This week in Art and Autobiography, we’re beginning a new feature, asking some of our favorite visual artists to explore the autobiographical nature of their work. First up, New York-based artist Jared Buckhiester, whose drawings and sculptures often recall faded snapshots of awkward teenage moments.
My sculpture “Jared Buckhiester in 1991” was actually made in 2008. At that time, like in my earlier drawings, I was definitely in a place of needing to work things out from my personal history, needing to rewrite it or simply rethink it. For a long time I collected yearbooks from high schools and middle schools I did not go to. They provide an opening for me to an experience that is shared in almost every American, and most human. I could look at the pictures in them for hours. In relation to my work I usually find myself hunting for photographs of the kids that seemed what I would call “unchosen”, not necessarily queer but the ones that interested me most usually seemed to be. So I was looking at these yearbooks and singling out these kids when I made my first porcelain busts. These were the subjects that inspired the porcelain pieces. The face of this particular porcelain figure was taken from my yearbook portrait in 1991, eighth grade. In this piece as well as in the other porcelain busts from the same year there is a lot of empathy for my subject matter. Empathy for myself in 1991, empathy for the kids I knew when in grade school who I wish I could go back and be kinder to, and an empathy for the moment of reaching that occurs when someone seen as different or “other than” chooses to express his or her otherness in a way that is revelatory. I resisted doing that in 1991, except in spaces where I could be alone. This piece was my chance to express that reaching in a way that was not solitary, but could be shared.