Art as Evidence


“In 1980, as I set out on my first trip to Europe, I decided to make a book that would contain any and all physical proof that I had been there: ticket stubs, postcards, restaurant receipts, airplane and bus and railroad ephemera. On successive trips, these collections grew to include food smears, hotel keys, found litter, local news, pop tops, rocks, weather notations, leaves, bags of dirt--anything that would add information about a moment or a place, so that the viewer could make a new picture from the remnants. Objects emerged for me as ‘icons’ for particular cities and these objects became the material for EVIDENCE.”
Candy Jernigan

Candy Jernigan was little known outside New York’s avant-garde art world during her life. The artist was a dedicated collector of unusual evidence. Committed to documenting “any and all physical ‘proof’ that I had been there,” Jernigan transformed the mundane stuff of the world into witty and astoundingly resonant works of art.

Jernigan filled her journals with traces of food she had eaten, scraps of paper, bits of leaves, and old bottle caps--all lovingly labeled and sealed in transparent envelopes. Her more formal works are equally reflective of her compulsive desire to collect and document: Found Dope is an exquisitely detailed arrangement of all the crack vials Jernigan found near her New York apartment over one sixteen day period. Jernigan's work offers a transformative vision of the things most of us try to ignore.

“This collection of bugs originally appeared in a hand-made volume entitled Dead Bug Book. Featuring fifty pencil drawings on index cards, it was inspired by Candy Jernigan’s discovery of myriad bug corpses when she reopened her summer home in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Instead of being repelled by these specimens, she used them as her subjects. This sampling from that book suggests that beauty is unpredictable and is something to be sought not only in the obvious places, but in the nooks and crannies of our daily lives.”

“In collecting and creating her art, Candy operated like a forensic pathologist. Traveling down the street with her, you quickly got into her habit of examining the ground in front of you to see what treasures might have been tossed away on the sidewalk or into the gutter. If she was on the lookout for pop tops from soft drink cans you found yourself walking with your head down scanning from side to side looking for pop tops, too, even though you really had no reason to because Candy only used objects that she herself collected and documented. But you did it anyway, because you had begun to look at the world through her eyes. Ken Tisa, a friend and fellow artist, says of Candy that ‘She made me rethink things I would normally dismiss or run from. She was one artist who pointed us in the direction of beauty within the scum of the city. Everyone who wants to see art in New York looks up. Candy looked down. She was interested in what was most banal, what people didn’t want. She wanted to make desirable the undesirable, and she succeeded.’”

“Tiger lily wasp. Green bottle fly. Even a gnat. Humorous and artful, these bugs, although clearly dead, are so delicate, and so original, that they convey an unexpected elegance. With this startling collection, Candy Jernigan has found beauty where we least expect it, and asks us to look at a small section of the natural world in an entirely new way.”
from The Dead Bug Box

Dolphin,Laurie, ed. Evidence: The Art of Candy Jernigan. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999.

Jernigan, Candy. The Dead Bug Box. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999.
(This is actually a box of 24 post cards; each post card has a different sketch of a dead bug)

Evidence: the Art of Candy Jernigan

Students find this book fascinating. It’s a great classroom resource to get students interested in the idea of making art from everyday found materials.

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