Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Jennifer Maestre is a Massachusetts-based artist. She graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art where she studied glass in 1999 with her BFA. However, she is currently known for her sculptures made from sewing the tips of colored pencils together. Her inspiration comes from the form and function of sea urchins. She describes their spines as being “so dangerous yet beautiful, [they] serve as an explicit warning against contact. The alluring texture of the spines draws the touch in spite of the possible consequences. The tension unveiled, we feel push and pull, desire and repulsion.”
Maestre creates her sculptures by drilling holes into 1 inch sections of pencils and using them as beads to sew them together using a beading technique called peyote stitch. The story of how this technique emerged from her studies at the Massachusetts College of Art is quite interesting:
It all comes from one idea I had for a box with a secret compartment that would contain a pearl. The box would be shaped like a sea urchin, made of silver. In order to open the box and reveal the secret compartment, you’d have to pull on one of the urchin’s spines. The idea was of something beautiful, sculptural, but that you wouldn’t necessarily want to touch, and that also held a secret treasure.
The idea behind the box piece that she wanted to create is the fascination with danger as being something beautiful. Since she did not have much experience with metals such as silver, she began to experiment with other pointy materials to create urchin-like forms. She soon found nails to be a useful medium. She used a variety of nails of all colors and sizes and pushed them through window screen to create beautiful and industrial sculptures such as Persephone and Dreaming.
Her pencil sculptures are much brighter and more vibrant. A piece may have been created using only one specific color in the pencils, or two colors, or more. It is clear that she draws inspiration from more than just sea urchins. In addition to the reference to Greek myth in Persephone, she has also created a pencil sculpture entitled Chimera, which may more closely resemble Odilon Redon’s painting Cyclops than Redon’s own renderings of Chimera. She has cited Redon as an important source of inspiration. Aurora can be related back to Roman mythology but the sculpture looks much more like a flower than a goddess.
Maestre started making jewelry from colored pencils in 2005 by slicing colored pencils at various angles, gluing them together, laminating them, and coating the piece with epoxy. She creates necklace pendants, pins, earrings, and more. Check out her website or shop to see more.
On her shop website she says that she has “…a particular fascination for pencils. I find them extremely inspiring, probably because I have a million of them in my studio. The big joke in my studio- I can never find anything to write with.”
Come see Maestre’s work at the New Britain Museum of American Art in our new exhibition “Meticulous Masterpieces: Contemporary Art by Dalton Ghetti, Les Lourigan, and Jennifer Maestre” from April 2 to August 29, 2010. It will have an opening reception in conjunction with our First Friday event on April 2, 5:00-7:30, with opening remarks by the artists.