Jessica Joslin’s “Clockwork Circus” Exhibition in LA!


Orlando (5”x5”x4”). Antique brass findings and hardware, leather, velvet, wood, tacks, cast/painted plastic, glass eyes.

Damn you, Hollyweirdos! You get to have all the Joslin fun. *shakes fist* As I write this, the astounding Madame Jessica J. (featured extensively in Coilhouse Issue 01) is over at the Billy Shire Gallery prepping a cavalcade of her Wunderkammer critters for the show’s opening reception tomorrow (Saturday).


Lambert & Salvia (8″x10″x22″) Antique hardware and findings, bone, brass, beads, leather, velvet, trim, coat hook, model cannon, glass eyes.

Trying to picture the Joslin lovebirds mounting a show is always a bit dangerous for me, prompting ardent fantasies of Jessica and Jared donning drum major uniforms and marching their whimsies down the street and through the door in step to a demented chiptune rendition of “76 Trombones” before shooing various characters onto pedestals, canvases and placard hooks. (There’s usually some whip-and-chair action in there as well, but… uh… I digress.)

Anyhoo. Jessica’s been working on these “Clockwork Circus” beasties for months now. They’re as winsomely exquisite as anything she’s crafted yet. If you’re in the area, go get acquainted.


Aster (27”x19.5”x10”) Antique brass findings and hardware, bone, leather, antique vestment trim, velvet, brass bullet casings, chain, silver, snakeskin, glass eyes.

Click below to view a couple more of Jessica Joslin’s “Clockwork” creatures.

[EDIT] Oh! One more thing! I’m sure Jessica wouldn’t mind us mentioning this here… Heads up, Phillyfreaks! If you’re not already all swoony and spent from Laura Kicey’s reception (or even if you are) and you’re feeling piney for something to do tonight (Friday), you probably shouldn’t miss the Mutter Museum “Disco Inferno Dance Party” for ANYTHING IN THE WORLD. What better way to celebrate the museum’s 150th anniversary than some inspired booty-shaking amidst the bones and tumors? Go, go, go!

Gild Your Dead, Harlem-style

There is a decent read on MSNBC about the way our society’s ballooning vanity has affected the post-mortem beautification process. Example: “Silicone implants will explode [during cremation]. They’re like little bombs.” What actually gave me pause was the attached video.

“Everyone in Harlem knows I’m the guy that puts a smile on your face. Other places you just look.. dead,” says Isaiah Owens – owner of a Harlem funeral home. The video itself is a series of stills from his practice. He specializes in post-mortem sprucing, but we’re not just talking the usual wax and paint treatment. No, this man genuinely delights in making the deceased look as cheerful as possible. The slides show Owens romancing a cadaver with his magic until she smiles an almost-Giaconda smile.

There are no demure neutrals for the ladies here – hot pink nail polish, generous helpings of subdermal injections and blush are this man’s passion. Isaiah’s reputation is that of making the dead look better than the living. The funeral home’s website refers to his style at “panache” and calls Isaiah a “rare individual”. After listening to the voice over a few times I have to agree – Owens is invested. There is a touching sincerity to his voice as he describes his work, step by step. To him, death is a beautiful release from earthly pain and he’s helping the dead obtain proper presentation for what lies beyond. Also interesting is the broad array of names he gives the bodies: remains, ashes, people. Despite this dichotomy I find myself liking the way he talks about death and admiring his certainty about what it means and what comes next.

When I die, I want a modest ceremony: my brain [or soul, if you like] is to be transplanted into a superior shell and launched into space. For my body I want a shrine of candles and flowers, followed by a few weeks in a crystal coffin somewhere public and a Viking cremation with my ashes let loose over Moscow. For all the young breathers to choke on.

[Thanks, Jerem!]

Cadaverous Amulets for the Modern Aesthete

How intricate a mechanism the body, how elegant the curvature of a clavicle! It’s no wonder so many artists find themselves inspired by the wondrous hidden framework of living creatures. Collected below, some curious work by three jewelers, adventurous artisans who believe in extending the life of anatomical construction well beyond the years of its original owners.

