The creation of art is therapeutic, allowing the creator to have a positive visual and emotional outlet for the many catalysts and stressors in one’s life. Many artists utilize symbols to convey emotions or situations visually, and three-dimensional artist Jessica Laurel Louise Dalva is no stranger to symbolism. Jessica merges sculpture, painting, sewing, set design, and puppetry into a dynamic and nightmarish tableau.
Jessica’s creative spirit was cultivated from an early age; her mother is also an artist, creating ceramic and carved wood sculptures, and they often created side by side through her childhood. Jessica pursued an art degree in illustration, though she often found herself uninspired by working two-dimensionally; she yearned for more variety of materials and spatial changes within her designs. She also found herself drawn to other sculptural work and drawn in by the mystery of how they may have been constructed.
Making a physical object from nothing (or from a lump of clay or scraps of fabric) is always very satisfying to me – it’s like taking flour, milk, butter and eggs; then magically you have a cake.
There are no limits to the number of different items combined in a single sculpture. Besides the polymer clay typically used to sculpt the bodies, Dalva adorns every work with a plethora of different materials: Victorian lace, twine, dried flowers, hair, wire, bone, metal bits, gold leaf and filigree are all standard materials. These unique baubles, often collected years before their use, are united skillfully with each figure Jessica produces. The results are always gorgeous, like a darkly modern twist on an Art Nouveau style.
Dalva’s characters embody feminine strength as well as the vulnerability of the human condition. Witches, sorcerers, and dark shadowy figures convey palpable emotions; bodies are contorted, scratched, bound, or broken open and hollowed out like pottery. Many of her narratives illustrate a crushing feeling of despair and the gravity of its destructive impact on the psyche, and her protagonists appear trapped in a decisive moment within their own story.
Her most recent body of work entitled Hapax Legomena revolves around this kind of nightmarish anxiety. The term is used to describe words that only appear once in a text or language, often rendering them untranslatable, and this “scarcity” was how she cultivated the theme for the body of work:
Each piece in this series revolves around an individual word, a facet, a unique expression of a part of the complex variety of personal battles we fight. These experiences can be difficult to convey due to the lack of a context to anchor them as well as the inherent gap between understanding and expression. The pieces are singular expressions of an idea, “Hapax Legomena,” in that they are representing distinctive concepts, as well as attempting to communicate the untranslatable through the imperfect language of art. The series focuses on one’s relationship with oneself, internal wars, and the entanglements of love. The sculptures are a navigation through fears, moments of clarity and joy, and nightmares.
– Jessica Dalva