Jay Heikes - The Material Mine


Federica Schiavo Gallery is proud to present The Material Mine, Jay Heikes’ second solo show at the gallery. A new series of works, shown in the three rooms within the gallery, continue his interest and exploration into the nature of materials and their inert identities.

A large-scale iron and bronze metal-work sculpture will be placed in the first room. In the process of making the sculpture, bronze is poured into a mould where shellac covered iron flakes are combined with the remaining bronze to yield an alloy of repulsion. The ‘impossible league’ of bronze and iron of these organic branch-like shapes underlines the bizarre coexistence of cultural and artistic references that, despite themselves, come together in a unique form that appears absolutely natural and plausible.

Also included in the show is an object similar in form to that of a cactus made of hand-dyed porcupine quills and driftwood. It is inspired by the landscape of Joshua Tree National Park and the conflicted tale of a new generation that inherits a decimated landscape created by one man’s greed in Theodor Geisel’s story ‘The Lorax’ from 1972. Heikes attempts to rationalize the notion put forth that you must use or destroy a material to create a new product and wonders about the provenance of his porcupine quills.

Most recently, he has created a new series of works made from a recipe of 'Salamander's Wool'. Heikes’ fascination with the material comes from its hypnotic properties and myths, which it has historically inspired. It is believed that Marco Polo came across these textiles in parts of Eastern Siberia. Merchants declared it fire-resistant due to its superstitious make-up of the ‘skins of salamanders’. Knowledge of chemistry identified it as the product of chrysotile asbestos leading to the boom of its use as a flame retardant; it became famed as the “savior of the material world.” Later recognized as a carcinogen connected to the lung disease mesothelioma, its production has stopped completely.

“With my second exhibition at Federica Schiavo, I see it as a moment comparable to that of walking into a mine. I believe there is a point just beyond corrosion, one of complete alienation between human and material where there are things to be discovered but also the possibility of destruction. It is a space parallel to Yves Klein’s immaterial deep blue. It exists only for brief moments when we ignore all of the scientific reasoning behind something and just allow practicalities to fall away. In the studio I feel more like an alchemist lately than a sculptor. I have been working with a range of materials from raw silk, aluminum sulphate, porcupine quills, iron, bronze, leather, concrete, goose feathers and steel. All of these endeavors are translating into a concern for very simple things like line, texture, space and scale. The materials have become the content and my hope is to understand how we relate to them even in a place as out of nature as the gallery space.”
– Jay Heikes