Curtis Jones – ‘Boxes of Soap’

The art of Curtis Jones, assistant professor of printmaking at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK has maintained a fairly steady course since the early 1990s. His initial influences were psychedelia, punk rock, surrealism, and outsider art. These evolved alongside interests (and studies) in printmaking, paper craft, decoration, and pattern design. Throughout this evolution there has always been a desire to make work that belies and transcends the simplicity of the materials and techniques from which it is created. 

The exhibition in The Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs, ‘Boxes of Soap’, focuses on work he has done with some form of political component to it. “I don’t consider any of this work to be activist in nature or intent. I still look at politics with the curious (and frequently befuddled) eye of an outsider.” Politics fascinate Jones in spite of the detachment he feels from them. The detachment is probably a reaction to the utter helplessness he feels when he contemplates the subject. The two related bodies of work Ol’ MacDonnell and Wings and Preyers are explorations of some of these tensions.

Thousands of miniature hats

The initial inspiration behind creating the installation Making Light with Things on show at Pioneer Bluffs was the artist’s mother. “She always led with her sense of humor and used it as a salve whenever difficult situations presented themselves. In this case, the difficulty was the Iraq War, coupled with my frustration over feeling so disconnected from it and the forces that created it. The salve came in the form of thousands of miniature, hand printed and constructed, party hats. I used them to construct portraits of the American soldiers who were killed on my birthday during the duration of the Iraq war.”

Jones says, “As a side note, this piece has actually created the connection to the war I was lacking. Several friends and family members of soldiers I depicted in this series have contacted me to inquire about the work and express their appreciation. I was surprised by how emotional I felt the first time this happened and have difficulty expressing the amount of respect I feel for these people.”