Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jason Walker - Unnaturally Natural

I first saw Jason Walker’s ceramic work in the form of a tea pot that is part of the permanent collection at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco.

The exhibit has long since been dismantled, yet Walker’s combinations of the imagery of technology and ecology still haunt my memory. Natural? Unnatural? The question, “What is Nature?” seems to be his guiding force.

“ I feel we use the term nature very loosely in our language today, and in my work I am searching for a place or an object that embodies the word nature.”

“According to Webster’s Dictionary, nature is something in its essential form untouched and untainted by the hands of a human being. Here lies the problem to my quest. At the very heart of our own description of nature we exclude ourselves from it. Does this mean I am not natural?”

The way in which we perceive nature inadvertently describes the way in which we perceive ourselves.

“I feel that technology has significantly changed and continues to mold our perception of nature. I feel we are pursuing our technological aspirations with a sort of blind admiration."

"Collectively, we see technology as only friend. Yet, technology is both friend and foe. Besides the obvious advantages technology may bring to our lives there lie unintended consequences and underlying messages behind every creation that forever change our perceptions, our social interactions and our relationship to nature and each other. It is in this grey area that I am trying to create a narrative to examine and ask questions.”

“My work has become a self-examination as well as a form of social critique, because I am just as dependent on technology as anyone else due to the fact that I choose to participate in society.”

To do research for his work, Jason traveled to an American ‘wilderness’ and backpacked solo with his sketchbook for ten days collecting images of landscape and ecology to take back to the studio. From this experience, he composed a narrative based on an historical progression of different perceptions of ‘nature’ and ‘wilderness’ in America starting with the idea of manifest destiny and progressing to contemporary ideas embodied in national parks and nature preserves.

“Ultimately, my quest to define nature is a journey to define for myself what it means to be human in the present time.”

Jason Walker lives in Bellingham, Washington, and is represented by Ferrin Gallery in Lenox, Massachusetts where you can see more of his work.

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