Jesseca Ferguson: Distant Views and Forgotten Dreams

The Atrium of the Southeastern Massachusetts Art Gallery / North Dartmouth

(Originally published in Art New England, Volume 10 Number 2, February 1989.)

Everything in Jesseca Ferguson’s  small constructions is damaged, crumpled or frayed. Yet these poor scraps and fragments somehow add up to images with a fragile, haunting beauty.

Ferguson calls her constructions “built drawings.” She combines found objects and photographs with drawing in pencil, charcoal, ink, and powdered pigments. Her drawing emerges with the objects to give them a heightened, luminous intensity. She makes and mixes many of her own materials, and considers erasing and wiping away as essential techniques. That which is missing is often as important as that which remains.

Part of what makes them work are the odd, poetic juxtapositions. In one, the slender white feet of a bird rest on a pedestal inside a box covered with pages from an old French play. In another, a pile of tiny whitened bones hovers below a postcard from Pompeii. Temple of Love shows a round classical temple perched on a hill, with some lines of sheet music, a twig, and a bird. The black scratches of musical notes on white lined paper hint at the sweetness of unheard melodies and half-remembered songs.

Jesseca Ferguson also has a printmaker’s sensitivity to the way the light falls into a dark field. A castle by the sea, reflected in the water, or light shining through a grove of trees become glimmering white shapes in a darkness rich with mystery. Light lifting up or piercing into dark is almost always the formal abstract subject of her work.

Ferguson’s built drawings are images of memory, subject as memory is to the ravages of time. Many of them contained an old postcard, drawn over and mounted into a small book-sized box.

These postcards seem to have been sent from places that have long since disappeared. Lost, ruined, or forgotten, they have left behind only these pale and ghostly traces. Enshrined in little boxes, like the bones of saints in medieval reliquaries, they celebrate the sometimes miraculous power of memory to transform the pain and complexity of real life into the stuff of dreams, and art.

by Rebecca Nemser for


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