On Sunday Jillian Parsons will unveil a mixed media exhibition that follows a recurring image from her dreams – a Great White Shark. Entitled “Jill + Shark Are Friends” we follow Shark through dreams from childhood and adulthood. I caught up with Jillian by email this week as she worked to get the pieces in place. We corresponded mostly about Shark, but also about fear and life as an artist in general.
Helen: Was Shark always your friend?
Jillian: Maybe? When I was younger, I wouldn’t have said so. We had what seemed like a far more antagonistic relationship then, one which has evolved over the years.
Do you feel you picked Shark or that he (I think he’s a he?) picked you?
If only there was some way to pinpoint who picked whom! Can’t really say one way or another but somewhere in the recesses of my subconscious I think I picked Shark. Oh, and I keep using the masculine pronoun for Shark as well, but I’m not sure that’s accurate.
Do you still dream of Shark?
Sadly, not any more. Or, at least not that I can recall lately. The last time that I can actually remember a dream with Shark was when our relationship changed. Nothing since then.
Do you feel exposed by revealing Shark to us? OR as an artist, in general, do you feel that your psyche, emotions or sense of self is exposed?
Oh man, totally, on both counts. For one thing, why should anyone care what I dream about? And as an artist, half the reason my projects usually don’t even get past the planning stages is because of a fear of being vulnerable, of having to put an idea out there in the world in such a specific and simultaneously non-specific way. And for an introvert who usually likes to be the person behind the camera, I don’t know why I keep planning projects where I have to be in front of it so much. Even as Jill, who can be considered someone else, more of a persona, it’s still me.
Can you tell us one fear you’ve conquered?
Recently, it was driving. Ten years after starting lessons, and three permit renewals later, there’s one more licensed driver on the roads of Newfoundland. Another recurring dream that I used to have was about was being stuck in a car and having to drive it, though not knowing how. Blame years of living in the woods, where a vehicular commute was necessary to do pretty much anything, including escape from the woods.
Do you have a favourite medium to work with?
Very hard to choose a favourite when you’re the type to choose whatever medium works best for the idea. Though I work with digital photo and video quite a bit, sculptural mediums are probably where my heart really lies, being a very hands-on, tactile person. Choosing a favourite? Probably welding, though I haven’t been able to do it in years. There’s a hole in my heart that can only be filled by fusing metal to metal.
How long has “Jill and Shark Are Friends” been in the making?
Besides the fact that Shark has been turning up in my art for most of my life? Since 3 a.m.-ish, December 23rd-ish, 2008– Walmart was on their ridiculous 24 hr Christmas schedule, and we went there just for the novelty of it. There was a stuffed shark in the toy section; it was love at first sight. The wheels that started turning that night eventually ended up with a 1-minute short video that was submitted to a competition at The Rooms in 2010. Now, in this form, with such a heavily site-specific bent to it, it’s been at least a year or more. After a bit of a false start on my first Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council professional project grant application last autumn, for the Spring 2012 granting session I just went with winning small battles to get over that previously mentioned fear of putting my work and ideas out into the world. First, it was simply finish and submit the grant proposal, nothing more. Then the fine folks of the NLAC decided to give me money to actually do this project, so it was time to start planning how to win more small battles. Hopefully I’ll emerge from them victorious. We’ll see as of 4 p.m. on Sunday.
What does the future hold for your exhibition? (Or are there any future plans already in place?)
Once the installation is complete, I’d love to see where else I could take it. Once you go over and see it, you’ll understand why Full Tilt was an ideal location. Because it is so site-specific, I’m not sure yet how it could be adapted to other galleries, as significant changes to the installation would have to be made. The video component can reasonably exist without the full scope of this iteration, but I know I prefer it in its completed form as it will be displayed in McIvers. It’ll be exciting to have a piece of this scale that I can send out into the world.
Since anything can happen in a dreamscape do you feel it’s easier to work within one or harder?
With the exception of the whole Shark thing, my usual dreams are pretty mundane– I never have super powers or anything like that — so real world physics and such usually still apply. There’s a element of time being skewed and shifted, and a sort diaphanous quality of light. So, yes and no? That seems to be my answer for everything.
Is there anything you’d like CornerBooker.com readers to know about your work or this exhibition in particular?
About my work? That I hope to show them more of it in the future. About the exhibition? There will be so much tasty food at the opening on Sunday– if I’m asking folks to take the time come over to see my art at suppertime on a Sunday, I’m going to make sure that they’re not hungry afterwards. Food and having folks gather to talk and share is something that I’ve used in my work before, so it’s all in keeping with my general art practice. Plus, the added benefit of delicious food! So see you all on Sunday! (And if you can’t make it that day, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll arrange a time that works for you between the 24th and 27th.)
And now, CornerBrooker readers, I am terribly curious to see what makes this exhibition so site specific. I’m also curious to know what delightful food will be on hand. I hope to see some (all?) of you at the Full Tilt Creative Centre on Sunday where we can explore the world of Jill + Shark together.
Images via Jillian Parsons.