Jill Kerwick: Lipstick & Other Stories

Mitzi & Warren Eisenberg Gallery
July 22 – September 11, 2016

Jill Kerwick’s ingenious digital collages resemble film stills—part fantasy, part science fiction, and part fairy tale—featuring strangely-serene female characters in charged domestic spaces or with giant animals in bucolic landscapes. While these scenes may be slightly unsettling, the New Jersey artist describes them as “just real enough” to be believable—at least at first glance.  Once we realize that they are in fact unreal, we have already fallen under their spell.

Kerwick’s process combines low and high tech materials and methods. Arranging objects in front of paintings or other backdrops, she photographs these miniature stage sets and employs Photoshop to insert images of her body into the compositions.  Her use of antique lady head vases for her female characters is an important signature element of the work and demonstrates her interest in contrasting the natural with the artificial. Originally designed to hold floral bouquets, these ceramic head vases were popular in the 1950s and reflect mid-century ideals of feminine beauty.  Kerwick’s pairing of hybrid female characters with live animals adds another quirky element to the work.  Scaling rabbits and chickens up to human size, she makes them appear less vulnerable and gives them leading roles in her visual stories.

By portraying universal experiences like making friends or finding a home, or mundane ones like applying lipstick, Kerwick creates scenes that are relatable to viewers, even when the settings and circumstances seem unreal. Blurring the boundary between reality and fiction, these provocative images may amuse, surprise, or perhaps even unnerve us, but they also challenge us to invent our own stories about them.

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