“Testament” with artist, Jennifer B. Thoreson at First Light Gallery

The continuation of “Testament” featuring the work of artist, Jennifer B. Thoreson at First Light Gallery
and the work of Andrew J. McCawley on the Republic Bank First Friday Hop
September 1st, 6-9pm

First Light Gallery
1009 E Main Street Louisville, KY 40206

Artist Statement:
I am attracted to vulnerability, to peeling back a skin that reveals something precious, dark, and tender. I am drawn to moments where people are on an edge, barely laced together, befriending disaster, remembering something, or exposing something. Testament explores themes of both resilience and dependency; it illustrates the heavy burdens we perpetually carry, and the relentless yearning for release.
This work was conceived through a spiritual lens. Matthew 11:28 reads:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Testament probes into obscure, sensitive areas, exploring both earnest religious conviction, and the failure of faith. I am exploring spiritual labor and bearing weight, submission, futileness, and persistence.
To create the work, I rented an empty house for a year, and transformed it into a makeshift sanctuary, a freighted space for constructing photographs. I chose the house because it reminds me very much of the home I grew up in; It has a worn-in, gentle quality, and it evokes tangible memories of my religious upbringing. In the photographs, each room is styled with
furnishings, textiles, and sentimental objects that I remember from my 1980s childhood home.
I fabricated large-scale sculptural objects for each image, using materials such as wool, linen, clay, and human hair. The materials borrow symbolic language from the Bible, and create alter-like, fleshy masses. I imagine the house as a witness and testament to the curious events depicted in each image; it is a gateway, the silent space just before crossing over. This work is infused with my own inexhaustible, almost irrational empathy. The people in the photographs are in the final phase of bearing weight, the phase just after an aching fall, and just before renewal inevitably begins. I like to know and feel the moment where people fall apart, and saturate my work in it. I am seeking the moment of relief, and relishing in the moments just before it occurs.
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This work is about two over-arching themes the maintenance and endurance of pain, and the vast assembly of spiritual questions that are tied up in human suffering. I am a devoted empath, almost to the point of self-detriment. When I was a little girl, if I broke a toy or dropped my ice cream on the floor, it just destroyed me. I felt responsible for the feelings of everything I touched, and I bore a very real guilt for anything I believed to be hurt, neglected, or discarded. I really haven’t changed all that much, I have an awful time throwing things away, I feel the need to save, rescue, and restore everything and everyone. Very often, I lie awake at night in tears, having stumbled upon an article or Facebook post about a total stranger whose baby died in their arms, or who has suffered their 4th miscarriage, or who has lost their teenaged boy in a shooting at a night club in Florida. Icarry around those sadnesses for days, weeks, months. I can’t wrap my head around that kind of suffering, and I put a lot of energy into processing other people’s pain. I’m not sure why, and It’s certainly something I would love to be able to switch off from time to time. That sort anguish develops a cancer in someones life that grows and morphs, attaches itself to relationships, memory, the physical body; it permanently alters the mind, and continuously strains the heart. I am extremely interested in the process of grieving, the process of maintaining, grooming, and managing pain. The depth of the wounds that people carry around is astonishing, and I find myself marveling at the very survival of them.

The second layer to all of this is the spiritual one, and the myriad of questions that lodge themselves into my thought process. Of course, I want to know why these terrible things happen to people, why certain people endure such sorrow; I want to know how the pieces fit together, and the great purpose for it all but I find what I’m most interested in is the light at the end of the tunnel. I;m looking for the hope, the reward, and the relief. 1 Peter 5:6 reads. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.7  Cast all your cares on Him because he cares for you. I am very intrigued by the act of laying down heavy burdens, the ability to cast off suffering, and the process of finding peace. Testament explores the endurance of great pain, and the hope and light that wondrously survives. I’m examining the transition from the clumsy, flawed human experience to total enlightenment and understanding. The knowledge and expectation of that release is woven into this work, together with themes of human vulnerability, naiveté, and limitation. All in all, the work is a massive pile of questions. It is evidence of the empathy that has carved out a permanent, worn-in space in my heart, and the mystery of the belief system that surrounds it.

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