Essay from First Street Gallery

Excerpt from catalog essay. California State University Stanislaus Faculty Exchange Exhibition. First Street Gallery, Humboldt State University. 2010.


In the art of Jessica Gomula, the Post-Modern hybridization of genre and style is second-nature, virtually a reflex, and irony is such a staple item of the artistic diet that it passes through the digestive tract without so much as a hiccup. The computer screen is the melting pot for this cocktail, which I feel perfectly justified in using mixed metaphors to describe!

Gomula’s website, the most obvious portal through which the neophyte viewer might approach her intermedia projects, presents us with an opening silhouette of a male dancer and we suspect trouble immediately. Many of her intermedia installations, like Semantic Frottage, explore the socio-political issues surrounding sexual intimacy. The layering and stylistic heterogeneity are reminiscent of Polke and Salle, though the mood is sweeter. Significant is the sheer quantity of different media layered into a seamless whole, which underplays if not suppresses the irony, as if there could be nothing more natural than the overlay of painted images, video montage, photographic stills, text, and sound. The superabundance of it all seems a spoof on sexual innocence. The sense of nostalgia only sweetens this further and we are cajoled into tacit acceptance of the dichotomy between the pictorial flatness of the animations, the floating montaged sexual nicknames, and the modified projection of live video captured of the viewer in the installation space.

This dichotomy seems symbolic of the central contradiction in Gomula’s work between the casual, gentle humor of the presentation with its apparent good-natured innocence, and the taboos surrounding the erotic subject matter. It is this dynamic that activates our reactions to Sigmund’s Laundry which shows, inset, the lingerie dressed performer ironing while silhouetted from one side of a bed sheet to remain polite but at the same time inviting a voyeuristic attention from the other side.

Surrounding this, against a blue background, images of embryos at an early stage of development and lady’s underpants float around, intermingling in the space of the performer. In the centre of this blue area is a large three-bladed washing machine agitator seen from above.

Similar forces are at work in Name Games in which images of dancing women are overlaid with sexual slang words and projected onto semi-transparent fabric through which live dancers move in response to audience interaction. The effect is to reverse conventional male voyeuristic proclivities redirecting our interest from the more obvious target of the dancers’ bodies to the text that float across them.

David Olivant