Jaclyn Gordyan: Our Connection to Nature is Ancestrol
Jaclyn Gordyan is a contemporary nature artist and sculptor based in the U.S. She is currently showing my work in NYC, Chicago, LA and the Midwest.
Jaclyn’s work revolves around discovering, displaying and meditating on the diversity of our natural world. Through her work, she focuses on calling attention to the small moments in nature for others to observe and internalize. She hopes to draw humans closer to nature and all the diversity and unseen complexity, not just what we can extract from it. At first glance, it appears Gordyan focus primarily on the diversity of flora, the fauna is present if the viewer knows where to look—for example, the beetle trails on the underside of bark where a beetle lived its whole life. Or the squirrel teeth marks on the walnut shells as they feverishly prep for winter. Or the structural detail and beauty of an abandoned paper wasp nest that once hosted a hive of active insects.
As a nature artist, Jaclyn’s work gives back to its source. Her work supports global reforestation through her partnership with the non-profit, OneTreePlanted. Their efforts and tree planting serve to keep our earth’s natural diversity intact and support the ecosystems and wildlife within them for generations to come.
In an exclusive interview with the artist Jaclyn Gordyan, she shares her electric moment, her connection with Art and Nature. In our current society where AI generated, photoshop and never ending streams of jaw dropping works, she aims to showcase through her work, the diverse moments in Nature that can be felt and appreciated by our current society.
1. Jaclyn, I am curious to know how you started combining ‘tree barks’ in your artwork. Can you share how it all started?
The short story is I had wandered with my art-making for about 15 years. Unsure of what medium felt the truest to me. I had tried it all–ceramics, roku, weaving, furniture making, photography, and realistic graphite drawings. They all lacked my truest desire to tap into the connection to nature I’ve had my whole life. Then one day I embarked on trying painting (for the first time since college). As I was preparing the canvas, I felt a magnetic pull to create texture in the gesso. So I grabbed wood shavings from our workshop and got busy spreading the mix all over the canvas with my hands. That act of discovery gave me an alertness I hadn’t felt in years. The next day when out in the woods with the now dried and textured canvas, I went further. On a whim, I grabbed a few bits of bark nearby and began incorporating them into the piece. That moment was electric. Something inside of me burst wide open. For the first time, I was connecting my art to my deepest source of inspiration–nature. My artist self had come back to life. Since that day I’ve included many other types of natural materials like mosses, leaves, branches, grasses and seed pods. All my years of wandering had given me tools to explore.
2. Can you elaborate more about your work when you say “ I present them in a way that can be felt and appreciated by our current-day society?”
I’d love to and I’m so glad you asked. We live in a world where we see a lot of amazing things happening. Between fantastical AI-generated visuals, Photoshop-enhanced everything and never-ending streams of jaw-dropping views from strangers’ social media. But a lot of what we see blocks our ability to connect to moments of everyday life. The stakes for what we see as awe-worthy is heightened. It’s like tolerance is being turned up.
I find seeking what is so far outside of our day-to-day life isn’t sustainable and our sense of well-being is taking a huge hit. We feel far more anxious and worried because we need more accessible sources that create emotions such as awe and wonder that contribute to happiness and connect us to a larger sense of being.
And I aim to give others what I’ve discovered helps me.
By reimagining small, diverse moments in nature, I present them in a way that can be felt and appreciated by our current-day society. I hope to be a contributing factor, even if on a small scale, to us one day revering our environment and nature in a way that we once did.
My work reimagines the small moments in nature. It’s a way to tap our ancestral connection to it that grounded us and gave us essential emotions like awe and wonder to fuel our sense of well-being for hundreds of millennia. By inviting you to linger on the small moments, I invite you to see nature right outside in your everyday life in a way that celebrates it. I invite you back to a more sustainable option to tap these essential emotions. I invite you to nurture your connection with the environments we grew from.
3. Jaclyn, would you share any women artists that you think have a huge impact on your creative practice?
I love that you’re focusing on lifting up female artists. I’ll start with poets and writers because I see them all as a part of the artist world and have a huge impact on me. Mary Oliver was an early influence. How she recorded nature in its understated moments resonates deeply. I also love Kate Baer and Glennon Doyle for their bravery in expressing a woman’s point of view and sitting with hard, everyday emotions to be freer. Brene Brown, I consider an influential creative thinker as well because she gives shape to the unspoken. These women see the small, yet important moments of life. This is something my soon-to-be-released collection explores. Women visual artists I feel a pull towards includes past giant Lee Krasner for her work but also her undeniable persistence. Magdalena Abakanowicz for her incredible use of fibre in sculpture. Sheila Hicks has a way of drawing out small, textural moments that I relate to so much. Ursula Von Rydingsvard creates massive sculptures with rough-hewn wood that have an ancient connection that I crave deep in my bones. Her work also gives me the freedom to carve and form nature in my work.
4. How do you find the right bark for your work? Can you share your creative process?
I’ve been collecting nature for as long as I can remember, so the foraging part of my process is an intuitive one that begins and ends without conscious planning or thought. The discovery mindset foraging puts me into is essential to my practice. I am constantly looking to fuel that by collecting even when in the middle of a body of work. For example, I’m currently in the middle of a body of work full of pieces from a trip to the Upper Peninsula. Yet, I am collecting branches near me that were downed by an ice storm.
As far as my process goes, here’s what I can describe: When I’m out in nature, I am pulled into the present moment in a way that I begin to discover and see moments that are unremarkable on the surface but with a moment to pause, they open into more. The longer I’m in a space, the more everything else falls away. This opens my mind and eyes wide, and I can more easily follow my inner pulls towards markings, textures or unusual shapes. I do a lot of testing and tugging to see if a piece of material is even able to be moved. A lot of times it’s not.
For the pieces I’m able to bring back to my studio, I clean, study and dry them since most natural elements need some drying time. From there I decide what kind of treatment, sculpting or preservation is needed. This can be the longest part of the process and often pieces will sit with me for years before they become something.
5. Jaclyn each piece in your collection has a story behind it. What message do you wish to convey through your artwork?
My overarching message is we have this powerful ancestral connection to nature and our environments that is largely overshadowed in day-to-day lives. I hope through my work, you might pause and notice it more often. And build up more ways to tap into awe and wonder in the small, everyday moments in nature. I want you to know it’s impossible to be anxious when you’re experiencing awe. It’s impossible to worry when you’re filled with wonder. I want my art to be a place that reminds you of this deep connection that can ground you in a sense of well-being.
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