Left: Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Velvet Hand, 2009, chair, vase, velvet pants, 33 x 21 x 20“. Right: Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Denim Vase, 2009, ceramic, denim, 9 x 7 x 5”.


This summer, the Portland, Oregon– and New York–based sculptor Jessica Jackson Hutchins is participating in several group exhibitions, including “Dirt on Delight: Impulses That Form Clay,” which originated at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia and is at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis until November 29, and “Bent,” a three-person show at the Oregon College of Art and Craft on view until August 23. Here, Hutchins talks about her practice.

I’VE BEEN MAKING A LOT OF WORK FROM MY FURNITURE LATELY, just pulling it out of my house. Two sculptures in “Bent” are created from chairs that were in my kitchen. They were worn out, and their indentations readily invited the weight of ceramic. For Velvet Hand, I sewed some old velvet pants together to hold a pot that hovers over the indentation of the seat; it looks as if some barely sympathetic hand of God holds it there. In the other, a blue ceramic object nestles in the dip of the chair, which is decorated with a big sunflower. The sculpture resembles a landscape: the blue vase driving into an optimistic sunflower distance. I made it soon after Obama was elected and titled it And it feels great, which is a line from one of my husband’s songs.

There are also two ceramic vessels that I’ve repaired or improved with fabric, including one with denim, which I love. These vessels might ultimately get incorporated into a large table sculpture I’m working on. I’m carving into a big, wooden table from my kitchen with power tools and making large woodcut prints from it. Some of these prints have collage elements, including one in Small A Projects’ rogue summer show in Greenwich, New York.

I use common and simple objects because they can act as nouns. Strung together, they resonate like catchy song lyrics: chair, bowl, pants. They are also weird together, and loving, too. Sometimes the materials look old or crappy and that gives the sculptures a sense of urgency. They have a “by any means necessary” or punk sensibility. I don’t think the sculptures would be very interesting if they didn’t also possess disruptive qualities, if they weren’t tough and insistent. I’m not attached to dilapidation for its own sake. It’s just the way things look when they are really part of the world. They’re not slick and pristine.

With Convivium, the table piece included in “Dirt on Delight,” I wanted to speak to the potential for ritual in daily life, to suggest the polyvalence of dinner-table conversations. I have made other table sculptures, but not one yet that wants to have the multiplicity that Convivium does. It is hacked into and sanded down, and color has been built up in the raw wood from the printing ink. It makes me think of the way life leaves marks and gives way to new urgencies.

I believe in osmosis between objects. With time, there is something happening at the molecular level, where the objects come together in some way and begin to form their own associations. So I will put an item on a chair and leave it, and I think it gets better overnight, even if nothing really changes.

— As told to Patricia Maloney