Craft / Material Studies

Opening Friday, August 23rd from 5-7pm  in VCUarts FAB gallery, Untended is an exhibition featuring the works of Aaron McIntosh and Jesse Harrod. Often utilizing a colorful array of found, salvaged, and repurposed textiles, contemporary queer fiber, sculpture, and installation artists Jesse Harrod and Aaron McIntosh respectively produce artwork that associates the domestic with the nostalgic and the (psycho-)sexual. For Harrod, the process of transforming ‘low-brow’ and hobbyist textiles into lush floral objects and environments mirrors a personal coming-out  and self-celebration process; elevating degraded or dismissed materials and practices associated with the ultra-feminine into glorious, self-imagined ‘pleasure gardens.’ McIntosh recreates mundane homoerotic imagery found in pulp novels and soft-core pornography through the traditional craft practice of quilting; a technique McIntosh makes strange through incomplete, patchwork imagery and a purposefully excessive color palette.
For both artists, an engagement with commonplace textiles and domestic handicrafts assists in locating their work thematically within the domain of personal, formative, and childhood experiences. As such, their work is simultaneously erotic and innocent, reminiscent of an adolescent’s first curious glimpses into anatomy textbooks or a parent’s hidden magazine collection. By showcasing recent creations alongside one another, Harrod and McIntosh aim to display how their mutual interests in childhood domestic environments/objects and formative sexual identity come to form differently, but in tandem to each other. Simultaneously, the artists seek to further their respective conceptual investigations into the relationship between craft and queerness in this exhibition, particularly how engagement with a certain ‘low-class’ of materials may align their work with other forms of queer cultural production located outside the normative art-historical mainstream.
bio| Aaron McIntosh has a MFA from VCU’s Craft/Material Studies Department and a BFA in Fiber from the Appalachian Center for Craft. Across McIntosh’s range, stories of cruising men and family past-times are interwoven as a multi-layered collage of text, images, patterned cloth, personal clothing, furniture, wallpaper, drawings and found domestic textiles. His saturated works draw attention to the often murky intersection of personal desires and family institutions, as well as openly question our larger social constructions of deviancy, normality, adolescent imprinting and generational divides. Sourcing romance novels, erotic magazines, online dating websites, personals ads and text messages, McIntosh extracts both ambiguous and specific bits of sexual language and illustration, piecing together new content as well as reconstructing his own complicated narrative. McIntosh currently lives and works in Baltimore, and teaches in the Fiber Department at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

bio| Jesse Harrod has a MFA from the department of Fiber and Material Studies from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University. Harrod has been writing and making work that employs traditional and contemporary craft practices. Her practice focuses on craft as a shadow category of art production to traditional or mainstream fine art. She is interested in how a “hobbyist” or “bad taste” aesthetic may relate to queer identity, as well as to second and third wave feminist thought. Harrod is interested in working with the layers of meaning that exist within the history of industrially produced and globally circulated cloth and fabric. Those layers include gender, home, colonialism, industry, insincerity, surface and the need to be something you are not. As such, much of her work relates to ideas of pollination, puberty, sexuality, and growth, in both literal and metaphorical senses. Currently she is an Assistant Professor of Fibers at School of Art and Design and Art History at James Madison University in Virginia.