• Jennifer Delilah Talks NY Cock Exchange, Google Glass & The JFK Assassination

    Empire
    Empire by Jennifer Delilah

    Jennifer Delilah is a provocative fine artist whose works like “The New York Cock Exchange” have ironically attracted stockbrokers, investors in large scale business acquisitions, and CEOs of multinational corporations.  Her early childhood experiences in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement have formed the basis for her subject matter, which challenges ideas of race, class, and gender. Humor is an ever present ingredient in her work, as well as a compassionate view of the foibles of humanity, and its inevitable correction by nature.

    
Arte Fuse: What inspired the “The New York Cock Exchange,” and what kinds of people are attracted by it?

    Jennifer: It’s a metaphor, an allegorical painting. It’s based on the kinds of misbehavior that take place in business and just in humanity in general when people put their moral compass on hold because they have a goal in mind. And in that particular painting of course, the goal is making more money. I’m planning on doing another one with the cockfights, but set in front of the U.S. Congressional building. When I started The New York Cock Exchange, everything was about the housing bubble, the stock market crashing and Occupy Wall Street and all that stuff. So it’s a metaphor for the things that people do that, from an objective point of view, everyone can agree just aren’t right. And that’s what’s going on with our government now. It’s shut down.

    People in our own government are doing things that most of us agree fall into the category of incorrect behavior. A cockfight is like that. People do it because they have their underlying drive or need for entertainment, and I guess on an even lower level, people make some cash doing that stuff. But most of us can agree that having innocent animals battle to the death for our entertainment is not right.  I’ve had offers to purchase the painting from multiple parties, stock brokers in particular seem to really love it. I want to exhibit it before I let it go, though.

    Arte Fuse: What is the role of the artist in social discourse?

    Jennifer:  Art has a lot of power to influence people. We’ve certainly seen throughout history, fine art really influencing and communicating with people from the time when most people were illiterate and there were biblical allegorical paintings that could be understood based on the visual language of the imagery. Artists have the ability create a vision that will influence people to really think, and that’s the kind of work that I aspire to do. I don’t think it’s necessary for every artist to do that, but it’s definitely necessary for me to feel like I’m doing my job.

    The New York Cock Exchange
    The New York Cock Exchange

    Arte Fuse:  Your technique evolved through experimentation and technical study in

    the mediums of oils, encaustics, and watercolor, but you’ve also

    incorporated video and photography into your work.  Have you gone off

    canvas recently?

    Jennifer:  When I moved to New York City from West Oakland eight years ago I got rid of all of my sculpture equipment, metalsmithing tools, found objects, and most of my photography and video equipment. I had already made the decision to exclusively focus on painting from then on, and that decision has stuck. I have been fooling around with Google Glass a bit, making some documents of my painting process, aside from that it’s all about canvas, paper, and panels.

    Arte Fuse: Has usage of Google Glass affected your art?

    Jennifer:  It’s been an interesting process of trying to use them as a documentary device, and they’re a really great tool for some applications, but my experience with them has been a process of really geeking out, some attempts at making videos and time lapse sequences, and then having trouble switching my process back to painter modality. Like most electronic devices they have that kind of addictive aspect, but I found myself getting distracted by the device, so now I’m on a more disciplined schedule with them. I only get to play with Glass when my homework is all done, so to speak.

    Jennifer Delilah #throughtheglass Selfie
    Jennifer Delilah #throughtheglass Selfie

    Arte Fuse: Your father had a bizarre brush with JFK assassination.  What can you tell me about this, and how has it affected your art?

    Jennifer:  It occurred before I was born, but it set up my family for this bizarre, extreme elephant-in-the-room thing. My dad was very reticent to discuss the JFK incident. He was a resident pathologist at Parkland Hospital the day that Kennedy was brought in, and he saw a lot of things that did not concur with the official story that was developed around it in news footage and televised accounts. So he would basically “check out” if something about JFK came on TV, or in some cases cuss a blue streak under his breath and then walk out. He also had a close friend who was one year senior to him in his residency at Parkland who was there that day as well, and my father would talk about how that guy had a spare room in his apartment just to store all of the television sets that he had put a sledgehammer through in order to serve as a kind of therapy to cope with what he referred to as “The Lies”

