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April 4, 2005

Sesnon Gallery features innovative exhibit by three new art faculty

By Scott Rappaport

Innovative, kinetic, and sonic installations merging sculpture, electronic media, and performance art will be on display in Faculty Works: 2005 at UCSC’s Sesnon Gallery. The exhibit, from April 6 to May 7, will feature works by three new art faculty members: Dee Hibbert-Jones, Ed Osborn, and Jennifer Parker.



Skinned (Sound Residue) by Jennifer Parker is a sound sculpture/installation life-size latex figure and skin with five crocheted speaker pods and receiver.
Photo: Jennifer Parker


Separation Anxiety Disorder Teddy Backpack by Dee Hibbert-Jones is from her “Psychological Prosthetics” installation/performance.
Photo: Dee Hibbert-Jones

Dee Hibbert-Jones was recently hired as an assistant professor to develop the public art program at UCSC.

Her current research explores the relationships between art, commerce, and mental health in a project she calls “Psychological Prosthetics.” In collaboration with mental health workers, she has created (and patented) a brand of sculptural products designed to aid mental health disorders. The products employ sleek, high-tech designs with gadgetry attached such as LCD monitors, push-buttons for audio, and telescoping sections for portability.

Hibbert-Jones’s creations include a Separation Anxiety Disorder Teddy Backpack and an Attention Deficit Disorder Brace. She has also constructed a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Security Vest—complete with an LCD screen to cathartically retell a personal trauma story, a stress gauge connected to body temperature, and a walkie-talkie check-in device to monitor personal safety.

“Sculpture is an emotion made tangible,” Hibbert-Jones explained. “I’m exploring the role of the artist as healer by creating a tangible product to soothe a mental health disorder. If someone is having an anxiety attack, I can give them something to hold or wear like a security blanket. I look at ideas like: ‘How do you create an environment that creates an emotional response of safety?’ or ‘What kinds of things help?’”

Hibbert-Jones said she conceived her project while reflecting on the massive influence of the psycho-pharmaceutical industry. The presentation of her products mimics a corporate display, using the language of the pharmaceutical industry in text, logo, colors, and signage. “I’m turning the Sesnon Gallery into a trade show of psychological prosthetics,” said Hibbert-Jones. “I’ll have an infomercial about the products on display, banners advertising the products, and photos on the walls of people wearing and using the products.”

Like political theater, Hibbert-Jones’s work is both serious and satirical, with the intent of stimulating discussion of important issues related to mental illness, diagnosis, prescription, and treatment. The Sesnon installation will also include an interactive performance art aspect—outside the gallery, performers in lab coats will interview people about depression and anxiety to kick-start conversations about mental health.

Hibbert-Jones said that she will take the project on tour later this year to museums and galleries throughout the United States. She also noted that a portable “Psychological Prosthetics Trauma Unit” will tour Europe in 2006.

Assistant Professor Jennifer Parker’s sculptures and installations combine found and manipulated sounds, organic material, video, and performances. Her contribution to the Faculty Works: 2005 exhibit will include Wigsuit, a performance sculpture consisting of a suit she constructed from over 100 wigs manufactured in Japan; and Self-Portrait, a piece created in response to the 2004 presidential elections made up of oil clay and digital images.

Parker will also exhibit a life-sized latex figure and skin with five crocheted speaker pods titled Skinned (Sound Residue). She said the work was created “as a result of thinking about sound as vibration…waves bounding off the body or being absorbed by the body. I imagined silence—a figure with no ears, having recently hatched or shed her skin…and of sounds embedded in the skin…left behind as residue of her life.”

Ed Osborn, assistant professor of electronic and digital media, was born in Helsinki, Finland, and is now based in Oakland and Berlin. His sound art pieces come in a variety of forms, including installations, sculpture, radio, video, and public performance projects. Osborn’s works range from rumbling fans and sounding train sets to squirming music boxes and delicate feedback networks.

For the Sesnon exhibit, Osborn will create a remix of Attempting Ziggurats, based on the story of the Tower of Babel and its ongoing reverberations in American culture. “The forms of social, political, and economic organizations needed to build the Tower of Babel--those of a massive system of coercion in service of an enormous and delusional task—are ones that recur frequently in American history,” Osborn noted.

An opening reception will be held on Wednesday, April 6, from 5 to 7 p.m. Sesnon Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. A lecture series with a talk by each of the artists will take place at Porter College Faculty Gallery: Dee Hibbert-Jones, April 12; Ed Osborn, April 13; and Jennifer Parker, April 20. For more information, go to: http://arts.ucsc.edu.

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