Artist Buie reveals fluidity between real and imagined constructs
We set out to get to know Jessica Buie and three series of her latest work.
Jessica Buie was born in a rural town in central Texas in 1991. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. In 2013, she moved to southern California and is now currently enrolled in the graduate Masters of Fine Arts in Visual Arts program at the University of California San Diego. Buie straddles the line between fine art and photography, often embracing conceptual and experimental methods in her explorations of the human body. Embracing a unique combination of both digital and analog techniques, she brings a sense of surrealism and a painterly aesthetic to abstractions of the body. Her work consistently examines the body and its relationship to space and time. Through combinations of virtually rendered images and medium format photography, Buie reveals fluidity between real and imagined constructs.
Conflux is a series of 28 manipulated, composite photographs. Each row of photographs documents a transition from the artist’s likeness into that of a fictional character, created using the popular video game The Sims 2. Realized as a critique of strict gender schemas and a contemporary update to the performances of Eleanor Antin, Confluxencourages viewers to consider the malleability and hybridity of the self. Additionally, the series acts as a visual experiment of the concept of virtuality, positing that a single moment may exist where the real and the unreal may be completely indistinguishable from one another.
This series was born from recognizing a number of similitudes between my practice and that of a few early, conceptual performance artists and photographers, namely Eleanor Antin. A lot of my work is responsive to questions of identity articulation and the role of the body and the body’s physicality in identity performance. With those being my primary interests, I was curious to experiment with virtuality and to play with physicality in a non-physical space, using virtual tools. In the mid 1970s, Antin began performing and embodying fictional characters, like the King of Solana Beach, Eleanora Antinova, and Little Nurse Eleanor. Antin had a fascinating approach to the concept of identity, saying “I consider the usual aids to self-definition — sex, age, talent, time, and space — as tyrannical limitations upon my freedom of choice.” I’ve always found that quote to be endlessly generative and instructive in relation to my own practice, and that’s ultimately what led me to want to update Antin’s original performances.
Each of these compositions is virtually rendered in the 3D modeling program Blender. Executed with hyperrealistic detail, these spaces encourage viewers to consider their body and space. How does one exist in a space that does not necessarily abide by the typical limitations of reality?
Virtual rendering has always placed a significant role in my practice, and while my focus and interests lie fundamentally with the body, I’m attracted to facilitating a push-pull between the virtual and the physical, the real and the unreal. This series in particular also highlights an engagement with photography that does not rely on a traditional camera. Rendering these surreal, sterile spaces allows me to subtly disengage them from laws of physics and typical restrictions of physical space and time. These hyperrealistic compositions offer a unique space where the viewer may feel both welcomed and rejected.
A Difficult Position To Be In
This series of photos are constructed by modeling, staging, and arranging virtual figures to be rendered, and then printed with traditional photographic methods.
I’ve always been very interested in editorial and fashion photography. Fashion work from people like Viviane Sassen, Collier Schorr, Florence Henri, and Man Ray has provided a lot of inspiration for my examinations of the human body. This series really marks the first time that I allowed myself to work in an editorial capacity, curating stylistic and technical decisions for these scenes. I have very strong interests in the limits of the human body, whether it be the physical body or a facsimile of a human body rigged in a 3D modeling program. What makes me so compelled to experiment with virtual figures is the prospect of finding and creating strange moments and the resulting imperfections that arise. In many of these photos, pixels leave jagged edges as shadows, and strange, geometric shapes appear where lines should be smooth and curved. These deficiencies, or glitches, are really beautiful and unique to virtually rendered images.
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