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Datebook: For Artist Ashley Jude Jonas, It's All In The Details

The small details of everyday domestic life never escape artist Ashley Jude Jonas.

Her appreciation of delicate objects, fleeting light, and momentary reflections manifest in her latest works that are currently on view at University Galleries in Normal. 

“Not Knowing” is the first comprehensive exhibition of works by Ohio-based artist. Curated by Jessica Bingham, the show features drawings, photographs, found objects, and a variety of installation pieces.  

Jonas' work deals with domestic spaces and finding the joy there. And with a pandemic year forcing everyone to spend more time on the home front, Jonas’ work was naturally impacted, said Bingham, who had invited Jonas to show at University Galleries just as the pandemic hit the United States. 

“She made some new discoveries within her own work.," said Bingham."But it also allowed her to explore the work that she’d made previously and with a new eye, thinking about this time period and how various things in her life have affected her making.” 

“And with COVID, being saturated in your domestic space and looking at things with a new perspective. Ashley’s work is all about close attention, the small details, those minor things throughout our day that maybe go unnoticed -- like watching the light change within your house. I’ve talked with a lot of people throughout COVID about these nuances in our homes that we didn’t quite pick up on before. 

“This is how Ashley functions, this is how her practice functioned before COVID. But I think having that saturated time within the home and then also preparing for an exhibition really opened up some possibilities for her."

Jonas also turned her attention to previous works, reimagining them in a new way, said Bingham. While her work exists primarily on an intimate scale, Jonas had the opportunity with the University Galleries show to expand on her creations. 

“There’s two wall installations -- “The Death Drawings I, II, III” and “Watching. Walking. Falling Apart.” The 'Death Drawings' were smaller before. They’re these large, irregularly shaped ovals that are very close to the ground and have these objects that Ashley has collected over time, a lot of found objects -- paper, ceramic, photos, ribbon. There’s actually wishbones in some of them and dried citrus fruits.

“There were originally a few feet smaller than they are now. But we were thinking about how it would feel to be able to stand and be very present with this work, as if it’s the same height as a person.” 

“Watch, Walking, Falling Apart” is a 30-foot-long installation comprised of very small, mirrored tiles and Polaroid photos Jonas took while standing at her kitchen window looking into her backyard and the plants that sit on her windowsill. 

“It’s this repeat visit,” explained Bingham. “It’s this return to the same place to find those small changes in the light or the backyard setting. And how those little moments of beauty, if you’re not paying attention to it, we’re going to miss those and they’re gone.” 

The subtlety of small moments invites viewers to get closer to the works for an intimate look. 

“There’s this piece called 'Seeing self in sun.' It’s actually a really small sculpture that sits low to the ground. There’s a rounded magnifying glass that sits above a mirror and it's enclosed within this cylinder. You don’t notice it as you’re walking into the space, but then as you walk around the sculpture, you look down and can see your reflection. But it takes a little time,” said Bingham.

The appeal of that intimacy struck Bingham as she was leading a group of her friends through the exhibition. 

“At one point, one of them got down, knelt on the ground next to the sculpture, to get down to its size, eye-level with it. And I just thought it was so fascinating to have this physical reaction to wanting to get down and be next to this tiny sculpture.” 

“Ashley’s asking people to get close and personal with this work to understand it.” 

“Not Knowing” continues at University Galleries through May 16. The exhibition is accompanied by a variety of events and programs.


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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.