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"Designed solely for the user": An Interview with Jenna Sedlack

We've loved featuring Jenna Sedlack's art this month. Her use of color and sense of play immediately catch the eye. She took some time to answer some questions about her process and inspiration.

1. What drew you to Split Lip? How does this month's featured image, "Fooling Around," speak to that?

I’m always on the lookout for opportunities and am keen to show work on platforms that feel sincere and I admire Split Lip's dedication to ingenuity. I first heard about Split Lip near the end of 2017 and was intrigued by the varied perspectives present in each issue. “Fooling Around” is a five by four foot painting that unlike a majority of my work did not stem from the abstraction of a specific form. It was created intuitively. Each time I picked up a color I took my wrist and laid the paint down where it seemed to belong; there was negligible regard for subject matter, in a lot of ways I was just playing around. I am thrilled to have my painting juxtaposed with “Inventory Control," June's feature by Buffy Shutt, I was so drawn in I was actually late for a meeting; it was one of those rare stints while reading where you can hardly wait for the next sentence.

"Coincidence" (closeup)

2. Playground equipment appears in a number of your pieces. What draws you to these structures?

While attending the Berlin Biennial a few years back, I found myself drawn to the intricacies of the city’s playground equipment, whose structures upped the ante on the complexity factor. Unlike what I was accustomed to seeing back home, these forms advocated for letting your kids fend for themselves - to a greater extent. The frequency of children running to their parents in tears when they tripped in the wood chips was much less. This twist on intuitive design and the conscious fabrication of objects that are not the most user-friendly was fascinating and in great opposition to the design process that we are hardwired to have. No one needs or wants an instruction manual for a jungle gym, but the slight raise in required mental interaction when approaching the structure power could just be beneficial. Making the brain consider and approach the structure with interest is a hell of a lot more interesting than approaching a cookie-cutter set you’ve seen a thousand times before. In addition, I’ve always been intrigued by the notion that playgrounds are awfully rare in that they are designed solely for the user, for the purpose of play without any branding, money changing hands or religious connotations.


3. You mention Kant's concept of "purposeful purposeless" in your artist statement. What does this mean to you and how does it inform your work?

I am quick to intentionally leave out crucial components or build engineering impossibilities into the depicted structures so to strip the equipment of its intended function. Observable reality is so fluid and malleable that perspectives can be skewed by the slightest subtleties. To this point, I placed false shadows in the painting “Slide” to create tension and introduce a speck of doubt; while still maintaining the instant association that what you are looking at is indeed, a slide. I painted in additional components not in line with the traditional idea of a slide, components that provide a hindrance to how one would instinctively approach such a structure. An entire object can be stripped of its function with only one slight alteration or edit, one you might not even notice at first. I approach the playful innocence of these pieces of playground equipment and purposefully mess with their inherent reason for existence.


4. How do you arrive at your titles?

There are times when it doesn’t seem fair to impose a nuanced title with all its insinuations and context upon an artwork; these works lend themselves to being amenable to the viewer’s suggestions, allowing the observer to infer value and meaning unsullied by any implied connotations outside the borders of the canvas, in these instances the titles remain succinct and dare I say, obvious. Other times, a title will just click and become a crucial component of the work, adding a tone to play against; as in the case for the mixed-media painting, “Coincidence”. The layout of pipe-cleaners atop a negative structure calls to the balanced configuration of the two materials while still preserving their separate existences as strangers.


All images appear courtesy of Jenna Sedlack.

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