We got a chance to interview an up-and-coming artist we believe has a depth and potential to be a very positive force for women, their bodies, and for the art world in general. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jacqueline Secor. She is a mixed media artist inspired by primitive art. Secor was born in the historical Gold Rush town of Placerville, California and grew up in Pollock Pines at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Growing up in an area full of natural beauty and historical significance has given her an appreciation for nature and our past. Secor relocated to Utah in 2006, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Utah Valley University; she now resides in Salt Lake City.This is her interview.
Please introduce yourself, who you are, where you’re from, and what you do?
My name is Jacqueline Secor. I am a mixed media artist and nanny. I am from Pollock Pines, California, but currently reside in Salt Lake City, Utah. Right now, I am working on a series that focuses on the individuality and elemental power of the female body.
What is your earliest memory pertaining to the creation of Art?
My mom and dad married pretty young and started a family quickly. I am the youngest of five. We grew up in the woods and didn’t have a lot. I never had any real exposure to the art world. The only museums I went to as a child were mining museums.
My dad was a woodshop supervisor at Folsom Prison, and later became a high school woodshop teacher. I spent a lot of time on the ground of his shop building things with wood scraps, sawdust, and wood glue. I was always drawn to my dad’s process of creation and fascinated by how he could take a piece of wood and turn it into something so useful and beautiful with his bare hands. Dad was a true artist in finding pieces of burl and using his lathe to create works of art with intricate and unique grains.
I’ve always loved how it feels to create something. A work of art is an experience of the artist itself. My dad died when I was eleven, and I admire his creative legacy.
What mediums do you work in and why?
I work with watercolor, acrylic, chalk and discarded materials: old drawings, paper, or fabrics. My dad’s technique rooted me into my process today–without the loud and dangerous machinery–to take a medium and give it a whole new meaning within my work. I like the challenge of integrating delicate and heavy materials together.
What about primitive art fascinates you, and what connection or lessons can modern artists take from primitive art?
My brother was on a Mormon mission in New Zealand when my dad died. The church encouraged him to stay, so he did not attend the funeral in California. A friend of my family sent my mom, three sisters and me to New Zealand a year later to meet my brother at the end of his mission. The indigenous art I saw there was the first time that I realized art had meaning. I was drawn to how the most basic medium of all was the human body. Tattooing and scarification was a language; each telling a story of pain, endurance, identity, status, beauty, courage, sorrow or grief. How art connected past and present, the
people to the land, and the supernatural with reality.
From art history, I became interested in Prehistoric Art, especially the female figurines – it portrayed that society may have been more matriarchal rather than patriarchal. It also depicted worship to a supreme female earth deity.
In my first art series, I painted whales and whale bellies. Inuit whalers portrayed primal woman and whale as one, offering themselves up as food to help the people survive, thus holding a special position of honor and respect. I like the repetition of the oval and feminine shape found in nature. The spirals represent the notion of growth, fertility, life, and death.
Overall, I was able to relate to this art as a whole. Hopefully, one walks away with a renewed respect for the primal aspects of nature.
How has growing up in the Sierra mountains informed your art by subject and/or practice.
Growing up, I was surrounded by powerful women within the majestic Sierras. I want to portray my series with these two vital qualities: beauty and strength. Each piece celebrates the model’s individual strength, mood, and intensity within natural elements of the landscape.
Where did you get the inspiration for your series “Diversity of Nature?”
In Utah, there is a widespread, unspoken rule that women should conform to a very narrow definition of “perfection.” I felt some of that pressure to conform when I moved here from Northern California, and painting has helped me conquer that impulse. I want to artistically communicate the need to overcome a history of shame, misogyny and patriarchy.
I choose to paint vulvae because the vulva symbolizes birth, where earth is the primary womb. Everything living emerges from the womb and returns to the earth in death. It was instinctive for me to reimagine vulvae with imagery of land and sea, which are elements of the natural world we are a part of. The survival of nature depends on diversity.
What do you hope people get out of it?
In order to start changing society’s norms as a whole, we have to start with ourselves.
I hope my art can influence cultural attitudes to transform the way they see the female body – mostly the taboos surrounding genitalia. This series converts the vulva from object to subject.
What responses have you gotten?
On the positive, I have had women from all around the world: friends, family members, casual acquaintances, and total strangers contribute as models for my work. I’ve had many men and women contact me, some publicly and some privately, expressing gratitude for the way this series helped them to see beauty in each body.
Some opponents of my work say it’s pornographic or sexual, but my art shows the diversity of the female form; whereas, the vulvae in porn tend to have one look. The “Diversity of Nature” pushes back against the photoshopped ideal of beauty. It’s a really unapologetic look at what is truly “normal.”
Others have claimed to be body positive, but comment that the images look like “infected or dissected vaginas” and that they “just can’t look.” Obviously, these individuals are perpetuating the negative stigma. This attitude is a major reason why labiaplasty is an increasingly prevalent surgery to change the vulva’s appearance.
A Utah arts magazine published an article stating that I “sketched” female genitalia and that my pieces, “lacked the risk of vulnerability on behalf of the artist that advancing equity asks of us.” I am not sure what that means, but my paintings are not sketches, and all art is vulnerable, especially considering the political turmoil women have endured are facing today!
What did you learn about yourself after completing your series?
This series helped me to reclaim my body, power, and voice which I had lost from living in an unhealthy environment. I became extremely self critical.
Each piece reminds me of my embeddedness in nature and strengthens my bond with Mother Earth.
What is next for you?
I am a part of two upcoming shows in New
The “SHE INSPIRES” Group Exhibition curated by Indira Cesarine at The Untitled Space Gallery. Opening Reception: May 2nd, 6-9pm and will be on view May 2nd –
20th. See more info here.
The “Recycle 2017” International Exhibition juried by Harriet Taub. This show runs from May 13th – June 18, 2017 at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists
Coalition. More info here.
Thank you Jacqueline for sharing, and everyone in the areas, check out her shows!
(special thanks to Nathalie Levey as well for arranging the interview)