The Bloody Chamber: The Art of Jessica Harrison

by Mary S


On first glance, the art of Jessica Harrison may appear to fit in with any number of sweet miniatures- perhaps you’ll see a tiny, plush chair, old-fashioned baby carriage, or waltzing lady. On closer inspection, we see a thick red tongue protruding from the pram, the fleshy chair sprouting hair, and the lady holding her brain in her hands.

Like a good Victorian ghost story (or one by those more modern masters, Angela Carter or Kelly Link), Harrison mixes the feminine genteel with an overarching sense of the macabre.


Says Harrison of her work, “The things I make are a complex description of simultaneous unmaking and making, deconstructing an object or a body before putting it back together again – this could be interpreted as a violent process, but is often a very delicate and fragile one, a process of transplantation rather than dislocation.”

One can’t also help but notice these pieces put a twist on a certain kind of femininity; her fleshy miniatures and pretty bonneted ladies play off a certain kind of knick-knack generally associated with the fussy, domestic, and stereotypically feminine- a kind rarely considered to fall within the confines of “real” art.

As a fan of this genre (I have a 1950’s era statue of a blank-eyed toddler grappling with a duck that never fails to unsettle), I appreciate how pieces like this are portable and distinctly homey- a far cry from the monolithic “vast rooms filled with undulating mounds of sand” or “series of fifty foot intertwining metal poles” type art we are expected to value in part due to their size and inaccessibility. At the same time, the sweetly intimate concept is skewed by a more disquieting intimacy, that of flesh, blood, hair, and the bodily grotesque. Unlike most museum-bound work, I strongly desire to possess one of Harrison’s pieces. I can just imagine placing it somewhere special in my home.







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