There must have been thousands of these figurines perched on shelves, mantelpieces and end tables in suburban households across the land. I know my grandmother had about half-a-dozen of these porcelain figurines of fair-skinned women lifting the hem of their dresses that mysteriously billowed like a sail from some absent breeze. Some held poesies or baskets crammed with yellow daffodils and roses. They were difficult to keep clean. Dust clung limpet-like in tufts. My grandmother accidentally broke them all at various times—usually when trying to remove resistant clumps of dust. Hands cracked at the wrist, arms amputated at the elbow, noses chipped off. She always stuck them back together again which made these scarred, now imperfect figures seem oddly more real.
I suppose this in part explains why I like Jessica Harrison’s beautiful and dark creations made from such popular mass-produced figurines. Jessica is an Edinburgh-based artist who refashions these found objects into quirky and visceral works of art. She works with a scalpel and electric saw, and then paints.
My original attraction to these objects was precisely because of this image they portray of the female body – my desire was to counter it and present its opposite within itself. This was quite simple to do, by breaking apart the hollow cast pieces and ‘revealing’ the interior, a standard formula in Western knowledge for making discoveries about the body. The female interior is a space still laced with taboo in a way that the male interior is not, and for me this gender bias of what is most often an invisible space in our everyday lives was a fascinating and important one to address.
Harrison has produced several exhibitions using these startling figurines—her solo shows Broken (2011), Pink, Green, Blue and Black (2016) and most recently in the group show Between Poles and Tides (2017). More of Jessica Harrison’s work can be seen here.
More of Jessica Harrision’s beautiful art, after the jump…