On the Works of Jessie Stead
Jessie Stead is an artist living and working in Brooklyn NY. She works across multiple mediums including, video, sculpture, sound, installation and light. She also has multiple collaborative practices in sculpture and film. Additionally, she is the percussionist in an art-noise band called Haribo.
One of the most remarkable things about Stead’s practice is her wide array of materials. Sometimes she uses state of the art video materials and equipment, while at other times uses objects as ubiquitous as rubber bouncy balls. There is a quality of play to Stead’s work in how it’s conceived and put together, but there is always a slick, well edited quality in her final piece.
Editing maybe one of the most important words when describing Stead’s work. Her initial and main practice is video, and often when you imagine the process that goes into making a video there are many staggered outbursts, such as making a backdrop set, acting, or performing. There is a thoughtful delay, as she sits with the hours of film and goes through it, picking, placing and overlaying shots. This type of thought process seems to relay into her other practices; for example, in The Beaded Interlude Series selections of eBay purchased rubber bouncy balls are set onto a string with an illuminated LED strip running through it. These works behave in many ways, in gallery shows they have been placed around the room running from ceiling to floor acting almost as dividers. While in my home, I have one tucked in a corner and I use it as my evening lighting. It’s one of my favorite pieces to live with and there are very few works of art I can utilize in conventional ways. In one way, we can think that the selection of bouncy balls is random, or general pattern making, but when you really start to decode and read it vertically, you can start to see this string of balls has bursts of random bold expression with loops, rhythms, and repeating patterns. It gives each string its own personality, or theme (if you’ve ever edited video on the computer this is often what the editing string of clips look like, snips and swatches of color representing the different edited pieces.)
Another series of Stead’s work that reflects the process of computer-based editing is her Club Desktop Series. These are screen captures of her desktop after arranging icons and files into patterns and came from an unplanned moment of procrastination. While trying to focus on editing a video, Stead became bored and distracted, as she tried to organize her files and clean her desktop. She then started to play around with the organization of the files, and adding custom file images. These patterns often are overlaid on background images of stuffed dead cats or rubber human dolls. I often think of this action of a complete cycle or loop, in that her hands on the keyboard and actions on the screen spray back into her eyes and through her hands to finesse until complete. They are a great example of finding unique ways to express ideas through art in the most mundane of places.
Another series of Stead’s is the Punched Interludes, which includes a repurposed candy dispenser acrylic globe used on the wall as an acoustic echo box. It has a crank piano adhered to the top of it; looped through the music box are pieces of caution tape collected from different locations such as fire zone, police, danger etc. By using a hole puncher, she then has riddled them full of holes. The holes act as the score as they activate the tones of the piano box, while viewers are invited to crank the handle. This series starts off with a playful notion and fun in appearance. When you play the box, it plays a scrambled display of notes. You can control the speed or tempo of the work. When we step back and decode what we are listening too, this is the song of a police investigation in Mexico City, or danger line do not cross, in front of a construction site in San Juan.
Among Stead’s collaborative projects, one that has retained much momentum is her part as percussionist in the art freak-out noise band Haribo, which boasts artist and wild man Raul De Neives as singer and costumed performer. Nathan Whipple, an accomplished musician from many other projects plays guitar. This is an all-out expulsion of energy. Props and costumes are often trashed until all that remains are torn painted cardboard remnants, and maybe sometimes thousands of feathers floating around from a sacrificed pillow. Depending on the energy or the song, different themes emerge, but this part of Stead’s practice is among the most wild and unruly, though, they do practice.