Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Artist Jessica Vaughn lectures in Milstein Auditorium.

February 14, 2017

‘Politically Charged’ Lecture by Visiting Artist Inspires Faculty and Students

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Metropolitan visual artist Jessica Vaughn presented striking political overtones in her lecture titled “Accumulated Spaces, Accumulated Objects,” which was held at Milstein Hall on Monday.

“I’m interested in how resources and spaces are administered, taken care of and occupied by people…and how spaces can be disrupted to irreversible repair,” she said. “Our current Republicans in the legislative and executive branches of government use cities as test grounds for policy to disenfranchise people. … We who live in these cities are of no importance to them.”

Vaughn fielded several questions about the politics of her work in light of the nation’s recent administrative shift and referenced her current project, where she is using discarded Chicago subway seats to communicate the permanence and function of infrastructure.

“I feel a larger sense of urgency to show this work more, given that these seats become containers for this sort of political representation that people would like to ignore or not even recognize,” she added, “[Especially considering] the fact that they’re from institutions that people want to gut.”

Unlike many other visual artists, Vaughn’s sculptural work often moves away from the confines of the studio and centers around on-site materials, including her body, in order to capture her shots.

“Much of Jessica’s work resides in the natural surroundings of the urban landscape. … She creates sculptural installations and photographs that capture the morphing environments and natural urban settings that she’s working right within,” said Prof. Renate Ferro, a visiting professor of art in the College of Arts, Architecture and Planning.

Vaughn expressed her focus on materials and bodies within her imagery as she discussed her photographic work called Hugging Capital, which was taken during her recent stay in upstate New York.

Artist Jessica Vaughn lectures in Milstein Auditorium.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Artist Jessica Vaughn lectures in Milstein Auditorium.

“I was very much interested in making sure that the performative aspect was really central to how I could maintain structures — so, my body itself becoming an anchor — and really trying to abstract that representation of the body itself,” she said.

The talk ended with a reception in Sibley Hall, where Vaughn discussed her current projects and responded to further inquiries about her work.

Chan Seth ’17, a fine arts student, said that he was particularly impressed with the universality of Vaughn’s works and the questions she explored.

“It was very politically charged,” he said. “When she was talking about education and the trend of taking away funding from it, I think that… applies to the art field, but it also applies to the politics in Chicago, to racism in America in general and to the way the art world in America is being treated.”