Jennifer Reeves

Missionary Glass


1985:  I was fourteen years old when it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Consumerism, the resulting waste and pollution, the effort and expense geared toward emphasizing female/male gender-roles, and this striving for more and the right stuff, all created suffering.  And it would ultimately lead to the demise of the planet, through pollution of the earth and people’s minds.

My understanding was by no means sophisticated then, but I knew it and I began to recalibrate my actions.  I started documenting my community through photography; I collected used items and created art with my various finds.  I snuck into the abandoned Akron factories with friends, and once discovered trunks of props and costumes left there by a theater troupe.  I availed myself to a velvet medieval queen’s gown, a collection of wigs and a silk smoking jacket.  My practice of sewing, collaging, video-making, and sculpture, all incorporating found materials, began in earnest.

What started as a reaction against a self-destructive capitalist society, became a place to learn and create.  Unique artifacts can embody lived experience or prevailing beliefs of previous eras.  I’ve used found 16mm films, outtakes and “junk” in my films since I started making them in the 1990s.  How found objects or moving images reflect and contrast the present day, propels much of my current work.

Missionary Glass has been on my mind since I bought a box of glass slides some 22 years ago; images taken and used by a sect of Christian missionaries.  I’m struck by the slides' longevity despite their fragility, the sense righteousness about forcing one’s values on “others” conveyed, and the primitive medium of the message.  This first piece comes out of the sleepless nights of 2020.

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