Writing and audio aren’t the only arts we enjoy. Joey’s sculptures, videos and paintings are often exhibited in galleries and at events, and she crafts one-of-a-kind necklaces, bracelets and earrings featuring natural semiprecious gemstones, antique paper, pewter, glass, shell and antique or vintage components. A portion of each sale goes to help kids or pets in need.
Each sculpture begins with a research phase including interviews with people affected by the issue involved. Then I have to figure out how to make that information visual, staying true to the information I’ve gathered. My sculptures are made largely from repurposed and recycled materials. I think it’s important to show that durable, beautiful things can be made from these materials. A sculpture can take months to complete as it’s exacting work. The piece develops its own personality, and the final work is always a bit of a surprise. — Joey
Our artwork appears in exhibits several times a year, and we list upcoming events and exhibits on our Events page. We also can create Custom Work
Recently, we stretched from sculpture and painting into animation. This year, our first animated short, XX/XY: The Crone, made its debut in a gallery before moving online. It’s going off on its own journey and gained fans from around the world. The great thing about the internet is that you can see work from artists you might never have discovered twenty years ago.
You can view this digital short here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkxH6bMndZc
This is part of one of the series I’m working on, “Interiors,” about inner selves and inner lives. I had a clear idea when I started this piece, but it just wouldn’t take that shape. I tried to “fix” it. I fought with it, braced it, but it was going to do what it was going to do. One day, as I thought about scrapping it in frustration, Mark told me to put it aside and come back to it. “It’s trying to say something,” he pointed out.
When I came back to it, I saw what he meant. I’ve had relatives and friends fall to Alzheimer’s. When you have Alzheimer’s, your loved ones often try to argue you into remembering, try to pull you back into your old self. They complain that you don’t listen. It’s frightening and frustrating for the person who has the illness, and for the loved ones who can’t stop its progression.
A doctor explained to me what happens in the brain when Alzheimer’s takes it, and a book by author Judith Horstman gave me more information. Interviews with people who have dementia, or live or work with people who do, filled in my understanding about what it’s like to have it. Neurons create pathways with each new memory and travel those pathways to bring the memory back. As Alzheimer’s takes over, those pathways get clogged or fray, so the neurons can’t get where they’re going. Early on, they may manage to hurdle the gaps, but the gaps get wider over time. If your mother always made sugar cookies at Christmas, the smell of sugar browning may make you think of Christmas and your mother, and how you felt at those times. Those are the connections that make you who you are. And they disappear.
I looked into the areas of the brain and what kind of information they handle. It got me thinking about how memories are multi-layered: sight, sound, touch, taste, scent, motion, emotion. I filled the sculpture’s head with memories, then connected each to the appropriate part of the brain. There’s a memory of the first time she held her baby, for example, that includes how he looked (sight), the sound of his voice (hearing), the “baby” smell of him (scent), how he felt in her arms (touch), and her emotions in that moment. Memory by memory, I connected her. If you look closely, there are tiny glass beads, representing neurons, running down some of the pathways.
Next, I randomly burned away some threads, or clogged others. There are some “neurons” in there that aren’t getting where they’re going. I imagine that, over a long period of time, others will snap. She is in the process of disappearing, slowly.
On the bottom of the sculpture I wrote her statement:
“I built my life day by day, moment by moment, layering choice upon choice, experience upon experience. My first step, my first kiss, the last time I held a loved one’s hand, never knowing that it was the last time. The things I liked to do, the foods I never did like, the faces I looked for in a crowd, all stored away. My mind made so many connections. Cinnamon smells like the cookies I baked at Christmas. I met my husband in a hotel restaurant where the air smelled like cookies and coffee, and the song, “Harbor Lights” was playing on a jukebox. This memory tied to that, scent, sound, sight, touch together. The sound of a voice, a certain word, the taste of strawberries, everything connected. These were my memories, my days, my life, me. At first I didn’t understand what was happening, why I couldn’t seem to remember things. People got impatient with me. They tried to make me remember. I wanted to! I was so frightened! I felt myself disappearing a little at a time, the connections fraying as I came apart. It isn’t my memories I’m losing. It is my self.”
Our friend, artist Aparna Agarwal, gave the sculpture its name. Simran is a method of contemplative meditation to enable a person to realize that they are an inseparable part of the divine. Aparna said that the sculpture looked as though “she has forgotten everything except the sacred name of God.”
Where It All Begins is about mirror neurons, one of the sources of empathy. When you listen to a story, the areas of your brain will respond that would be involved if you actually experienced the events described. To a lesser degree, you feel with the other person, their joy, their pain. When we share ourselves with each other, we become part of each other. Here, one is speaking, another listening, but both are sharing the experience.
Also, as we speak, we are breathing each other in. Cells that one person sheds become dust in the air, swirling in the wind. We literally become, to a tiny degree, part of each other. If we are to evolve past hatred and violence in the future, this is where it will start, with a realization that whether we want to be or not, we are connected.
The story written on the speaker is part of the listener. Even if they never see one another again, they share a common bond. I came to think of it as my anti-bullying piece after an exhibit where a mother and daughter asked me about it, and when I pointed out that it would be hard to really hurt other people if you understood that you are literally part of each other, they told me that bullying would be hard to do if you knew this information.
Where It All Begins is formed of paper, acrylic, glass and filament.
