Art Haus recently concluded its first gallery show with Orlando-based artist Alex Jaggers. Her exhibition–which we titled Threshold States to reflect its sweeping theme of liminality–featured for the first time a dozen oil paintings made over the past multiple years. I wanted to take the opportunity to talk with Alex about her work featured in the show and to process our shared experience of this first exhibition at Hollerbach’s Art Haus.
When I first met Alex, I was struck by her seriousness and professionalism. Though I hoped that she, approaching her first solo exhibition as our inaugural artist, may be more tolerant of our mutual learning curve, I was careful not to underestimate her knowledge of industry standards. With a background in art conservation and auctioneering, Alex is classed with a certain formality in the handling of her work. But, there is something about Alex Jaggers which goes beyond seriousness–her centeredness and self-knowledge. Our very first conversations about her body of work quickly broached topics of transcendence and prescience, reaching into the metaphysical but with a certain Sagan standard.
Alex described her experiences of channeling a creative impulse, a sentiment which can often tiptoe upon the trite. But, it was clear that Jaggers wasn’t using this mechanism of creative conveyance to cover up a lack of self-knowledge, as it may sometimes be with artists who have spent less time reflecting on their creative practice and struggle to identify their inspirations. Instead, this simultaneously elaborate and elusive sense of transmission was the very underpinning of Alex's practice, and she is deeply in touch with that.
Alex cites inspiration from contemporary artists whose practices mirror her own. In particular, we discussed the work of Joshua Hagler whose mixed media paintings infuse ancient mythologies into color field abstraction with the painterly quality of Goya. Alex ruminates, "there’s something about this prophetic experience that he had that I really resonated with", a precience that she noticed in her own artwork.
Jaggers explained that her creative process involves little to no pre-planning, and that she "sort of just let[s] stuff happen". In this way, she feels that prophetic experiences emerge from her paintings, the surfaces behaving as magic mirrors to both her unconscious mind and to the unknowable of our temporal reality.
Alex has had the benefit of a conservator mentor, and spent time in her early 20s inpainting and color matching, learning chemistry of materials and especially of oil paintings. She maintains a mentorship relationship with a college educator, and is now stepping into the role of arts educator herself, teaching pottery classes to children and adults at a local studio. Alex reflects, "I had someone supporting me since I was young", acknowledging the significance of encouragement in this developmental stage ripe with creative thought unbounded by convention.
Knowing herself to be serious-minded, Alex not long ago decided that she wanted to find "this inner child that everyone’s talking about all the time". On the same afternoon, Alex got home from a meditative walk with her dog to find The Songs of Innocence and Experience on her studio floor, open to William Blake’s "Little Girl Found." She cites this experience as confirmation of her deepening vision that might be expressed through her painting.
Then they followed
Where the vision led,
And saw their sleeping child
Among tigers wild.
As reflections of Alex’s free association, I write in the wall text that these paintings "evoke dissociation; they make available atmospheres of drift". Recognizing this, Alex says that she tries to remove herself from their interpretation, to "keep it loose, and let viewers create their own narrative". She continues, "I look back at my work and am starting to see a narrative. This isn’t something I really put together until years down the line." Alex beams, "these are the moments I live for with painting."
Sometimes, when imagery comes through, Alex recognizes "maybe this doesn’t mean much to me right now," but maybe it’ll mean something down the line. Some experience will happen and it will 'click'. I write that Alex's paintings "temporarily occupy an infinite threshold"; this is the through line of her practice, though it might take years to reach a revelation. When I ask how she knows when a painting is finished, Alex responds, "when everything is resolved".