Made in China

Six Artists in California

The following is an excerpt from the catalog essay written by David Olivant for the 2006 exhibition “Made in China – Six Artists in California” at the Peter Scott Gallery in Lancaster, England.

In the art of Jessica Gomula, a recently arrived artist at CSU Stanislaus, the Post-Modern hybridization of genre and style is second-nature, virtually a reflex. The American flag, made in China, is almost a commonplace and irony 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!
Jessica’s website, the most obvious portal through which the neophyte viewer might approach her output, presents us with an opening page that mimics a sheet of handmade paper and we suspect trouble immediately. Many of the short movies that can be activated there, like Happy Holidays, 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 disingenuousness 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 technological muscularity of the computer and the floating montaged sexual toy Xmas gifts hovering across a pleasantly bourgeois fifties interior straight out of Ethan Allen Magazine.

This dichotomy seems symbolic of the central contradiction in Jessica’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, a video of a nude ironing, sufficiently blurred and darkened to remain polite but at the same time inviting a voyeuristic attention. Surrounding this, against a blue background, images of embryos at an early stage of development and lady’s underpants float around, occasionally occupying the space of the nude. In the centre of this blue area is a large three-bladed washing machine agitator seen from above. Similar forces are at work in Clean/Fun in which an image of a woman showering is overlaid by semi-transparent footage that moves horizontally across the screen. The effect is to reverse conventional male voyeuristic proclivities redirecting our interest from the more obvious target of the woman’s nudity to the largely indecipherable forms that float across her.