    So I started to view everything as potential misinformation, beginning with our American history books in school. The official story of how the peaceful settlers came here looking for religious freedom, and after a brief honeymoon with the natives in which they were offered a turkey dinner and a smoke and some corn or whatever to welcome them, the ships started turning up in droves and were met with hostility all of the sudden and the settlers were forced to fight for their lives, but despite being riddled with scurvy and practically starving, due to the superior technology of single fire muskets they were able to conquer the natives all the way to California. This story never washed, as far as I was concerned, it just seemed like a story that was made up to make white people feel better about obliterating ancient civilizations rather than accepting them and integrating their advanced way of living on the land into their own lives out of a false sense of superiority, and fear of the Boogie Man God. Being Irish American, and with a little bit of native blood in my veins, I related far more to the natives than the English settlers, and I started making up my own stories. I would sit there in class, not listening to a thing that the teacher was saying, sketching in my spiral notebook, while a lively movie played in my head in which all of the settlers decided that the natives had it right, and decided to go and live with them.

    So I started to develop these fictitious narratives from a childlike point of view, and they were always more satisfying than the official story. As I grew up, I decided that I wasn’t going to necessarily listen to the media because of my father’s experiences, and also my own subsequent observations . I wasn’t going to listen to particulars. I was just going to think of the major themes behind… the ways in which humanity has these stories that don’t add up somehow. What’s really going on behind the story? What’s really occurring in people’s minds that allow them to tread on everything we’re raised to believe about good and evil? I think that this may be the way that a lot of narrative authors and artists have started out, with a childhood event in which they got a front row seat of some kind of hypocrisy, followed by a need to create an archetypal world in which good and evil are clearly defined.

    Suspension of the Will
    Suspension of the Will

    Arte Fuse: What is your most provocative piece in the Empire series and what makes it stand out?

    Jennifer: I suppose, the very very first one that I did, entitled Empire, which is a piece that’s set in the throne room of the Palace of Versailles, the salon in which the king would address his court early in the day.  Inside of that salon, there are a number of artworks adorning the walls. Really large-scale paintings and frescoes on the ceiling as well, and a great number of them are depictions of the aristocracy as gods and goddesses in these mythological stories and settings. For instance, the Sun King as Apollo doing something heroic, like saving France, essentially. While I was working on a metaphor for how large governments and empires function, I looked at these rooms for a long time. I had an obsession with Versailles and did a lot of research on it. I started to think, “It’s a function of government to create one type of ideology but there’s a whole other mechanism going on behind the scenes. So I replaced all those heroic images of the aristocracy that actually exist in the salons with other things that also existed at the same time. Some of those things are baroque pornography that depicted the French soldiery debauching themselves with prostitutes in bordellos and at picnics and things, and also images of Caribbean slave life on sugar cane plantations and other visual documentation of slavery and its aftermath. I would say in terms of being provocative, that’s right on top of the list.

    Arte Fuse: What is the significance of bondage in your Unfamiliar Kingdoms series?

    Jennifer:  I think that with the slow development and demise of any empire, there are ways in which people dominate or are victimized, and also ways in which people collaborate. So I thought that suspension bondage was great metaphor for situations in which things can appear to be one way and yet really be another. It can seem as though someone is being victimized when they’re actually submitting, giving up their power, and therefore conspiring in their own subjugation. The things that are happening with government in the US right now are a pretty good example. We all feel so helpless but the potential reality is that the people of the US have the ability to change things, if only we would unite and stop allowing ourselves to be set against one another. The symbolism of bondage in my work is a metaphor for that kind of phenomenon. How are we tied up and cut off from one another? How are we allowing ourselves to be disempowered in this situation when a vast majority of people far outnumbering the total number of people who make up our government exists? I think that we allow ourselves to be tied up, with work, with responsibilities, with debt, with entertainments, with ideology, with party affiliations, with dogma, and with habits, and so that we become too distracted to take any action on the larger issues at stake. True freedom comes from personal choices, from choosing to let go of the shackles on our minds. In my work I present the existence of impediments to liberation, but I’m not here to tell you what your particular shackles are. That’s for you to decide.

     

    Jennifer has two upcoming gallery shows at Figureworks Gallery in Williamsburg,

    Brooklyn.  This includes a solo show in the Spring, and another show

    with 5 other artists that pay great attention to detail from January 10th – February 2nd.

     

    http://jenniferdelilah.com/

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    Press release and photographs courtesy of the gallery and the artists. If you would like to submit your photo story or article, please email INFO@ARTEFUSE.COM.

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