Jim Jacobs’ sculptures focus on the ‘Imperfections That Render Us Visible’
When visitors walk into the Kimball Art Center Friday, they will see wooden chairs that have sprouted tree branches. Or tree branches that have sprouted chairs.
This is Ogden-based artist Jim Jacobs’ trademark. And the public is invited to experience his sculptures during an opening reception for his new exhibit “The Imperfections That Render Us Visible” from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20, at the Kimball Art Center, 1401 Kearns Blvd. The exhibit, which will show through Nov. 3, features 14 pieces Jacobs created with repurposed tree branches and wood scraps.
Kimball Art Center exhibit curator Nancy Stoaks said she had known about Jacobs’ work for a while and wanted to share it with the Park City community.
“I love the tension between what is natural and what isn’t natural that you can find in his work,” she said. “I wanted to present a solo exhibition where we could really explore the pieces he’s been making over the past three years, and highlight the ones he has made over the past year, in particular.”
Jacobs, who has taught art at Weber State University for 30 years, said the intersection between the organic and inorganic is a fascinating theme.
“We are embedded and enmeshed in nature, and yet, we pull ourselves away from it,” he said. “Like we might say we’re stewards of nature. So nature becomes the ‘other’ that we are supposed to maintain and protect. And we also will say nature is a resource for us to use, instead of seeing ourselves fully integrated in it.
“In one sense, as evolution has shown, humans and their productions are clearly as much a part of the natural world as any other life form,” he said. “Our skyscrapers are as much a part of nature as the honeycomb of the bee.”
Within the works that are part of the exhibit, Jacobs uses different objects to represent humanity.
“There are clothespins in one work, and I also use hair and sometimes just furniture,” he said.
One of the works Jacobs calls “Tall Chair” is entirely made of cherry wood. The artist grafted cherry tree branches to the legs of a chair.
“Grafting, in the traditional sense, is a process used to join two distinct plants, often trees, to make them more productive,” he said. “In many of my works natural tree limbs are grafted to milled lumber, wooden tools and furniture, even though all the wood isn’t alive.”
Jacobs usually has an idea of what one of his sculptures will look like when he starts working.
“With the ‘Tall Chair,’ I knew it was going to be tall, but sometimes works change direction while I’m working on them,” he said. “I’ve made pieces where I was well into the process and found the work doesn’t want to go the way I had planned. So, I changed it.”
Changing the look of a piece may pose a challenge. Jacobs said the real challenge, though, lies in how fragile a work can become before it’s finished.
“While making one piece, I had cut a chair apart and suspended it with wires to get the look I wanted, and then I built an armature to hold it in place,” he said. “I had things moving around and part of the grafting broke out after a week’s work. So I had to do it all over again. But by the time I finished the piece, it was really strong and sturdy.”
Stoaks is excited to showcase a new exhibit full of sculptures.
“I love the process of being able to walk around a piece and getting to know it from different perspectives,” she said. “I love the combination of whimsy, and sometimes disturbing quality that can creep into Jim’s works.”
Jacobs is grateful to Stoaks for giving him a chance to show his work.
“It’s always exciting to see the work come to a finish, but it’s even more exciting to get the work out where people can see it and experience it,” he said.
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