Sentimentality is a force, and it’s not always light, says object painter Jordan Buschur
Artist, educator and curator Jordan Buschur explores the non-monetary significance of items in her paintings of everyday objects. And by hinting at the anxiety and sentimentality that things contain, these still-life artworks also act as a detailed portrait of modern life.
Ohio-based painter Jordan Buschur sums up her paintings as oscillating between fixed meaning and open interpretation. And nowhere is this duality more apparent than in her depictions of everyday, accumulated objects. Items such as books, packed boxes and the miscellaneous contents of desk drawers transcend into "systems of value shaped by mystery" when captured by Jordan on the canvas.
Since we last featured Jordan on Creative Boom, she's become a mum of three, and the matriarchal connection between objects has manifested itself in her work. To learn more about her story, we sat down with Jordan to talk about how she crafts her paintings and her experiences of parenthood as an artist.
Your artworks imply a human presence through objects. What inspired this creative approach?
When I started as a painter, much of my work was figurative. Eventually, I wanted to shift away from the specificity of the human form, and I realised that paintings of objects could function as portraits without the figure.
How true to life are your paintings? Do you paint objects as you see them or arrange a composition?
I have a folder of source images I have taken over the years. They are a mix but typically fall into two categories- interiors of drawers, boxes, jars, or domestic vignettes. I work from rather junky printouts of the images, and though they are the origin of the paintings, the finished work veers away from the source. Colours shift, and objects are changed or sometimes completely removed. Outlines of hands, faces, or symbols are added in.
Finding the balance between representation and invention is the challenging and mysterious part, ultimately the most satisfying part of the process.
What recurring themes have you noticed during your paintings?
Through the variations in imagery, all my paintings centre on ideas of non-monetary systems of value. What do we put on display, and what do we hide away? What do we keep and why? I'm interested in how meaning shapeshifts as an object is inherited and enters heirloom status, even if that object is a box of dried-up markers. Sentimentality is a force, and it's not always light.
Who are your biggest artistic inspirations, and why?
Here are two out of a long list. Firstly, Portia Munson. In my youth, I picked up a used copy of the catalogue for the Bad GIrls exhibition at the New Museum from 1994. Portia Munson's Pink Project compiled hundreds of second-hand pink plastic objects, and I was simultaneously in love and repulsed. A good combo.
Secondly, Kerry James Marshall. His paintings are so poetic and tender in places and extremely powerful and pointed in others. I admire his technical ability as it intertwines with his message. The painting SOB SOB at the Smithsonian Museum is one of my favourites. Plus, it features a shelf of books, which is always a draw for me.
Thanks for sharing your most recent work with us. How do you think you have developed as an artist in these paintings?
One of the reasons I love working in a creative field is being able to follow my own lead, and in recent years that has been even more apparent to me. If I want to paint something, even if I can't explain why at the moment I begin, I can trust my intuition. It usually takes me somewhere interesting or at least opens the door to a new idea. Looking back, I can follow my thought trajectory, which is very satisfying.
You've had three children since you last appeared on Creative Boom. Congratulations! How have they changed your outlook as an artist?
Everything changes with the addition of children! But at the same time, I'm still me, and I still have my personal priorities and interests. I had to learn to make room for family priorities too. I'm still learning.
How do you balance parenthood with a creative life?
I'm the primary caregiver for my kids, who are all still quite young. I moved my studio to a spare room in my house after my third child was born, giving me greater access even if it also allows for more interruptions. I grab studio time wherever I can, which means during naps after they are in bed or on weekends. I do have childcare three mornings a week so that I can teach, and occasionally I can extend that help so that I can be in the studio after class. It is a challenge at this stage to find enough time and energy for the studio, but I'm very driven and notice my mood darkens if I'm not getting enough. It's better for everyone if I can get to the studio.
What advice would you give to artists who are expecting?
Go to residencies before having kids, if possible. Travel of any kind becomes harder when they are young, and most residencies don't support families (though some really great ones do- last summer, I took my whole family to the Wassaic Project, which was a fantastic experience).
Beyond that very specific advice, the most helpful thing to remember is that the balance always shifts. There might be times when family life takes over everything, but it's not a permanent state. Finding flexibility and adjusting to the flow are still my goals as I balance parenting and art-making.
What are you most looking forward to in 2023?
It's currently winter where I am, so at this point, like every year, I look forward to spring. Warmth, sun, new green growth, and the beginning of mushroom hunting season with the appearance of morels, which I dream about for weeks in advance.
In the studio, I'm about to begin a series of large drawings, taller than me, for a solo show in June at Divisible Projects in Dayton, Ohio, USA. I have no idea what they will look like yet, which is exciting and scary.