“Vital Traces” at the UMF Art Gallery
By Paige Lusczyk, Contributing Writer.
The University of Maine at Farmington’s Art Gallery will be showcasing installation artist Samantha Jones’ work, “Vital Traces,” until Oct. 28. Last week, Jones spoke about her work at a public reception on Mantor Green.
“Vital Traces” is split up into three different sections, one for each floor of the gallery. Each floor connects to a different feeling of grief.
“There is a joy that comes from the body that the brain can’t handle,” Jones said. The pieces shown in “Vital Traces” and the materials used helped Jones step out of her body and be one with her grief, she said.
“There is no border for me between personal and art,” Jones said. “Our Ego is in the way of our ability to connect to the rest of the world… in the way of saving ourselves.”
The first floor holds many different styles of art ranging from glasswork to jewelry sculptures to digital aluminum prints. Jones likes to call the first floor “Area 51” or “Seance.” The work is all about reaching.
“It’s not human. It’s all types of being,” she said.
With her piece, “Seance with Malka,” Jones admitted to channeling her late grandmother-in-law to help her place each piece of jewelry. The jewelry itself was her grandmother-in-law’s and she felt even more connected to her as she placed each piece.
“She was a walking art piece,” Jones said, “I channeled her.”
One of the more curious display pieces of “Vital Traces” would be the breastmilk soap on the first floor. Jones saw the art as an excretion of the initial process. She connected a child to that process and actually used her own breast milk from nursing her son.
“The art that comes has its own life; it becomes its own. It then gets to teach me,” Jones said. “It is not doing it according to our bidding.”
The second floor is “where the pieces get to reach back.” As you walk up the stairs a beautiful piece is draped along the staircase that is full of life and conversation. The piece, “L’esprit de L’escalier,” was inspired by Diderot, an artist that talked about how we only think of good comebacks when we walk away from the situation. “When the earth starts to speak,” Jones said.
Pieces “Entanglement III” and “Seismic Dreams” are the largest pieces in “Vital Traces.” “Entanglement III” falls differently in every installation. It becomes one with the room.
“Seismic Dreams” was made with no plan. Jones worked in a way with the material so she would not interfere with how it wanted to form. The piece was not titled until Jones opened the folded cloth. “It was telling me what it was,” Jones said.
The third floor is more of a cathartic gesture. It holds only one piece titled “Immanence” which tries to capture the essence of topless churches in Rome. The piece brings a sense of “connecting the architecture to the atmosphere.”
Jones admitted that she sees the “materials [she] works with as living creatures.” Seeing her work as living beings helps the process be more organic for Jones. Although she did admit that “it’s terrifying not knowing where you’re going.”
However, Jones said her art is truly all about the process. Most of the work that she displayed in the gallery was made by trying to avoid a true plan and letting the art speak for itself.
“It is a way into care, it’s a way into reconnecting to things that we have subverted and ignored by trying to make a plan,” Jones said.
Gallery Director, Sarah Maline took the initiative to reach out to Jones. “I had been stalking her work online for a couple of years,” Maline said.
“Vital Traces” was postponed for another year after the initial acceptance because of the pandemic. “The whole show changed after that year. Right? Because you can’t have just…. something that you thought you had, then you’re in a different place, right? You gotta be where you’re at,” Jones said.
Recent UMF Alumna, Samantha Taylor, opened up for Jones in the public reception. Taylor performed by singing and playing songs on a guitar for a half hour.