity makes a person more interesting to know though it certainly isn't a prerequisite. I find myself drawn to creative/artsy types as well as those interested in science/natural history ...

I'll be your friend. :-)

Enzo & Donato is/are lovely. The piece makes me wonder -- for some reason -- what a collaborative story by J.G. Ballard and Octave Mirbeau would have been like. You know? And then, just imagine the story brought to "life" by Mark Pauline! Rapture!

wow...those are fascinating and bizzare, and totally appear to my inner steampunk-ness.

I sometimes have dead birds in my freezer, but they're usually from Tesco :)

Google Mike Libby Insect Lab.
He does amazing stuff with bugs.

I collected my first dead bird today! Freaked me out but totally excited me too. I ve always collected beach debris and made art with an interest particularly in bones. Whats the best way to preserve, cut, use etc

Now that's what I'm talkin about!

Imaginative, eclectic, biotechnical, robotic, and in a
sense not unlike Alice in Wonderland weird.

I love it!