In 1980, as I set out on my first trip
to Europe, I decided to make a book that would contain any and all
physical proof that I had been there: ticket stubs, postcards, restaurant
receipts, airplane and bus and railroad ephemera. On successive
trips, these collections grew to include food smears, hotel keys,
found litter, local news, pop tops, rocks, weather notations, leaves,
bags of dirt--anything that would add information about a moment
or a place, so that the viewer could make a new picture from the
remnants. Objects emerged for me as icons for particular
cities and these objects became the material for EVIDENCE.
Candy Jernigan was little known outside New Yorks avant-garde
art world during her life. The artist was a dedicated collector
of unusual evidence. Committed to documenting any and all
physical proof that I had been there, Jernigan
transformed the mundane stuff of the world into witty and astoundingly
resonant works of art.
Jernigan filled her journals with traces of food she had eaten,
scraps of paper, bits of leaves, and old bottle caps--all lovingly
labeled and sealed in transparent envelopes. Her more formal works
are equally reflective of her compulsive desire to collect and document:
Found Dope is an exquisitely
detailed arrangement of all the crack vials Jernigan found near
her New York apartment over one sixteen day period. Jernigan's work
offers a transformative vision of the things most of us try to ignore.
This collection of bugs originally appeared in a hand-made
volume entitled Dead Bug Book.
Featuring fifty pencil drawings on index cards, it was inspired
by Candy Jernigans discovery of myriad bug corpses when she
reopened her summer home in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Instead of
being repelled by these specimens, she used them as her subjects.
This sampling from that book suggests that beauty is unpredictable
and is something to be sought not only in the obvious places, but
in the nooks and crannies of our daily lives.
In collecting and creating her art, Candy operated like a
forensic pathologist. Traveling down the street with her, you quickly
got into her habit of examining the ground in front of you to see
what treasures might have been tossed away on the sidewalk or into
the gutter. If she was on the lookout for pop tops from soft drink
cans you found yourself walking with your head down scanning from
side to side looking for pop tops, too, even though you really had
no reason to because Candy only used objects that she herself collected
and documented. But you did it anyway, because you had begun to
look at the world through her eyes. Ken Tisa, a friend and fellow
artist, says of Candy that She made me rethink things I would
normally dismiss or run from. She was one artist who pointed us
in the direction of beauty within the scum of the city. Everyone
who wants to see art in New York looks up. Candy looked down. She
was interested in what was most banal, what people didnt want.
She wanted to make desirable the undesirable, and she succeeded.
Tiger lily wasp. Green bottle fly. Even a gnat. Humorous
and artful, these bugs, although clearly dead, are so delicate,
and so original, that they convey an unexpected elegance. With this
startling collection, Candy Jernigan has found beauty where we least
expect it, and asks us to look at a small section of the natural
world in an entirely new way.
from The Dead Bug Box
Dolphin,Laurie, ed. Evidence: The
Art of Candy Jernigan. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999.
Jernigan, Candy. The Dead Bug
Box. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999.
(This is actually a box of 24 post cards; each post card has a different
sketch of a dead bug)