Fist up, Julia Deville. Miss Deville’s biography hints at an interesting character I’d love to have over for tea. She is a trained cobbler, silversmith and taxidermist enthralled with nature and its inner workings. Fusing these areas of expertise she created her line – Disce Mori. Inspired by Victorian mourning artifacts and jewelry, Julia’s beautiful website‘s dark clockwork theme is as entrancing as her pieces. Jet is paired with silver cast from animal bones among a selection of cuff links, buttonhole adornments and fob chains alongside necklaces and bracelets. Also here are less orthodox items – a brooch featuring a preserved mouse, for instance. Bold, yet far from costume fare, Disce Mori pieces are as timeless as they are macabre. The “Taxidermy” section is small, but shows a sense of humor with its “Kitten Rug” [exactly what it sounds like]. Viewing her works as reminders to enjoy the present, Julia makes a point to mention that the animals she uses have all died of natural causes.

Follow beyond the jump for two more purveyors of life-affirming adornments.

The Sublime, Nihilistic Elegance of Assquatch Art

Occasionally, while exploring the wild untrammeled frontiers of the world wide interwub, you’ll stumble across something so revelatory, so mind-bogglingly exquisite, it knocks you back several feet, clutching your head and speaking in tongues. Today I had just such an experience. Like Nietzsche who gazed too long into the abyss or Icarus who flew too close to the sun, I shall never be the same, for I have seen the cruel, implacable face of G*d:

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Three examples of finely crafted deer butt alien head taxidermy, a.k.a. “assquatch art.”

Via Redneck Craft Tips by Don Burleson (the web page that cracked my poor brain open like a pistachio nut):

For centuries, families have enjoyed the camaraderie and joy of making alien heads from deer butts. Join the fun! Once you know the secrets, it’s easy to transform an ordinary deer butt into a work of redneck fine art. Let’s take a closer look at this ancient and noble craft…

All you need to create your own deer art is a styrofoam mannequin head, a fresh deer butt, a sharp knife and some glue and you are ready to get started making your own deer masterpiece.

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This is indeed a disturbing universe.

Many people say that the real red neck art is the shaping of the deer anus to look like a mouth. This is the true test of the artists loving hand.

The anus can be made very simple, or you can stretch the anus for realistic effects such as smiles and frowns. In general, the leading deer butt artists concentrate on the details of the mouth.

Thank you, Mr Burleson, for exposing an ignorant city mouse like me to this rustic art form. Not since 1996 –when I fished a homemade hunting video called Mostly Squirrels out of the bargain bin at Poughkeepsie Video Barn– have I known such divine ecstasy.

Das Uberbambi, JA!

Now this is über.

The taxidermist/sculptor behind this piece, Lisa Black, has also created a wind-up baby crocodile with working gears. I want one as a pet! [By way of Warren Ellis and Porphyre]

Jessica Joslin’s Delightful Wunderkammer Creatures

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Enzo & Donato (detail), 6″ x 6x 6″ each (12″ x 18″ x 10″-Mounted), 2004
Brass, bone, fur, cast/painted plastic, glass eyes

You may have already heard tell of Jessica Joslin‘s enchanted bestiary via the esteemed Wurzeltod, Brass Goggles or Boing Boing. If not, it’s a joy and an honor to introduce you to her work. In Jessica’s loving hands, delicate one-of-a-kind creatures are born of brass and bone, buttons and leather, glass eyes, mother of pearl, filigree, taxidermy, antique mechanical flotsam, scientific process, nostalgia and GENIUS!

From the Lisa Sette Gallery Newsletter:

Jessica Joslins’s odd menagerie begins with her penchant for collecting: “I find things anywhere that I find myself…in obscure junk shops, flea markets, attics, taxidermy supply houses, specialty hardware distributors… or walking through the woods.” Joslin seeks out and puts to use those bright odds and ends that might catch one’s eye in a box full of orphaned fixtures, or glinting up from the sidewalk. While each piece she employs in her eerie animal reliquary is delicately beautiful, it is also the detritus of human engineering and design: old brass buttons and gold braid, glass beads, clockwork cogs and velvet ribbon. Such items are reminiscent of the whimsical technology of a century past, one’s grandparents’ house, the dark interiors of old fashioned movie theatres – and as such they have an intriguing, wistful quality. In other words, Joslin collects the things that all of us secretly want to, the shiny pieces that we might comb through, handle and admire, but ultimately force ourselves to put down; what would we do with such things?


Flora, 4″ x 2″ x 3″, 2006
Brass, bone, sterling, painted wood, grommets, cast pewter, glass eyes

Jessica, who lives in Chicago with her commensurately brilliant husband, painter Jared Joslin, recently took time out of her busy schedule to answer several questions for the upcoming Coilhouse print magazine. You can read excerpts from this interview and meet a few more of her creatures under the cut. Also, anyone who happens to be in LA through the 23rd can take a closer look some of her work at the Los Angeles Art Show in Santa Monica.