Search

VISUAL ESSAY with Jeanne Jaffe


All images: © Courtesy of Jeanne Jaffe

Curated by Varia Serova




Jeanne Jaffe (born in 1950) is a Florida-based multidisciplinary artist known for her sculpture and installations. Inspired by an interest in language, literature, psychology, and history, Jeanne Jaffe explores how identity is forged from early, pre-verbal, experience through the later influences of language and culture.


"In my earliest sculptures, I give concrete form to intangible sensations and barely remembered bodily experiences. This is accomplished by creating hybrid forms of mixed origins of experience - fusions of animate and inanimate worlds, simultaneously familiar yet strange. Body fragments, vegetative processes, and microscopic life fuse, mutate, and morph, and the resulting objects invite recognition, while remaining mutable, suggestive, and indeterminate. Visceral experiences of longing, repulsion, fear, loss, curiosity, and discovery are elicited and mirror our earliest experiences before entering culture and language."

Alice in Dystopia (detail), 2019 © Courtesy of Jeanne Jaffe


"My most recent installation is built around a stop motion animation of ‘Alice in Dystopia” a retelling of Lewis Carroll’s 1865 “Alice in Wonderland” In this version, Alice and the Rabbit fall down the wrong rabbit hole into the contemporary world of 2020 with all of its environmental and societal ills where the characters must find a way to confront the crises and offer hope for renewal and change. The film is accompanied by film stills, the marionettes used for the film, as well as 10 ft tall t sculptures based on the characters so that the viewer can seem to be wondering through the film itself.
How we create meaning and self-determination from the cacophony of sensation, memory, myth, language, and cultural history is the subject of all my work and how we become who we choose to become."

Metamorphosis, 2019 © Courtesy of Jeanne Jaffe

"My creative world and artistic development are hugely fed by my own search for individuation, what I choose to value, and how I choose to create meaning in my life. So, this reimagined world goes back and forth between the external experience, internal sensations and intuitions, and the fall into the unknown that this entails. The liminal space where transformation occurs and the uncertainty that needs to be experienced to transform. The search that then follows and the encounter with deeper parts of the psyche, the unconscious that Alice experiences in the film is a pattern for the creative life."

T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets (detail) © Courtesy of Jeanne Jaffe

"My work overtime has explored how identity is forged from early, pre-verbal, experience through the later influences of language and culture.
The later installations reimagine popular folktales, history, and literature through a contemporary lens and create a space for exploring the implications of these known narratives."

Little Red Riding Hood as a Crime Scene (detail), 2011 © Courtesy of Jeanne Jaffe


Mirror, Mirror-Fairytales Revisited (detail), 2012 © Courtesy of Jeanne Jaffe


"In "Alice in Dystopia", I was inspired by the story of going down a rabbit hole and ending up in an irrational, inexplicable world turned upside down, and how a character like Alice would come to grips with who she was, and how she might have to change and grow in this new world. This is a crisis I think many people experienced during 2020 with the Corona virus, the ecological crisis, the effects of global warming, and the growing social and economic inequities, upending all normal living worldwide. During this time many people have been called to reexamine who they are and what they value, just like Alice."

Alice in Dystopia (detail), 2019 © Courtesy of Jeanne Jaffe


"I was also inspired by the caterpillar and his question of 'Who are you?' as something that Alice, as a stand in for everyone, needs to ask as they decide who they want to become as a human being and what kind of world we want to create in which to live."

Alice in Dystopia (detail), 2019 © Courtesy of Jeanne Jaffe


"I wanted also to insert the author, Lewis Carroll talking to his own characters and being stunned that they all ended up in the story he thought he authored but turned out drastically differently than what he thought he wrote and expected. I imagine many people experience their lives and this period this way and Lewis Carroll acted as their stand in."

Alice in Dystopia (detail), 2019 © Courtesy of Jeanne Jaffe

"In the film the dodo bird is a symbol for loss that is ever present and for the attempt at renewal.
How we create meaning and self-determination from the cacophony of sensation, memory, myth, language, and cultural history is the subject of all my work and how we become who we choose to become."

Alice in Dystopia (detail), 2019 © Courtesy of Jeanne Jaffe