2002 Rakow Commission Artist: Jill Reynolds

Jill Reynolds (2002)

Family Matter - Jill Reynolds


Jill Reynolds (American, b. 1956)
United States, Brooklyn, New York, 2002
Flameworked; glycerin, pigment, cork, and wax
H: 132.1 cm, W: 144.8 cm, D: 68.6 cm
2002.4.64, 17th Rakow Commission

Jill Reynolds is an installation artist whose work explores relationships between art, science, and nature, focusing on the intersections of the body, landscape, language, consciousness, and time. Her pieces are made predominantly of glass, but Reynolds also uses materials appropriate to her varied topics. These materials have included water, twigs, yeast, paper, breath, and hair.

FAMILY MATTER is a portrait of the artist and her 11 siblings as interconnected molecules. Each glass molecule is made up of 12 complete sets of letters spelling out a name. The letters are made of small glass rods and larger blown glass tubes that are filled with a bloodlike red liquid.

When joined together, the letters create a form similar to representations of molecules used in modern chemistry. In particular, they resemble the models of proteins formed as a result of DNA replication.

A molecule is a three-dimensional map of relationships. Its shape determines its functions, such as the other molecules with which it can combine, the properties it will have as a compound, and the task it will perform in a cell.

Letters of the alphabet are arbitrary symbols of sounds whose forms carry all the power associated with words. Both molecules and letters can be combined in an infinite variety of ways to create new meaning, whether as physical matter or as written text.

In FAMILY MATTER the metaphors of molecules and letters are extended to human relationships. The names are specific to one particular family, but the constituent elements are letters of the alphabet that can be recombined to spell the name of anyone or anything in the world.

In deciphering this molecular model made of glass letters, we can observe that there is meaning in form, that human relationships exist in three dimensions, and that there are meaningful "shapes" created by these relationships, such as families, communities, schools, organizations, and nations. Each person exists within a network of relationships, and each person is a molecule in the huge organism that is the world.

The molecules consist of the following names: PaUL, ShAUN, ChRIS, tRACY, DAMIeN, REgInA, SHeILa, MarThA, MOLly, JILL, PEgGy, and SIOBHaN.