Sotapanna is an abstract piece about surviving, rebuilding and regrowth after trauma. Many of us have had experiences, physical, emotional, mental or all three, that challenge us. Sometimes, the event is overwhelming and we may not know how to go on, how to incorporate that experience and information into our senses of ourselves. I can remember waking up one day and thinking that I didn’t know how to live with what I now knew. On a very basic level, I didn’t see a path forward where I could assimilate the experience and continue. Thankfully, with the help of good friends and caring professionals, I stumbled and lurched until I found myself and my way. People can regrow and reform, much as nature will reclaim a place that was paved over and sterile, given a chance. Our friend, Janice Jow, gave this piece its name. Sotapanna is a Buddhist term meaning “stream winner,” one who has advanced along the path to enlightenment.
His Own Man looks at self-image, how we create one, what we do with it. We take in the images and ideas we’re given by the people around us and our culture, mix it with the feedback we get about ourselves from others along the way, and our own inherent nature to create the most basic work of art we’ll ever make, our selves.
There are special challenges no matter which side of the gender fence you were born on. Here, a young man tries to sort out the often conflicting messages he’s getting, to figure out what it means to be “a real man.” He’s taking it all in, the things people say to him, around him and about him, the images he gets from music, television, movies, books and other sources. Without realizing it, he’s putting it all together, but does he know what he’s making out of it all?
His Own Man is made of paper, acrylic, stainless steel and fancy jasper. The first time it was shown, a woman approached me at the reception with her young son and teenaged daughter, asking me to talk about the piece. I explained the ideas and that it was created after talking to people, male and female, of various ages about what they expected, and wanted, from men. I told them, for example, that the old joke about men not asking for directions seems to have some basis in fact, and that a man explained this to me, saying, “How can I ask for directions? I’m not supposed to not know things or be wrong. If I ask a stranger for directions, I might as well tell him to go ahead and kill my family — I can’t protect them, I don’t even know where we are!” We chuckled at this, and I told them that among the conflicting messages boys and men get is a pair, “explore, take risks, but never be wrong.” The woman turned to her son, who was about ten, and asked what he thought of all of this. Was it correct?
He glanced at me, doubtful. “Say whatever you think,” I told him. “If you disagree, that’s okay. Not everyone has the same experience.” His mother asked him if he thought the sculpture was accurate. “Do you face that kind of thing?” He took a deep breath. “Every day.” His mother was surprised. “How did I not know my son was facing this?,” she asked me. “You didn’t know for the same reason I didn’t,” I told her. “You’re a girl. I didn’t know either until I talked to enough of them. Guys tend not to talk about things like this because… how can you talk about what’s wrong if nothing is every supposed to be wrong?” I left them standing before the sculpture, talking.
I’m working on the female counterpart to this piece right now, Real Lady. The research phase is complete and I’m layering the sculpture. Layering involves creating a clay mold, essentially a temporary sculpture, then applying many layers of paper of varying strengths and thicknesses. Each layer has to dry thoroughly before the next is applied, so it’s a lengthy process. When the sculpture is built up, it’s time to sand, paint and apply additional elements, recycled wire, for example, natural gemstones, glass, even, in one case, twisted strands of sawtooth metal harvested from boxes of aluminum foil.
Getting from the start of the research phase to the completion of a sculpture can take anywhere from several months to a year, depending on the piece. In the end, I want it to be as true as I can make it to the experience of the people who shared a bit of themselves and their lives with me.
I paint as well. The most challenging one lately was a 9′ market umbrella painted for a public art installation and fundraiser for the parks in Carmichael, CA. If you’ve never been to Shades of Carmichael, drop by if you get a chance. It’s an annual event. This year, over 60 umbrellas, painted by local artists, were erected in a public park. The themes and styles were as different as the artists. It’s quite a sight, a parade of big paintings. Painting an umbrella presents a couple of challenges. There’s the size, in this case nine feet wide, but more difficult is the shape, made to fit over an umbrella frame, so not flat. We ended up hanging mine from a clothesline so I could work on it (you don’t get the frame, just the canvas). This year’s design was based on indigenous plants and animals, in this case Northern Saw-Whet Owls and Deer Mice. It occurred to me that people will see it from underneath as much as from above, so I included elements visual only from the underside. The top view shows two owls, one facing away, one looking at you, in the canopy of a tree. Across from them are two deer mice, one facing out, the other looking in. Open the umbrella and you are present at the moment when one of the owls spots one of the deer mice. The title is “Did Someone Say Lunch?” Turnout this year wasn’t as high as it usually is, so I was gratified when mine was one of the umbrellas that sold, with the money going to the parks and recreation department.
The best moment? Mark manned our booth while I volunteered in the activity area for kids. I ended up painting with a five-year-old boy and we talked about art while we painted. His family doesn’t have a lot of money, so he doesn’t have art supplies at home. While his mother and grandmother painted parasols, he and I painted on donated art paper with donated paints and chatted. At one point, he beamed at me and said, “This is the best day ever! I love it here!” He told me that he really likes the United States and specifically his school and the park and sitting there, painting with me. The family is from Mexico, and my bet is that this kid is going to be a great contribution to our society, and I enjoyed our time together a lot.
One of the series of paintings I’ve been working on is Meet the Neighbors, about animals on the endangered species list. One, Sumatran Elephant, was exhibited, then sold at auction recently.
Another series, Profound Hounds is a celebration of dogs. Some of these are available in our Zazzle.com shop or in our Redbubble.com shop on tee shirts and other gear, including Pugly Is Beautiful. I’m working on paintings of a Labrador Retriever and a Chihuahua as well, and a painting of an American Eskimo — our dog Merlin.
Copyright © 2000 – 2017 Joey and Mark Jones