Artist: Jessica Caponigro
Show: Wait for Now
What kind of artist do you consider yourself?
I can remember being about eight years old messing around in my grandfather’s garage. He was a plumber and had all of this great stuff around all the time. I would make these little sculptures out of pieces of pipe and old coffee cans and twine. I would hold on to them for a while, but they would inevitably end up in the trash. To everyone around me, they were trash. I had no idea assemblage was a thing.
I went to a very academic undergraduate college and didn’t major in Art. I didn’t even really start to think about making art on a serious level until I was in my last year of undergraduate studies, when I took my first printmaking class. Printmaking changed everything. It allowed me, someone who has always been creative but for the life of me can’t draw a still life or a portrait, to make images I was really happy with. When I entered graduate school, I was only making prints. Once I gained confidence in my printmaking work, I began exploring sculpture. When I left graduate school, and didn’t have easy access to a printmaking studio or a woodshop, I began painting and drawing.
I have a degree in the History of Art, and because I was so involved in thinking and writing about art before I was serious about making, it really affects the way I create. I definitely consider myself a multidisciplinary artist. I always start with the concept. Sometimes that idea needs to be a painting, a video, or an installation. Sometimes it might be a sculpture, a print, or a performance. As long as my concept is sound, I try to not limit myself as to what form the work takes.
What drew you to Comfort Station, and what did you do with the space?
I love making site-specific work, especially in unconventional spaces. The history and architectural features of Comfort Station really appealed to me. I grew up an hour north of Philadelphia, in a slightly depressing, but very old and historical small city. The house I grew up in was built in the late 1800s and was in complete disarray and falling apart when we move in. Things were built differently a hundred years ago. Comfort Station is so beautiful and eccentric. I wanted to make work that didn’t compete with that quality, but embraced it. I considered both the history of the space, and its current inception as a community arts center.
There are several pattern based pieces in the exhibition that took inspiration from both the building itself and old railway maps from when Comfort Station was operational under it’s original purpose. The windows are painted, so that from the inside you see Logan Square through a pattern that I’ve created, transforming the landscape. Seen from the outside, the pattern informs the other works.
The small back room is wallpapered with cut out diamond shaped prints. Printed offset from a hand drawn image, and then screen printed, the slight color variations highlight the significance of imperfections. The room itself has two windows, both different sizes and at different heights. Identical but uncut copies of the prints are available as a free takeaway, with text written by Emanuel Aguilar on the reverse.
There are also several painting and leaning sculptures included in the exhibition. The largest sculpture includes and eight foot live tree, which will hopefully be planted outside of Comfort Station when the exhibition closes. I also created a piece specifically for the piano that is always present, welcoming rather than ignoring Comfort Station’s mission as a community space.
What artist from all of history would you like to invite to dinner, and what would you feed them?
Robert Gober. There’s an absurdity and playfulness, but also a gravity and seriousness about his work that I think would translate into wonderful dinner conversation.
I would feed him a traditional Sicilian American meal that would make my Noni proud. There’s a level of ridiculousness to the way we eat, where it takes so long you need breaks between each course, but it’s also so lovely. There’s no rush. The food is delicious, but the focus is the people you’re with.
We would start with cheese and sundried tomatoes, maybe some salami or prosciutto. I would also make squid salad, which is one of my absolute favorite things to eat. A green salad, then pasta with a light tomato sauce followed by chicken cutlets and broccoli rabe and eggplant. It would end with coffee, nuts and fruit. I would have hours to ask him questions.
What is your favorite food memory?
When I was younger, there was no celebration too small to throw up a tent in the back yard, make a ton of sausage and grill them with peppers while some uncle was playing the accordion in the back ground.
Every Friday night during the summer, the Castel Club held a bingo night. The Castel Club is a social club, mostly frequented by Italian immigrant families where I spent a lot of time as a child. People had wedding receptions there, first Holy Communion parties, and bocce tournaments. We had the reception for my grandfather’s funeral at the Castel Club. My grandfather would take me there after a day of watching him fix people’s plumbing problems and I would sit at the bar while he and ten other old men with names like Frankie, Johnny, Vinnie, and Fat Charlie would talk for hours.
I have pictures of me, barely four years old, cranking a pasta machine, but there are rules. Certain people make certain things. It was a huge deal, when a few years ago my Noni decided I was ready to fill the cannoli. I was probably 26. I wasn’t allowed to MAKE the cannoli, just fill them.
On Fridays at the Castel Club the kids would run around helping determine who actually had won, confirming the correct numbers when someone yelled “bingo!” One Friday, however, I was called back to the kitchen. For whatever reason that night, I was going to help make the sausage. I remember feeling so unbelievably important, sticking my hands deep into an enormous bowl of pig intestines. I had seen sausage made a million times in that very kitchen, but to be the one actually holding and twisting gave me such a feeling of pride. We still have huge family dinners when I’m home, and I often host “family dinners” here in Chicago, and that look of pure happiness when someone is enjoying something you’ve cooked still makes me feel that same satisfaction.
What piece of art do you secretly want to steal?
Fifty Days at Iliam by Cy Twombly. It is ten individual canvases that are permanently installed in one room at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I remember walking in for the first time and being so totally and completely overwhelmed. The monumental scale of the work and the ferocity and sensuality of his created language had a huge impact on me. Without really being aware of it at the time, I was definitely influenced by Twombly’s use of literature and history.