October 24, 2010

Student Artist Spotlight: Jackie Zjdrojeski

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You ever been chased by your dad with an ax in the snow and/or rain? Me neither, and it’s a lack of those kinds of experiences that have caused most of my personal and professional shortcomings. To fear is to live, and until someone comes at me with a pointed stick or a handful of forks, I can’t be totally sure that I’m living life with the fullest possible emotional spectrum.

These are the kinds of realizations I came to while talking with Jackie Zdrojeski ’11, a senior sculptor (in title only) and wizard. Think Wesley Snipes in Undisputed. Zdrojeski’s most recent work deals with video rather than canvas, and features a split screen sequence of some classic American horror — axes, beards and all. The resulting anxiety ended up delaying our interview a bit, but I stopped crying eventually.

Sun: Why’re you bringing up all these childhood traumas, Jackie? Why?

JACKIE ZJDROJESKI: I’ve been using horror films as a way to explore architecture recently. Your typical horror film usually features the haunted house, which takes the stability and safety associated with a home and totally negates it. I’ve been looking at a lot of houses diagrammatically through that lens … most of them have an attic and a basement — the poles of the house — that turn into the sites of terror. When you watch a horror film, it exaggerates your childlike experience of a house/home, so you become afraid of a dark room, or a basement or a closet.

Sun: It’s amazing how closely the two scenes from your show parallel one another.

JZ: Yeah, that was a piece I was working on last semester in New York. The bathroom, in both cases, becomes the safe room where the families are hiding. And then, naturally, you have the crazy dad with the ax. So I thought that was a nice way of showing how architecture can be compartmentalized, and how it can switch and redefine our preconceived notions of what a room is. The bathroom, usually a private place of sanctuary, has become a last resort that’s getting hacked to pieces. I’m still articulating my interest in horror films, but that’s definitely one of the things that drew me towards them in the first place.

Sun: There has to be a very personal aspect to that as well, in terms of drawing on subjective notions of home.

JZ: Sure. Experiential memories have a lot to do with it. When you’re a kid, you remember the house you grew up in, you have very specific memories when you come back to it. That’s all rooted in what I’m doing here. For example, I have these guys I was working on this weekend. It’s a laser-cut drawing of the house I grew up in. It was a simple little exercise, I dunno … I made it black, I kinda wanted to make it look like a haunted house [laughs]. I don’t live there anymore, we moved out when I was in 4th grade. Those are kind of the motifs I’ve been working with … I also have these stills from The Exorcist here, if you remember them. They flash on the screen really fast.

Sun: You could scare some pants off with those suckers.

JZ: Yeah, Noah told me they traumatized him as a kid and now he has to come face them everyday.

Sun: Noah. What a jabroni. Noah.

JZ: Yeah, I started doing a painting of one of them there behind you. I don’t think of myself as a painter first, and it’s still in the early stages. I really want it to look a lot more like the actual still. I don’t look at art as much as I watch films. Taking still images from film out of their context allows you to look at the image in a completely new way, without any preconceived notions of a cinematic framework. I’ve only taken one film class, Inter/National Cinema with Lisa Patti, but it really helped me see things through that lens.

Sun: So how has it been working in this sort of tightly collaborative space? This studio room has people working in pretty close proximity and I’m guessing you can’t help but critique and follow other people’s methods. Has that affected your process or approach to your work?

JZ: Well it’s strange, because I was originally supposed to be in the sculpture building. But because of all the work on Milstein Hall, it was way more desirable to be in Tjaden. I like the community of the building — I have a bunch of friends in here, and we definitely love seeing each other’s progress. At the same time it is kinda weird having your studio be a public space. I think I would hang something up in display mode regardless, but I wonder if I’m unconsciously influenced by the knowledge other people will see it. It keeps things interesting, keeps it from becoming too sterile or stagnant around here.

Sun: So what have you been doing outside the studio?

JZ: Actually, my friend Maggie Prendergast and I — we’re publishing a little book. She has a small publishing press called Garlic Press, and I’m collaborating as the co-curator of a little book called Spooky Booky. I’m screen-printing some eyeballs on the cover, and then we invited some people to submit text or photographs or drawings.

Sun: Have you ever spooked a booky? It’s a terrible idea, Jackie. I want you to be careful out there, they have very sharp fangs.

JZ: What?

Sun: So how’d you go about making these childhood home cutouts?

JZ: Laser-cutter. Boom.

Sun: What?

JZ: Yeah, we got some laser-cutters up here.

Sun: You cuttin’ lasers!?!?

JZ: No. You just make something in Illustrator — this one is a vector drawing, so its mostly made out of lines. I had two different lines, one I used as a straight cutting line while the other was for scoring the windows and roof. You can use different powers — there’s a laser-cutter in the basement here, I think there’s a couple over in Architecture. It’s one of the things I use most for my work.

Sun: Jackie, thank you for an unforgettable evening.

JZ: The pleasure was all mine, sir. I bid thee farewell.

Sun: Good e’en. I shall see you anon.­

Original Author: Graham Corrigan