Art & Statement: Jennifer Sullivan’s Mature Charms
Mature Charms was created for The Perennial, a one day exhibition curated by Karen Azoulay and presented in a neoclassical peristyle called The Grecian Shelter in Prospect Park. The theme of the show was floriography, the language of flowers, a form of communication that was popular in Victorian times. Each artist had to use a historical floral code to embed a secret meaning in their work. The parameters of the space also offered an interesting challenge — it was an outdoor situation in a structure with no walls, so it had to be able to be presented on the floor and withstand the wind.
I chose the Cattleya orchid as my flower, which means “Mature Charms” because I thought it was funny and also related to ideas I’d been thinking about recently as an unmarried woman who is getting older and working on feeling OK about that (I’m 37 and feeling pretty good about it lately). It also feels like a not-so-subtle sexual reference, since orchids are so vaginal, which has also been a recurring theme in my work.
I chose to make a blanket with faux cats on it in the end because it conjured an image of being home alone — often I am on the couch under a blanket with my cat on my lap. I thought it was a humorous reference to the cliche of a cat lady but also seemed like an interesting new formal format for my work, something I want to continue working with in the future.
The image on the blanket itself is a digital collage comprised of many multi-colored layered images of orchids, as well a painting I made based on Origin of the World, and an image of a clock.
The faux taxidermy cats were objects I’d always wanted to use at some point, but had not yet found a place for. They just seemed like the perfect punctuation for the blanket and would also act as paperweights of sorts, as well as stand-ins for the human element. Also, they could be another vaginal reference.
Photos by Jennifer Sullivan and Jude Broughan.