The defiant collage of Jaundy Brunswick
The Madison-based artist's work is on display through July 27 at Communication. (Header image: detail from “S Is For.”)
Severe, all-caps handwriting stabs its way across the back of Jaundy Brunswick's collage piece "Eat Me." In front of that, translucent red figures and a layer of orange and yellow evoke hellish flames. Some sort of crowned humanoid owl flies up, drawing the eye toward shards of lettering—"FROM THE GODDAMN, "WE'LL BE LEAVING IN A LITTLE," "BUSHWACKING GUERILLA." Two more solid and definite figures with what you might call cat auras stand out front, posed in mesmerizing red-dotted suits and proclaiming, "EAT ME, FUCKER."
Brunswick, a Madison-based artist whose work is on view alongside pieces by Tay Butler and Mollie Martin in Found: Incorporations Of Collage, up through July 27 at Communication, says this is her favorite of the collages she's created so far. Front and center in "Eat Me" is the resilience and defiance of those two main figures. Everywhere else in the image, it seems, Brunswick is evoking all the pressures and terrors that shape their lives. (Full disclosure: Communication is Tone Madison's non-profit partner organization.)
"I am pretty non-confrontational and chill as a person but my art has a lot of resistance embedded in it," Brunswick says.
The six pieces Brunswick contributed to Found capture the competing impulses of collage artists to be maximalists and to practice exacting, lean selection. "S Is For" nearly (but neatly) overpowers, using magazine-cutout components like a conch shell, a model pouring cartoonishly green liquid from a giant bowl, and a large capital "S" dripping with black paint. "L.A. Woman" is full of scribbles and scrawls—perhaps a less menacing companion to the background of "Eat Me"—and a giant inflatable lightbulb looms at the top of the piece, its crinkled texture offering a pleasing contrast with the nude figure who sits below, a bag of chips between her legs. "Future," on the other hand, gives Brunswick's wall of she show a restrained centerpiece, placing a resolute, posed figure in a graceful vertical sweep of black and white.
"Three of the pieces reflect my struggle with racial identity—being a woman of color, raised by white parents in a predominately white community and education system, and my struggle to reconcile how others perceive me versus how I perceive myself," Brunswick says. "The other three pieces reflect my struggle with social expectations of gender as well as my struggle with body positivity, which is pretty easy to develop when you spend as much time as I do paging through fashion magazines." Brunswick leaves it to the view to decide which three are which.
Brunswick has been making art her whole life, and turned to collage about 10 years ago as a "therapeutic practice," hoping to overcome the sense of disconnectedness and isolation she was experiencing at the time. After about five years of this, during which she'd sometimes produce dozens of collage-style postcards over the course of a few days and mail them to family and friends, this work had become central to her expression and to her identity as an artist. Fashion magazines are still a crucial source of material, but Brunswick reaches into much more obscure corners too. The writing in "Eat Me," for instance, comes from photographer Dan Martensen's book Wolves Like Us, which documents the lives of six brothers who raised in isolation in a Manhattan apartment.
"I spent five years paging through the book before I was able to consider cutting it up to use in a collage," Brunswisk says. "The words were handwritten by one of the brothers, who was obsessed with writing his own transcripts of movies. [The brothers] found ways to cope with being trapped in their environment. I am captivated by the siblings' ability to create their own little world or community and support with the very little they had. I added this as the backdrop because it is a representation of how I feel trapped in my surroundings. I have created my own community of support—a small family to insulate myself from the bad stuff."
Brunswick wants people to feel "represented and valued" when they're taking in her work, as abstract and jarring as it may often be. "I want them to look at my work and say to themselves 'it's me!" or 'I feel personally attacked by this relatable content,'" she says. "I am putting a bit of myself—identity issues and insecurities and all—out there for the world to see. I am certainly not the only one who feels what I feel, and maybe by offering this art to others they will recognize that we have shared feeling and emotions and buy my art, and just like that we become connected!"
Moving forward, Brunswick is thinking about how to push her collage and mixed media approaches into further evolutions, and would like to incorporate a greater variety of material, including textiles.
"I just inherited a sewing machine from my aunt so the possibilities feel endless right now," she says. "I am really excited to explore mixed-media collage in the textile world! Same identity issues, new medium."