Jen Clay at Locust Projects

July 25, 2023

Represented artist Jen Clay exhibited at Locust Projects from September 16 – November 04, 2023

Locust Projects presents Eyes of the Skin, an installation and interactive video game created by Miami-based artist Jen Clay in which viewers can explore a forest. Clay made quilted tree-monsters, which she then photographed, montaged and animated inside the game. Their choppy movements recall nineties’ video games and children’s shows. Within a decision tree coding structure, their avatar can choose  from a list of prompts to each manipulative encounter with the trees, who communicate via text on screen. Conceived as a visual novel, Clay’s video game – the first video game made entirely of quilts – is the first chapter in what will become a long visual novel, one inspired by the popular children’s book series Choose Your Own Adventure.

Influenced by the theoretical framework of Comic Pessimism, a pop culture philosophy of horror, Clay’s monsters are a hybrid of alien and natural forms whose pastel palette and cushioned fabric surfaces distract from an existence that is indifferent and even menacing to human exceptionalism. The game’s title refers to Juhani Pallsamaa’s book Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses, an architectural theory classic that advocates trusting one’s senses. This nearly therapeutic philosophy echoes positive self-talk Clay adopted as a child who hallucinated monsters. Her work represents that experience and the work of managing it. Clay’s work also helps viewers who have not had this experience to empathize with this condition of near constant uncertainty. Of course, as more and more monsters prove themselves to be all too real, she lets us widen our acceptance, in her work’s soft cuddly embrace, of all that might be.

Funded in part by the Knight Foundation’s New Work Grant, Jen Clay’s project Eyes of the Skin involved the support of several individuals and organizations. Above and beyond hosting the exhibition, Locust Projects provided studio space. Metcalf Creek Holler (MCH), Emerson Dorsch Gallery’s residency in Mars Hill, NC, hosted Clay and collaborators. Clay also credits Elisa Anderson for soundscape and Tayina Deravile for dialogue and mental health consultation. Clay thanks Samuel Lopez de Victoria for his coding mentorship and Dennis Scholl for his guidance and friendship.



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