Australian artist Onejessa is creeping through the internet with her hairy creations that seem to have a life of their own. They each are somehow adorable and abhorrent at the same time, and we cannot get enough. We caught up with Onejessa to get a look inside the candy colored world in her mind.
In your own words, what is it that you make?
I make sweet, hairy monstrosities, dedicated to the stifled and subdued emotions of frustrated and angry womxn worldwide. They are my sickly sweet darlings, each with a name reserved for the shaming of a womxn’s behavior.
“Garbage Guts Gretel, Put A Muzzle On This B**tch, She’s Got No Class” (for full image, visit www.onejessa.com)
Can you explain these names a little more?
Well, I see each of my darlings as the material embodiment of society’s confusing and contradictory expectations of how womxn should look and behave.
Womxn are constantly ridiculed, belittled and cast out for behaving in natural ways. So, by giving my sculptures the jeering names we often hear thrown at them, I lead the audience to externalize and objectify the misogyny so deeply instilled in us by a patriarchal society.
In doing, so these insults and expectations are subverted and reclaimed by the femme, to be worn proudly as obnoxious accessories.
“Penelope Pincher. She’s Mouthy, She’s Tight As A Fish’s Ar**ehole”
What was the first hairy beast you created?
My first child’s name is Muffy. She is the most obnoxious of all. She’s a hanging chandelier that takes up an entire room.
She was made using 250 wigs, she has three tiers and a secret world in the centre. She is interactive, engages all five senses, and has two systems of sound and a system of lights that interact with one another.
She’s hairy and disgruntled, but she’s been prodded and preened into a glorious show pony for all to marvel at. From afar she appears majestic and ornamental, but come closer and you’ll catch glimpses of her reality. You can step inside her and become engulfed in her sickly sweet scent and raspy, labored breath.
“Muffy” at UNTOLD, Melbourne.
Where did the inspiration for Muffy come from?
A lifetime of being a womxn and knowing womxn and hearing womxn’s stories. Of watching womxn being called crazy for expressing real emotion. Of seeing womxn put a lid on their magic for fear of being seen as too much, or ugly or unattractive or unemployable.
It came from a resentment towards the unrealistic standards and expectations put on womxn to present themselves plucked and preened to be considered sane and worthy.
“Muffy” at CALDERA, Sydney.
It appears that these creations have come from another world. Can you describe the world from which you think your darlings teleported from?
I think they were born here in this one. They’re ‘alien’ but ‘aliens’ exists here in secret behind the polite and accommodating smiles and plucked mustaches of our default world.
I think they’re made up of the trimmings and hairballs that fall down the drain and are infused with the stifled rage and frustration of womxn all over the world. I think those hairballs crawled down the pipes and banded together in protest.
They found each other and coagulated into these sickly sweet menaces.
How long have you been a practicing artist? Where did it all start for you?
I did the thing where you’re a wee bub and you say ‘ I want to be a firefighter!’ or ‘I want to be a pilot!’ or ‘I want to be a dinosaur!’, but I said ‘I want to be an artist!’. I don’t think I really knew what it meant then though. I always drew as a kid, but started really leaning into it at around 15 or 16 – drawing portraits of my friends.
When I left school I started teaching myself to paint. I painted for around 9 years after that, I’ve begun to work in 3 dimensions in the past 18 months and I don’t think I will ever look back.
I want to make larger and larger scale things, that engulf audiences and take over entire spaces.
“Coco The Shady Hoe”
What is it that drew you towards sculpture and away from painting?
In regards to the process behind it, I was attracted to the complex and dynamic problem solving that’s involved with building interactive installations.
As the maker, I feel more stimulated, challenged and stretched trying to solve 3 dimensional, sculptural problems with obscure materials than with 2 dimensional problems.
I love that my work now asks me to use all of my body and nifty tricks and senses to create the art.
On the same token I love that my work is now experienced with the whole body by my audience. I love that immersive sculpture provokes a sense of immediacy and play. It feels like more of an exchange.
I want my art to be fondled and touched, to be changed and moved by my audience, and for them to become part of its story. I want people to be shocked out of their internal worlds for a second, and brought back into their skin.
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your time as an artist?
My own head and the expectations drilled into it by an system that runs on $$$. I also love to be with people but am obsessed with making work. So there’s always an internal struggle between the loneliness of being in a studio and the drive to bring my ideas into reality.
2019 collaboration between Onejessa and Kat Margherita. Ear rings By Kat Margarita.
Do you have anything that you want to try out but haven’t yet?
I have always had a deep fascination with taxidermy. I am in love with the grotesque, taboo and sacred nature of it. I’d also love to design a festival into one enormous, inhabitable artwork.
2019 collaboration between Onejessa and Kat Margarita. Ear rings By Kat Margarita.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
‘Sometimes you’ll be happy and sometimes you’ll be sad, and then you’ll be old, and then you’ll be dead.’
It’s not technically advice I guess, but it’s my favorite quote. I remember it when I’m having existential crises and it always puts things back in perspective.
See more of Onejessa’s work on Instagram @onejessa. Or visit www.onejessa.com.
Prints of Onejessa’s work are available for viewing and purchase through Artsy and her online store.
Image Sources: Onejessa, Tim Da Rin, Patrick Morrow, Kat Margarita.
Cover Image: Kat Margherita. Onejessa wears Kat Margarita Ear rings.