‘Minamal’ – a typo created when writing notes for Diane Jacob’s recent overview of her work, “Comb Over” in Portland, Oregon. I realize the new word I created is a combination of the word mammal and minimal. This actually describes Diane’s works in this show to a tee – she has taken the most simple elements that define us as mammals, human specifically, hair and language and prepared some quiet yet complex pieces that stir loudly in the mind.
These simple everyday items are wrought with baggage. The language Diane chooses to use is derogatory. The hair she uses include hairballs. As a viewer I feel tossed into loving and hating hair. And loving and hating language.
Diane serves up the hairballs and derogatory language in such a refined way, that the viewer creates a new relationship with said materials, and questions why on earth we have negative feelings for hair – that which makes us so human. And why on earth are we so careless with our words, how do we create these systems of slang and not realize the casualties of it?
Diane’s work is unquestionably a thinking person’s work. You can’t simply take in the image, investigation by the viewer is paramount – and you will be rewarded for it. Titles are very important in the work it seems. My favorite piece in the show was from her “Stitched Hair” series, called Golden Doughnut – she painstakingly weaves hair into foam core to create the skeleton of a doughnut – a relief of sorts. After returning home I googled Golden Doughnut, only to learn it is slang for a woman’s vagina. More fodder indeed.
I own a sculpture of Diane’s that combines the language and the hair bit implicitly – she typeset words of hatred and violence and beautifully weaved the paper into wigs – again a painstaking and extremely focused task. The result is exquisite and dreadful at once.
Diane has talked about being influenced by Mona Haoutum and Doris Salcedo. This I can see in the sense that she is attempting to analyze political structures in a conceptual way using everyday materials. However there is something slightly obsessive about Diane’s work that I find reminds me of the Chinese artist Leung Mee-ping’s “Memorize The Future” piece, where she has woven shoes from hair from all around the world (10,000 and counting, children’s sizes ranging from 2 to 5 inches).
One of my fondest memories of seeing Diane’s work was in the Fall of 2005 on my first visit to the deYoung Museum in San Francisco when it reopened. As I walked through the shiny new galleries I came across the works on paper area. There was a big red stunning Rauschenburg, and right next to it was an equally stunning black and white triptyche of Diane’s work titled “Daughter, Wife, Mother”.
Diane’s work is so well made, so carefully rendered – I’m quite jealous of her technical bravado! It’s matched equally to a curious mind committed to understanding and tipping over the stereotypes we hold.
Diane’s work can be found in the collections of the Getty Museum, the Walker Art Center, Yale University, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the New York Public Library to name a few. If you hurry now, you can see the work through July 31 at the hair salon Oranj Studio in the South Waterfront district in Portland. Love the thinking out of the art circuit box – the work looks so at home.
Tagged: Comb Over, de Young Museum, Diane Jacobs, New York Public Library, Oranj Studio, Oregon, Portland, Robert Rauschenberg, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Getty Museum, The Walker Center, Yale Universoty
“It is the essence of genius to make use of the simplest ideas.” – Charles Peguy